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Chamber
FROTHY CHAMBER WORKS CONCLUDE VALLEY OF THE MOON FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 02, 2015
A closing concert for a summer music festival, even a new series such as the Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VMMF), should be a capstone for the series. The recent Chamberfest Concerts at the Green Music Center, with all six Bach Brandenburgs as the finale, are an example. Artists at the Festiv...
Recital
MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL SPOTLIGHTS MOZART TO BALCOM
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Completing the Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 22 was an energetic recital by returning Festival artist Spencer Myer. The nearly full Preston Hall audience was treated to a program, announced from the piano, that had broad musical appeal and panache. Exploring the Festival’s Mozart t...
Symphony
MOZART'S GENIUS UPSTAGES DIVA, YOUTH AND CONDUCTOR IN STERLING MMF CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Mendocino’s eclectic Music Festival gave a strong imprimatur to the Mozart theme July 22 with a radiant orchestral and vocal concert in the big white tent on the Mendocino headlands. The Overture from “The Abduction from the Seraglio” (K. 384) opened the concert in an adroit reading that was...
Chamber
CLARINET MUSIC LAUNCHES NEW FESTIVAL IN SONOMA VALLEY
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Among the several North Coast summer festivals in 2015 is a new one, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, directed by San Francisco-area artists Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian. It’s unique in presenting seven concerts of the Classical and Romantic eras with instruments designed and mostly built wh...
Opera
OPERA BUFFA HI JINX IN ROSSINI'S BARBER AT MENDO FESTIVAL
by Ken Bullock
Friday, July 17, 2015
During his July 17 lecture before the sole Mendocino Music Festival performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, stage director Eugene Brancoveanu spoke of Commedia Dell’Arte. Mr. Brancoveanu, who sang the baritone title role of Figaro, alluded to the stylized clowning that is sometimes p...
Recital
ELEGANT SCRIABIN, CHOPIN AND GRANADOS IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Taiwanese pianist Ching-Yun Hu made a formidable Mendocino Music Festival debut recital July 16 in Mendocino’s Preston Hall. A full house warmly greeted the diminutive artist, and she responded with a pensive and then dramatic performance of Scriabin’s Sonata Fantasy, Op. 19. Writers refer to thi...
Symphony
SPLASHY RUSSIAN MUSIC IN MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Summer music festivals season tend to be launched each season with a sparkling audience-pleasing program, and the 29th Mendocino Music Festival opening concert was no exception July 11 with an all-Russian program in the big white tent concert hall on Mendocino’s breezy bluff. Conducted by Artistic ...
Recital
FRENCH ROMANTIC ORGAN MUSIC IN NUMINA RECITAL
by James Harrod
Friday, July 10, 2015
Etienne Walhain played a magical recital July 10 of organ music of Bach, Scarlatti and Franck. Displaying total command of the Church of the Incarnation’s Casavant instrument under his hands and feet, Mr. Walhain performed his program from memory with breath taking speed, accuracy, and clean articul...
Symphony
BRANDENBURGS A SPIRITUAL GIFT IN FINAL CHAMBERFEST CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 28, 2015
“Well, you should have been there.” A trite saying used too often by concertgoers? Sure. But surely it was the appropriate adage for the final Chamberfest concert June 28 in Sonoma State’s Weill Hall. Capping a nine-event series mostly in Schroeder Hall, Jeffrey Kahane led ensembles of up to 20 ...
Recital
TWO EXEMPLARY ORGAN RECITALS HIGHLIGHT CHAMBERFEST
by James Harrod
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Baroque music aficionados and organists were glued to their seats at Chamberfest’s June 27 and 28 when Malcolm Matthews performed two amazingly perfect recitals of Baroque organ music from North Europe of the 16th and 17th centuries. The two prodigious concerts included no less than 17 selections,...
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.