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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 Shenís 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. Shenís local debut in an intimate setting, albeit with a garden party following the playing. Risotto ďcon fungiĒ and German potato salad had pride of place, not lasagna.

Bachís 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 Schubertís 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 Chopinís great F Sharp Barcarolle, a work with an Italianate theme from the composerís 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 workís 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 composerís 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 Ravelís Jeux díEau. As throughout the recital Ms. Shenís damper pedal control of sound, especially in the pianoís upper registers, was graceful and florid. Under Ms. Shenís 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.