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Recital
ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Ching-Yun Hu

HU'S ON FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2014

Music at Oakmont in their eight-concert season features mostly instrumental ensembles, and rarely pianists. But when they do the pianists are pretty good. Ching-Yun Hu's performance Feb.13 in Berger Auditorium, for example, was at a first-cabin level of virtuosity.

A conventional repertoire first half included Chopin (the Second Sonata in B-Flat Minor) and Ravel’s "Gaspard de la Nuit," and the entire second part was pungent Spanish music. The Sonata emphasized the house piano’s bright treble register and was dramatic throughout. Ms. Hu took the controversial step of skipping the big first-movement repeat, and after the movement’s final doubled-down B flat chord she waded immediately into the superbly pianistic Scherzo. Here the ritards were sculpted, but the movement was played without sufficient verve or personality.

The familiar "Marche Funèbre" movement was played as slow as I have ever heard it. Ms. Hu's control here was total, as was her mastery in the splendid finale (Presto), which she played with minimal pedal, showcasing Chopin’s almost atonal sonority and chromaticism to mysterious effect.

Ravel's "Gaspard" closed the first half, and unlike Jean Efflam Bavouzet's muscular November performance at SRJC, Ms. Hu adopted judicious tempos and textures throughout this masterpiece from 1908. The flowing left-hand melody was constantly played pianissimo and evoked the fluid surroundings of the water sprite Ondine. It shimmered where it should have shimmered. The middle "Le Gibet" movement was played with a leisurely pace, lovely tone and a strong hint of mystery.

The great "Scarbo" finale was masterfully done, the finger articulation crisp and the damper pedal used sparingly. Ms. Hu alternated voices that were distinct and then hazy in this diabolic challenge to a pianist's technique.

Four works by Granados and a single work from Albéniz's "Iberia" (Book II) were played after intermission. The angst and longing of "El Amor y la Muerte" was vividly portrayed by Ms. Hu, her rhythmic flexibility and focus on interplay of voices always commanding. In Granados' "Oriental, No. 2" of the Op. 37 "Danzas Españolas," the short work was played rather roughly, the hard tone at times needed by the music and to be heard over Berger's audible HVAC system. "Andaluza" (Op. 37, No. 5) was deftly played.

Albéniz's "Triana" closed the formal recital. Here Ms. Hu played the off-beat accents and big contrasts with joy and abandon. It was Spanish splendor and brought a large ovation.

In a surprise encore selection, the pianist departed from the piquant Spanish rhythms and played one of Chopin’s greatest Nocturnes, the languorous and poignant E Flat of Op. 55. The performance was laced with grace and subtle inner voices that caught the "light beam" high E Flats in the right hand to telling effect.