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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 ...
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...
Recital
MOK ONE SPEED AND ELEGANCE IN SRJC CHAMBER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 16, 2014
After a decade-long absence, Gwendolyn Mok returned to the SRJC Chamber Series Feb. 16 in a gem of a balanced and elegant piano recital. Before an audience of 140 in the College’s Newman Auditorium, the San Jose-based artist began with Beethoven’s early A Major Sonata, Op. 2, No. 2. She quickly cau...
Recital
HU'S ON FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Music at Oakmont in their eight-concert season features mostly instrumental ensembles, and rarely pianists. But when they do the pianists are pretty good. Ching-Yun Hu's performance Feb.13 in Berger Auditorium, for example, was at a first-cabin level of virtuosity. A conventional repertoire first h...
Recital
IMPECCABLE BEETHOVEN FROM THE ALEXANDER STRING QUARTET
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 09, 2014
In the classical music world, snazzy innovation and music puffery catch the headlines, but there is always a role for an instrumental group with long experience and impeccable artistic integrity. The Alexander String Quartet's Feb. 9 concert in the Sonoma Classical Chamber Music Series proved that d...
Recital
GALLIC PERFECTION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 22, 2013
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has made French piano music a principal part of his career, but his artistry extends to far more than Gallic masterpieces, as he convincingly demonstrated in a Nov. 22 recital for the SRJC Chamber Concerts series. Before 180 in Newman Auditorium, Mr. Bavouzet opened with a spar...
Recital
TOUR DE FORCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Pianist Gustavo Romero has become a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing in several Santa Rosa halls and homes in recent years. On Nov. 1, he made his Marin County debut at Dominican University’s Guest Artist Series in Angelico Hall. The Dallas-based artist eschews stage flair and keeps remarks ...
Recital
ITALIAN ORGANIST PLAYS YON'S MUSIC IN CREATIVE ARTS SERIES RECITAL
by Jim Harrod
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Organist Emanuele Cardi played a recital of fiery virtuosity to an appreciative audience of organists and organ music fans October 20 in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Resurrection, opening the Creative Arts Series season. Mr. Cardi is organist and choirmaster at the Ghilardi and Carli organs of St. ...
Recital
MORE WORDS THAN NOTES
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Soheil Nasseri opened the 23rd Music at Oakmont season Oct. 17 in a piano recital where words from the artist nearly overwhelmed the offered music. Choosing an all-Beethoven program, Mr. Nasseri preceded the A Major Sonata, Op. 101, with words of personal introduction and humorous anecdotes. The wo...
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.