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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
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...
RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Ching-Un Hu

HAUNTING RACHMANINOFF WORKS IN HU'S MAO RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ching-Yun Hu made a return Music at Oakmont appearance Feb. 8 in Berger Auditorium, reprising a recital she made in the same hall four years ago. Many of the recital’s trappings were the same, but the music Ms. Hu chose to play was decidedly different.

All afternoon the pianist was in an aggressive and speedy mood, beginning with the complete Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux, Op. 39. These nine works from 1917 are far removed from the more popular studies from Op. 23 and 32, and mostly portray dark sonorities in knotty figurations and powerful rhythmic surges. Missing throughout the set was a warm piano sound, contributed to by the instrument’s bright top-end and of course the composer’s constant fist fulls of notes. Lots of notes, but they were great notes, and building blocks for Mr. Hu’s dramatic contrasts and big chords.

Highlights for me were the long ending fermata in the opening C Minor; the lyrical “wind and water” voicing of the A Minor (No. 2, that Respighi orchestrated so mysteriously); the accurate heraldic skips and doubled staccato chords in the allegro molto; the left-hand rumbles and graded ritards in the E-Flat Major appassionato; and finally the improvisatory and pianistic playing and dissimilar repeats in the A Minor allegro. Repeats that were varied, a welcome romantic pianism touch.

These were formidable short “tone poems” played well with the needed speed and momentum. This approach continued after intermission with Earl Wild’s Gershwin transcriptions – Embraceable You, Fascinatin’ Rhythm and the happiest of the three, I Got Rhythm. Each was a tour de force in quick scales and contrasts – jazz, a bit of Ravel, many arpeggios. The open textures and rolled chords revealed the piano going out-of-tune in the treble.

Chopin’s Op. 2 Variations on the “La Chi Darem La Mano” theme from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni was next, a substitute for an Alkan piece. The playing had the easy charm and tour de force of scale passages characteristic of early Chopin and Thalberg, with legato and non-legato passages vying vigorously. It was the most bewitching piece in the recital.

Continuing the program’s focus on pianistic velocity were two Kapustin Concert Etudes from Op. 40. These were both played with a fiery technique, the first in presto revolving phrases, and the second with parts languorously sounding like Palm Court music from the 1950s. Ms. Hu’s command of tsunamis of notes was complete and the offbeat accents and intricate harmonies posed no difficulty for her. The program’s second standing ovation ensued, though not vociferous.

Prior to an encore (Rachmaninoff’s Op. 21 Lilacs) Ms. Hu announced that she was shortly to record an all-Rachmaninoff CD. The melancholic Lilacs was reminiscent of Chopin and was played vividly with a hazy use of damper pedal.