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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
CHAMBER REVIEW
Oakmont Concert Series / Thursday, August 14, 2008
JOEL FAN, CONCERT PIANIST

JOEL FAN

PIANIST ON THE MOVE

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Joel Fan is a pianist on the move. On August 14, in his second Oakmont Concert Series performance in the past three years, he commanded the stage with boundless energy and gave an eclectic program heavy on thunder and excitement.

His concert was billed as music from North and South America, but somehow Beethoven's A-Flat Major Sonata, Op. 110, was squeezed in to end the first half, and it received a committed performance, full of nuance and occasional mystery. The opening Moderato Cantabile was pensive, with the left hand trills evocative. A crisp and lyric reading of the scherzo-like Adagio led to the majestic concluding fugue, which Fan paced with great care. Although Fan's performance of the noble fugue wasn't monumental, the end arrived with great dignity.

Ginastera's Sonata No. 1 began the afternoon. Fan emphasized the similarities to Prokofiev's early sonatas in the first movement, and he floated three high notes with aplomb, ending the Adagio molto appassionato. The restless toccata finishing the work was a percussive and high energy journey under Fan's fleet fingers. However, the piano sound at the top end became increasingly brittle, particularly when Fan demanded a lot of volume, indicating some attention to hammer voicing may be in order.

Two short works by Nazareth and Piazzola (the latter a lovely Prelude from 1987, similar to the composer's 'Oblivion') led to 'Troubled Water,' by Chicago composer Margaret Bonds. Fan brought out the rhythmic complexities and insistent syncopation, but the piece ultimately lacked interest. Nonetheless, Bonds, the teacher of Ned Rorem, was a welcome and rare addition to the program.

A quite different experience was the Barber Sonata, a 1949 work that has become a repertoire staple. I have always liked the live Cliburn performance from his second Soviet Union tour of 1960, and the more relaxed approach from Arizona pianist Nicholas Zumbro. Fan veered towards the Cliburn reading, seizing the dissonant block chords in the first movement and underscoring the vacillating double and triple meters. The performance of the second movement, Allegro vivace, was simply masterful, full of whimsy and subtle phrasing. The Allegro mesto was a dirge, leaving the audience adrift in a luxurious sonic fog, with Fan tolling bells with his left hand. Wonderful. The famous concluding fugue was taken at a quick clip, control almost being lost in several places, and the contrary-motion octaves at the end lacked clarity. That said, it was a riveting performance, fully realized, and the highlight of the recital.

To conclude a day of energetic pieces, Fan played Liszt's 'Rigoletto Paraphrase' dramatically; but this Verdi homage is not quite yet Fan's piece. What was missing was repose among the tumult, real legato octaves among the bravura, and a more chaste use of the pedal. One can get away with a lot in this piece, and Fan let out all the pianistic stops to the acclaim of the large audience. One left the hall humming the famous Quartet theme, surely what the Weimar master would have wanted.

Joel Fan taped a deep vein of energy in this recital, and he seemed likely to repeat the entire event if an appropriate request was offered. He is a formidable artist with an innovating and inquisitive musical nature.