Author Archives: Dr. Gary Lemco

A Grand Leisure: Pianist Yekwon Sunwoo in Recital

With the ravishing, ecstatically brilliant final chords from Liszt’s La Campanella Etude – his one encore – still resounding through McAfee Performing Arts and Lecture Center, Saratoga, Sunday afternoon, October 8, an enchanted audience hailed Korean piano virtuoso Yekwon Sunwoo yet once more for what had clearly been a masterful recital, under the auspices of the Steinway Society the Bay Area. Sunwoo, the 2017 Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medalist, demonstrated a staggering arsenal of color capabilities at the keyboard, in a recital of Schubert, Grainger, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel that, despite its obvious penchant for bravura and demonic virtuosity, no less presented a grand leisure in pacing and dramatic exposition that testified to a talent well beyond his years in musical maturity. Read full story

Archived in these categories: Piano


Restrained Fires: Symphony Silicon Valley Opening Night

Paul Polivnick

Symphony Silicon Valley began its 16th season Saturday, September 30 and October 1 at the California Theatre, with Paul Polivnick’s leading music by Wagner, Britten, and Beethoven. While each of the selections contained energy and fine colors, the one ingredient conspicuous in its absence remained inflamed passion and emotional abandon. Rather, each of the pieces maintained a careful, controlled pathos, true to the letter of the selected scores but rarely exceeding their prescriptions to burst into poetic ecstasy. Read full story

Archived in these categories: Orchestral


Nostalgia and Bells: Sean Chen Opens Steinway Society Season

Pianist Sean Chen inaugurated the 2017-18 season of the Steinway Society the Bay Area Saturday, September 9, with a vigorous and colorful program featuring works that indulged in emotional nostalgia and often sported bells and carillon effects. Mr. Chen, conducting a lecture-recital at Le Petit Trianon Theatre before an enchanted audience, set the tone for the evening, which remained both accessible and musically stupendous. The height of Chen’s personal charisma — already apparent in his gracious, keyboard demonstrations of motifs and connections between the individual works – came in the form of his only encore, a wonderfully inventive improvisation on “Happy Birthday!” for a member of the Steinway staff that managed to align her with such personages as Brunnhilde, Isolde, and Gershwin’s Bess in the course of a jazzy and Lisztian revel that might have made Liberace envious. Read full story

Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Piano, Romantic Era


Roller-Coaster Strings: [email protected]’s Final Concert

The finely-honed [email protected] summer series concluded Saturday evening, August 5, with “National Flavors,” a highly diverse and musically challenging array of compositions whose scale and intensity, while varied, did not lack for stylistic panache and gorgeous showmanship. A thoroughly enthusiastic audience graced the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton, eager to experience the culmination of the fifteenth anniversary season which had assiduously celebrated “The Glorious Violin.”

Violinist Danbi Um and cellist Nicholas Canellakis intiated the proceedings with Bohuslav Martinu’s 1927 Duo No. 1, a two-movement work that exploits the tonal range of the respective instruments, set in a modal, angular syntax enriched by multiple stopping on the strings. The first movement Praeludium: Andante moderato had Danbi and Canellakis share the melodic tissue and shuttle into improvisation until the calm atmosphere returned at movement’ end. The piece indulged Martinu’s Parisian sense of Jazz in striking syncopations that led to cellist Canellakis’ extended solo, which rather lit up our ears. The lyric appeal of this music had us in thrall when violinist Um joined in for a mad dash to the gratifying finale. Read full story

Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Chamber music, Strings


Deutsche Marks — German Virtuosity at Menlo

The Saturday July 22 Concert Program III at [email protected], “German Virtuosity,” transported the Italian violin tradition from Cremona northward, as deftly demonstrated in five elegantly performed works at the Menlo-Atherton’s Center for Performing Arts. Works by Rode, Beethoven, Spohr, David, and Mendelssohn graced a felicitous program that took Beethoven’s last sonata as a point of departure for the violin’s emergence into a burgeoning Romantic tradition in which the instrument would soar in expressive range and scale. Read full story

Archived in these categories: Chamber music, Classical Era, Romantic Era