Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Recital
HEROIC LIM PERFORMANCE AT STEINWAY SOCIETY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, September 18, 2022
Chamber
SURPRISING IVES TRIO AND SONGS AT VMMF'S HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 24, 2022
Chamber
SEMINAL SCHUBERT CYCLE PERFORMANCE FROM STEGALL-ZIVIAN AT VMMF
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 23, 2022
Opera
MARIN'S STRIPPED-DOWN OPERA CHARMS
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
MOZART AND BRAHMS AN AUSPICIOUS COUPLE AT VMMF FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
CLARINIST HOEPRICH'S VIRTUOSITY IN VMMF OPENING CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 16, 2022
Recital
AGGRESSIVE PIANISM IN MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 14, 2022
Opera
SONOROUS WAGNER GALA AND CAPACITY CROWD AT VALLEJO'S EMPRESS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 9, 2022
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELING CHORISTERS SO CO DEBUT IN TWO BIG CANTATAS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 25, 2022
Opera
VERDI'S THEATRICAL LA TRAVIATA TRIUMPHS AT CINNABAR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 19, 2022
CHAMBER REVIEW
Piano Sonoma / Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Peter Dugan and Christine Wu, piano; Kara Dugan, mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Kara Dugan

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 piano and song literature, emotionally diverse and warming to the soul. In his introduction Festival founder Michael Shinn assured the masked audience of 110 that everyone on stage was vaccinated, an important consideration since one of the three performers was a singer.

Pianist Peter Dugan in 2020 became the host of the NPR show From the Top, a program devoted to showcasing young classical musicians. His impressive technique at the piano is complemented by his vivid personality as a presenter, and together with spouse mezzo-soprano Kara Dugan the duo bantered charmingly with each other and the audience. A quick peek at one of their Covid home broadcasts for From the Top revealed the same kind of engagement that makes classical music approachable for the uninitiated as well as a knowledgeable audience, young and old alike.

Mr. Dugan, who also serves as the head of pianoSonoma's Artist in Residence Program, played like a conductor/coach but with full-on virtuosity, a bit reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein. Besides his thrilling playing, his attention to text and nuance makes even a sedate art song exciting.

Ms. Dugan's choice of three favorite Mozart lieder was like a welcome visit from old friends. "Als Luise die Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte" (one of the longest song titles ever - "As Luise burned the letters from her unfaithful lover") was punctuated by woeful, angry, yet never harsh, declamations. The love song "An Chloë" landed sweetly, and her rich and strikingly beautiful voice sustained the long lines of "Abendempfindung" effortlessly.

Their second set involved three songs by Finnish composers Sibelius (poems by the uncredited Finnish poet Runeberg who wrote poems in Swedish) and Toivo Kuula (text uncredited), less familiar but engaging nonetheless, and powerfully performed. It would have been helpful to have had the text translations included in the printed program since it's unlikely that anybody in the audience understood Swedish or Finnish.

Their third set exploded with three selections from de Falla's ever popular Siete Canciones Populares Españolas. Mr. Dugan literally set the piano on fire, and here is where I felt Ms. Dugan sang at her most effective. Her voice, technique and musicality are consistent throughout, but she tends to be a little reserved as a stage performer. In these de Falla songs she gave us more thrills together with the beauty and technique and musicianship. A more extroverted presence and some volatile artistic temperament surely resides in this gifted singer already, and would complete the picture for this listener.

In a nod for solo piano, Christine Wu played Chopin’s four Mazurkas from Op. 17. These magical works from 1833 are usually played either with careful rubato emphasizing structure (Artur Rubinstein) or with spirited dance rhythms (Ignaz Friedman). Ms. Wu chose neither, playing a muscular B-Flat Major (No. 1) that seemed overly loud with the instrument’s bright top, and aggressively continued in the long A-Flat Major (No. 3) that underscored offbeat accents.

The best playing came in the concluding A Minor where she let more air into the rhythms and at the return of the plaintive and nostalgic main theme let the damper pedal craft a lovely overlapping phrase. The short repeat at the end was played with an eerie quiet, highlighting the Mazurka’s subtle mystery.

Additional concerts in the series are July 27 (songs; music for cello) and July 29, with Bach’s Concerto for Four Keyboards and the world premiere of Thomas Cabaniss’ “Trinity Pass.”

Terry McNeill contributed to this review.