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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
Concerts Grand House Recitals / Sunday, September 3, 2017
Sandra Shen, piano

Pianist Sandra Shen July 3 in Santa Rosa

ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 3, 2017

A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the small audience in an East Santa Rosa home.

The South Bay-based artist has played in Santa Rosa before, at the Spring Lake Village series produced by Robert Hayden, but this was Ms. Shen’s local debut in an intimate setting, albeit with a garden party following the playing. Risotto “con fungi” and German potato salad had pride of place, not lasagna.

Bach’s B-Flat Partita opened the short recital and was given a studied reading with seemingly taking every repeat. Highlights were the vivacious two-voice Corrente and the wonderful clarity in the Gigue that was played at a moderate tempo with Scarlatti-like hand crossings. The artist added several catchy turns in the Allemande, always welcome in the Glenn Gould style of playing Bach.

She followed the Partita with Schubert’s ever-popular B Flat Impromptu from Op. 142, a work with a beguiling theme and five perfectly crafted variations. They were played chastely and with a natural rise and fall of phrase, with a quiet ending that brought loud applause. The reading had just a hint of nostalgia.

Artful and convincing shaping of phrase continued with Chopin’s great F Sharp Barcarolle, a work with an Italianate theme from the composer’s last years. It was the first of three compositions featuring water. In the Barcarolle Ms. Shen suppressed the often heard intimate interpretation in favor of more expansive playing, underscoring the work’s inner drama that peaked with a glorious melodic statement after the descending chords phrase that ends slowly in F Sharp. The reading produced the most extended ovation of the afternoon. Captivating.

Chinese composer’s bucolic Autumn Moon Reflection on a Lake was the penultimate work, and passed without much notice in four minutes of slow and vivid harmonic progressions that might have been soporific in the small concert room with its elevated temperature.

All the languor was swept away with a richly colored performance of Ravel’s Jeux d’Eau. As throughout the recital Ms. Shen’s damper pedal control of sound, especially in the piano’s upper registers, was graceful and florid. Under Ms. Shen’s deft fingers (and feet) fountain spray seemed everywhere in the impressionist sonority of the 1902 work.

No encore was offered, and the audience repaired to the cooler patio for food, and several had the opportunity to speak at length about the music with the elegant pianist.

The reviewer is also the producer of the Concerts Grand House Recitals series.