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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
RECITAL REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, February 08, 2018
Chin-Un Hu, piano

Pianist Ching-Un Hu

HAUNTING RACHMANINOFF WORKS IN HU'S MAO RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 08, 2018

Ching-Yun Hu made a return Music at Oakmont appearance Feb. 8 in Berger Auditorium, reprising a recital she made in the same hall four years ago. Many of the recital’s trappings were the same, but the music Ms. Hu chose to play was decidedly different.

All afternoon the pianist was in an aggressive and speedy mood, beginning with the complete Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux, Op. 39. These nine works from 1917 are far removed from the more popular studies from Op. 23 and 32, and mostly portray dark sonorities in knotty figurations and powerful rhythmic surges. Missing throughout the set was a warm piano sound, contributed to by the instrument’s bright top-end and of course the composer’s constant fist fulls of notes. Lots of notes, but they were great notes, and building blocks for Mr. Hu’s dramatic contrasts and big chords.

Highlights for me were the long ending fermata in the opening C Minor; the lyrical “wind and water” voicing of the A Minor (No. 2, that Respighi orchestrated so mysteriously); the accurate heraldic skips and doubled staccato chords in the allegro molto; the left-hand rumbles and graded ritards in the E-Flat Major appassionato; and finally the improvisatory and pianistic playing and dissimilar repeats in the A Minor allegro. Repeats that were varied, a welcome romantic pianism touch.

These were formidable short “tone poems” played well with the needed speed and momentum. This approach continued after intermission with Earl Wild’s Gershwin transcriptions – Embraceable You, Fascinatin’ Rhythm and the happiest of the three, I Got Rhythm. Each was a tour de force in quick scales and contrasts – jazz, a bit of Ravel, many arpeggios. The open textures and rolled chords revealed the piano going out-of-tune in the treble.

Chopin’s Op. 2 Variations on the “La Chi Darem La Mano” theme from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni was next, a substitute for an Alkan piece. The playing had the easy charm and tour de force of scale passages characteristic of early Chopin and Thalberg, with legato and non-legato passages vying vigorously. It was the most bewitching piece in the recital.

Continuing the program’s focus on pianistic velocity were two Kapustin Concert Etudes from Op. 40. These were both played with a fiery technique, the first in presto revolving phrases, and the second with parts languorously sounding like Palm Court music from the 1950s. Ms. Hu’s command of tsunamis of notes was complete and the offbeat accents and intricate harmonies posed no difficulty for her. The program’s second standing ovation ensued, though not vociferous.

Prior to an encore (Rachmaninoff’s Op. 21 Lilacs) Ms. Hu announced that she was shortly to record an all-Rachmaninoff CD. The melancholic Lilacs was reminiscent of Chopin and was played vividly with a hazy use of damper pedal.