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Recital
DRAMATIC DIVA SINGS WORKS OF AMERICAN COMPOSERS IN WEILL
by Vaida Falconbridge
Sunday, April 13, 2014
After opening her April 13 Weill Hall recital with the bright “The Year’s at the Spring,” probably Amy Beach’s best-known song, soprano Deborah Voigt paused for a moment to say to the audience, “When we were putting the program together, we had no idea it would be so apropos!” Continuing with the ...
Recital
RUSSIAN PIANIST, RUSSIAN MUSIC, RUSSIAN DRAMA
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 13, 2014
In the season’s penultimate Sonoma Classical Music Society concert on Sunday afternoon, April 13, Russian pianist Anastasia Dedik played an all-Russian program that was heavy on drama with just a modicum of lyricism. Two Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux opened the program, the E-Flat Minor from Op. 33 ...
Chamber
THEMATIC OPULENCE FROM THE TRIO NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 06, 2014
Northern California’s Trio Navarro presented just two works in an April 6 Weill Hall concert, an event with consummate playing, inspired drama and ample thematic richness. Schubert’s B-Flat Major Trio, D. 898, was the evening’s highlight and was familiar fare for the estimable Navarro. The wonderfu...
Chamber
LUSH ZEMLINSKY AND A PREMIERE IN ARIADNE'S WEILL CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, April 04, 2014
Trio Ariadne played a riveting concert April 4 in Weill Hall as part of Sonoma State’s Music Department Spring Series. This concert had something juicy for all musical tastes. The program spanned centuries and moods with a Beethoven pot pourri, a world premiere from an Icelandic composer, and a lus...
Recital
WARM SPRING MUSIC AND ART IN CAS ORGAN RECITAL
by Jim Harrod
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Spring brought flowers and the virtuoso organist Faythe Freese to play a joyful recital on March 23 at Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish. Both the artist and the beautiful spring weather were most welcome, and the event was part of the Creative Arts Series. Ms. Freese, Professor of Organ at The Un...
Symphony
A TOUR DE FORCE OF SONIC SPLENDOR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 23, 2014
On paper the Santa Rosa Symphony's March 23 concert in Weill Hall looked promising and even provocative, with a world-premiere concerto, a famous solo violist and two flashy Russian orchestral works. But as often is the case, in unexpected ways the whole was not equal to the sum of the parts. Behza...
Chamber
GLASS TOWER SHINES IN CATALYST QUARTET CONCERT
by Linda McLaughlin
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
A concert produced by Brave New Music and featuring the Catalyst Quartet March 18 in Healdsburg’s SHED Grange Hall was a delight from almost any standpoint, or sitting point. Unlike the first Brave New Music concert last November, this time there were no visual accompaniments (film) behind the perfo...
Symphony
NEW-WORLD ORCHESTRAL MASTERY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Orchestral splendor and dynamic contrast were the hallmarks of the American Philharmonic's (APSC) third concert of the 2014 season March 15 before an enthusiastic audience of 400 in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Center. With the concert titled "From the New World," the music needed to d...
Symphony
AMPLE EVIDENCE OF A BRIGHT FUTURE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 14, 2014
An inaugural concert for a new area orchestra is a special deal, and the fledgling North Bay Sinfonietta’s March 14 concert in Santa Rosa’s First Presbyterian Church gave ample evidence of a bright future. Organized and conducted by Cynthia Weichel, the Sinfonietta’s 30-plus members filled the cram...
Chamber
GHOSTS AND GYPSIES USHER IN THE SPRING
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 13, 2014
As a harbinger of spring, the Boston Trio brought sprightly piano trios of Haydn and Beethoven to their Music at Oakmont concert March 13 in Berger Auditorium. Happily the long and weighty Dvorak F Minor Trio, Op. 65, didn't manage to dampen the warm afternoon's ambiance. The Dvorak performance was...
RECITAL REVIEW
Dominican University / Sunday, October 09, 2011
June Choi Oh, piano

June Choi Oh After a Chopin Waltz Encore Oct. 9

COMPELLING PIANISM IN JUNE CHOI OH'S DRAMATIC DOMINICAN UNIVERSITY RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 09, 2011

Inaugurating a new recital hall piano is always a celebratory event, and Dominican University in San Rafael did the celebration right Oct. 9 when faculty pianist June Choi Oh opened the Guest Concert Series’ 11th season in Angelico Hall.

