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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
Chamber
ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING AT PIANOSONOMA CONCERT IN SCHROEDER HALL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
After a dark year bereft of live performance, pianoSonoma launched July 20 the first Vino & Vibrato concert of the 2021 season in Sonoma State's Schroeder Hall, albeit sadly senza vino due to Covid protocols. Three exceptional musicians showered the audience with an interesting variety of pia
Chamber
RARELY-PLAYED SCHUMANN HIGHLIGHTS HEALDSBURG RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Brave New Music sporadically produces concerts in and around Healdsburg, and July 10’s violin recital in downtown St. Paul’s Church must have been one of the first post-lockdown, post-be-extra-careful classical music concerts in Sonoma County's summer season. New Music Founder Gary McLaughlin with
Chamber
ECHOS ON A WARM SUMMER NIGHT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, July 10, 2021
ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s first concert in a year and a half, “A Musical Promenade,” was a promenade indeed. When patrons arrived at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for the 6:00 performance July 10, they were funneled through the garden to the Duncan Hall patio, where folding chairs were set
Chamber
LONG DISTANCE LOVE BEGINS VOM SUMMER FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, June 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival offered a 7th season preview June 24 with a stunning online concert, aptly named Long Distance Love, featuring inspired performances of Beethoven's short song cycle An die ferne Geliebte,, and selections from Brahms’ beloved Liebeslieder Wal
Recital
ROMERO'S ARTISTRY IN SLV RECITAL PROGRAMMING AND PERFORMANCE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Gustavo Romero has been an admired visitor to North Bay stages, playing over a decade recitals at Dominican University, the Music at Oakmont concerts and at the Spring Lake Village Concert Series. He returned June 2 to SLV in a virtual recital, videoed from his home concert hall the University of N
RUBICON'S VIRTUAL CONCERT A MALANGE OF CONTRASTS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The inaugural concert of a new Mendocino County chamber group is a reason for celebration, and the Rubicon Trio made the most of a mixed musical menu during a May16 virtual concert. Presented by the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra as the last in their “Salons with the Symphony” Series, the Rubicon began w
Recital
PIANO VIRTUOSITY IN YAKUSHEV'S REDWOOD ARTS RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev’s recital for the Redwood Arts Council was perhaps the local season’s virtual music at the greatest distance, as the filming May 16 came from a church in St. Petersburg. And good filming it was, with multiple camera viewpoints of the church, full and split screens and
RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist George Li

GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019

Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy that now is establishing an important international career at the age of 24. A Wunderkind is now a splendid recitalist.

His program was conventional and in many ways his interpretations of Beethoven and Liszt were conformist, albeit at a virtuoso level of technique and insight. Beethoven’s Andante Favori and the C Major “Waldstein” Sonata comprised the first half before 200, the largest recent audience in Berger Auditorium. The Andante (WoO 57) was played with just the right tempo with sprightly small ornaments that moved around the principal note and often a staccato touch. Phrases were shaped with care. A finished performance.

Impeccable scale technic was a prime part of Mr. Li’s Beethoven Sonata, and throughout the performance his exemplary pianistic prowess was on full display. The command of seamless changes in volume and rhythm characterized the opening allegro, with scant attention paid to ritards or the humor in the writing. Haydn is often noted as the humorist in classical period music, but Beethoven is also a master of comedy in his scores, an approach foreign to Mr. Li’s conception, at least in this afternoon’s reading.

The slow adagio molto was spiritually shaped with a whiff of mystery, and calmly lead into the concluding Rondo. Marked allegretto moderato, standard interpretations of this magical movement are played in a dreamy style, and Mr. Li did so effortlessly with expert pedaling but no pedal point or inner voices. Scale playing was again faultless and he chose to play the famous octave passages in both hands as scales rather than employing glissandos. The bright top register of the hall’s piano was ideal for the “Waldstein” interpretation.

Two Liszt works, the Sonetto Del Petrarca No. 104 the Les Jeux d’eaux a la Villa d’Este (from Années de Pèlerinage, Vol. 3), began the second half and were highlights of the afternoon. Here the pianist’s repeated note mastery, fast trills and novel soft sforzandos produced a shimmering sense of water inspired by the Tivoli Villa near Rome, and perfection in running thirds and subtle dynamic control came in the Sonetto. The decrescendo in the last few bars of the Sonetto was captivating and masterfully phrased. Rich tonal color was also heard in each of these pieces.

Reminiscences of Don Juan, from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, closed the formal program in a blaze of virtuosity. Mr. Li’s technical arsenal seems to have everything, and everything is needed in this 16-minute pianistic tour de force - speedy octaves, skips, detaché touch, brilliant repeated chords, fluent thematic statements and clarity at places of exceptional difficulty. However, for this extravagant music Mr. Li lacked a critical item of technic – instrumental volume and sonority.

Orchestral sonority in piano playing is not a factor of the pianist’s physical size, and many powerhouses in the past (Rosenthal, Anton Rubinstein, Hofmann, Horowitz) were below average in height. The sound needed for a great performance of Liszt’s Don Juan is produced by a mix of arm and shoulder strength, speed of key descent and adroit pedaling. Mr. Lee’s interpretation, however admirable, could not generate the needed musical force and demonic punch. Musical histrionics demand tumult.

Of course the playing brought down the house, and the artist returned to the stage and played a melting and mournful Intermezzo from Brahms’ Op. 118, No. 6. Another encore was demanded and he launched into the virtuoso showpiece of Liszt’s third study (La Campanella) from the set of Paganini Etudes from 1851. His dazzling command of upper register repeated notes never failed him.