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Choral and Vocal
NOBLE BRAHMS REQUIEM PERFORMANCE CLOSES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach, conducted by Robert Worth, presented a truly grand finale to their 2018-19 "Light Out of Darkness" season in two sold out Schroeder Hall performances June 1 and 2. The program "A Human Requiem" was received rapturously with a well-deserved standing ovation for the main work, Brahms' ...
Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
RECITAL REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, April 11, 2019
George Li, piano

Pianist George Li

GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019

Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy that now is establishing an important international career at the age of 24. A Wunderkind is now a splendid recitalist.

His program was conventional and in many ways his interpretations of Beethoven and Liszt were conformist, albeit at a virtuoso level of technique and insight. Beethoven’s Andante Favori and the C Major “Waldstein” Sonata comprised the first half before 200, the largest recent audience in Berger Auditorium. The Andante (WoO 57) was played with just the right tempo with sprightly small ornaments that moved around the principal note and often a staccato touch. Phrases were shaped with care. A finished performance.

Impeccable scale technic was a prime part of Mr. Li’s Beethoven Sonata, and throughout the performance his exemplary pianistic prowess was on full display. The command of seamless changes in volume and rhythm characterized the opening allegro, with scant attention paid to ritards or the humor in the writing. Haydn is often noted as the humorist in classical period music, but Beethoven is also a master of comedy in his scores, an approach foreign to Mr. Li’s conception, at least in this afternoon’s reading.

The slow adagio molto was spiritually shaped with a whiff of mystery, and calmly lead into the concluding Rondo. Marked allegretto moderato, standard interpretations of this magical movement are played in a dreamy style, and Mr. Li did so effortlessly with expert pedaling but no pedal point or inner voices. Scale playing was again faultless and he chose to play the famous octave passages in both hands as scales rather than employing glissandos. The bright top register of the hall’s piano was ideal for the “Waldstein” interpretation.

Two Liszt works, the Sonetto Del Petrarca No. 104 the Les Jeux d’eaux a la Villa d’Este (from Années de Pèlerinage, Vol. 3), began the second half and were highlights of the afternoon. Here the pianist’s repeated note mastery, fast trills and novel soft sforzandos produced a shimmering sense of water inspired by the Tivoli Villa near Rome, and perfection in running thirds and subtle dynamic control came in the Sonetto. The decrescendo in the last few bars of the Sonetto was captivating and masterfully phrased. Rich tonal color was also heard in each of these pieces.

Reminiscences of Don Juan, from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, closed the formal program in a blaze of virtuosity. Mr. Li’s technical arsenal seems to have everything, and everything is needed in this 16-minute pianistic tour de force - speedy octaves, skips, detaché touch, brilliant repeated chords, fluent thematic statements and clarity at places of exceptional difficulty. However, for this extravagant music Mr. Li lacked a critical item of technic – instrumental volume and sonority.

Orchestral sonority in piano playing is not a factor of the pianist’s physical size, and many powerhouses in the past (Rosenthal, Anton Rubinstein, Hofmann, Horowitz) were below average in height. The sound needed for a great performance of Liszt’s Don Juan is produced by a mix of arm and shoulder strength, speed of key descent and adroit pedaling. Mr. Lee’s interpretation, however admirable, could not generate the needed musical force and demonic punch. Musical histrionics demand tumult.

Of course the playing brought down the house, and the artist returned to the stage and played a melting and mournful Intermezzo from Brahms’ Op. 118, No. 6. Another encore was demanded and he launched into the virtuoso showpiece of Liszt’s third study (La Campanella) from the set of Paganini Etudes from 1851. His dazzling command of upper register repeated notes never failed him.