Choosing works that displayed the full range of the Bösendorfer 290 and her formidable artistry, Ms. Oh began with graceful account of Schubert’s popular B-Flat Major Impromptu, Op. 142, No. 3. Arguably Schubert’s most enchanting set of variations, five in all, they were played with élan, the trills in the second variation fast, and the final variation the scale passages shimmered. It might have been a bit too Chopinesque for some but I found the reading readily convincing.

A new piano called for a new work, and the artist complied with a world premiere of Robert Pollock’s “In the Middle of C”. The piece was the highlight of the recital, using every pitch on the piano including the nine extra bass-end notes, and seemed longer than the reported 10 minutes duration. But it was a good extension of time, as the improvisatory and impulsive nature of the composition was captivating. At times pointilistic and frenzied, sforzandos contrasting with rapid lyrical sections over pedal point, “In The Middle of C” under Ms. Oh’s strong fingers and nimble feet had considerable impact. The piano’s characteristics, at least in one hearing, were everywhere displayed: the growl of notes below the bottom A, a rather muddy lower tenor and a top end that has yet to really sing out. But it’s new and presumably will become organic after substantial playing.

Mr. Pollock’s work on its maiden voyage exploited everything that Ms. Oh could give it – massive forte chords at opposite ends of the keyboard, much use of the sostenuto pedal, percussive and violent phrases and an intriguing ending. Playing from score, Ms. Oh evoked at times the Ives “Concord” Sonata, a demanding pianistic tour de force that lasts 45 minutes. The audience knew they had heard a provocative work, worthy of more performances, and I hope Ms. Oh continues to program it.

The first half ended with Beethoven’s F Minor Sonata, the Op. 57 “Appassionata”. Lately this work has been receiving structural interpretations, but Ms. Oh would have none of that. The composer wanted canon fire in his favorite Sonata, and received it here with playing replete in excitement and at times unbridled drama. The opening Alllegro assai had compelling power. The artist often sets up phrases with short “luft pause” but never so long as to break the melodic line. A pesky memory lapse was perfectly resolved, the movement dying off in a haze of lovely right-hand thirds played pianissimo.

Beautiful chordal weighting characterized the second movement’s short theme and variations, repeats overlapped with a deft damper pedal use. Here Ms. Oh found sound and not structure. The concluding Allegro man non toppo, ushered in with 13 volcanic chords, was well played if not the last word in dynamic contrast. It was not that the pianist didn’t demand dynamic extremes, simply that the detached tarantella responses to the sonic explosions could have been more disparate. The conclusion blazed and elicited cheers from the audience of 125.

Two Chopin Nocturnes opened the second half, both in C Minor, and the first Op. Post. Nocturne I had never heard in concert. Rightly so as it’s bottom-drawer Chopin, a composer that ranks with Ravel and a few others in the high percentage of masterpieces. The following Op. 48 Nocturne, a potent piece that showed Ms. Oh’s fine octaves, was hampered by a lack of clarity in the middle of the piano and the resulting diminished projection of inner voices. The piano again seemed to be the culprit, added by a lot of pedal. The pedal point at the bottom C in the coda, leading to the final three chords, was captivating and perfectly gauged.

Chopin granitic B-Flat Minor Sonata, Op. 35 (Funeral March) closed the concert. Here the tempo in the development was brisk and the pianist opted for the long repeat. This repeat is controversial, and many great pianists (Hofmann, Rachmaninoff, Horowitz) omit it. Ms. Oh made the best of the repeat, giving it different broken chords and dynamics. All to the good, and the romantic and popular left hand triple fff B Flat at the end was not doubled. The diabolically difficult Scherzo was over pedaled in places but intensely energetic. Ms. Oh is a pianist that is not afraid of her left hand. The renowned third-movement march was played episodically, an extra slow tempo underscoring the angelic lyricism of the middle section. It was not quite an interpretation in the Slavic tradition (a complete parade from the most ethereal pianissimo to the loudest forte, and back), but one certainly carefully thought out and strongly executed.

The eerie unison finale (Presto) was played wonderfully, never rising above a low murmur and with brilliant finger technique. It cast a spell, abruptly broken by a huge B-Flat Chord, and reflected the epitaph “wind over the graves.”

One encore was offered, Chopin’s D Flat Waltz of Op. 64 (Minute), played with just the right balance of speed and charm.

At the beginning of the program Dominican Music Department Chair Craig Singleton and Arts School Dean Nicola Pitchford gave lengthy introductory remarks concerning the piano’s funding and Dominican’s place in the Marin arts scene. University President Mary Marcy was in the audience, surely a sign that Series Director Ms. Oh will continue to administer concert seasons with a long tenure for Marin music lovers.

John Metz, Elenor Barcsak, Kenn Gartner and Marie Carbone contributed to the above review.