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RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, February 26, 2017
Yu-Chien Tseng, violin; Chang-Yong Shin, piano

Yu-Chien Tseng (l) and Chang-Yong Shin Feb. 26 in Schroeder

BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017

A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015.

Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianist Chang-Yong Shin Mr. Tseng dived headlong into Mozart’s lovely B-Flat Major Sonata, K. 454. Contrapuntal lines were lucid, as were Mr. Shin’s scale passages in the hall’s clear acoustics. The allegro was weighty and dramatic, a nice contrast to the deep passionate thematic glow in the andante. Mr. Tseng exhibited a beautiful ability to softly and deftly swell on individual notes. The playing in the finale caught the brisk charm of the music, and there was effortless returning to the main theme. This Sonata seems to lead to Schubert’s music 20 years hence. It was a perfect beginning to a concert of prodigious accomplishment

Brawny playing continued in Brahms’ D Minor Sonata, Op. 108, but the score from 1888 can easily stand a powerful and often loud interpretation. All through the four-movement Sonata, the composer’s last, the unusual rhythms were mastered and the big repeated first movement section was sharply different from the first statement.

Despite initial pitch wobbles in the adagio Mr. Tseng quickly found his footing and played expressively and without affectations. Tempos throughout seemed just right, fast when needed but never hurried. The chorale section of the last movement briefly relieved the tension and the duo forged ahead to a roaring bass heavy Brahms ending. It was a dynamic performance with virtuoso work from both artists.

Following intermission Mr. Tseng returned for Bach’s solo Partita in D Minor, BWV 1004. Here again it was a mature and finished reading, stressing fluidity of phrase and omitting many of the short pauses often heard in this magnificent composition. Mr. Tseng played with even trills, no portamento, little rubato and at the end of the concluding Chaconne he held notes to unusual length. He did not emphasize his instrument’s lower register and instead established a balanced sonic architecture over the five extended dance-like sections. His Bach was worthy to stand with Mr. Shaham’s performance.

Closing the concert, which had no encore, was Wieniawski’s frothy but difficult Variations on and Original Theme, Op. 15. This was perhaps a Sonoma County premiere performance, and Mr. Tseng’s formidable technique was up to every skip, double stop, octave, slide, harmonic, sforzando and speedy scale. Mr. Shin did not shrink from the music foray, and in solo sections he played more forcefully and louder than his partner, which in this flashy 12-minute work took some doing.

The waltz ending and coda were brilliantly performed, and generated loud applause.