Carmel Music Society’s 2018 Piano Competition Awards Concert

1st Prize Winner Kevin Sun, 2nd Prize Winner Xiao Chen, 3rd Prize Winner Christopher Richardson

It was a grand occasion for local piano buffs yesterday when the Carmel Music Society held its 40th Piano Competition at Sunset Center. Six finalists competed from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm, each playing a half-hour solo program. At 3:30 Dr. Anne Thorp, Co-President of the Carmel Music Society announced that the judges had selected 24-year-old Kevin Lee Sun from Sacramento as the Grand Prize Winner, who, in addition to his cash award, will be returning to Sunset Center at 3:00 pm on Sunday, January 13, 2019 to perform a full recital on the CMS regular subscription series. Dr. Thorp then announced that 29-year-old Xiao Chen, who holds a Master of Music degree from Juilliard and a DMA from UCLA, was awarded Second Prize, and 19-year-old Christopher Richardson, a much lauded competition winner who is currently a pre-med student at UC Berkeley, was awarded Third Prize. Read full story

Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Carmel Music Society, Piano

Modesty and Poise: A Recital by Seong-Jin Cho

The final Steinway Society recital of its 2017-18 season took place at the California Theatre in San Jose on Monday, May 28, featuring Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho, winner of the First Prize at the 2015 Chopin International Competition in Warsaw. Cho performed works by Schumann, Beethoven, Debussy, and Chopin, a program that became notable not so much for expressive fireworks, but for an artistic sense of restraint and demure poise that had us listening to every note intensely. Even the impassioned Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58 (1844) of Chopin displayed more poetry and compressed ardor than  bravura and flamboyant gestures. Perhaps only in his second encore, Chopin’s famed “Revolutionary” Etude, did Cho reveal his gifts for the outwardly demonstrative mode the large, blatantly jingoistic, audience had clamored for from the moment Cho stepped on stage. Read full story

Archived in these categories: Piano, Romantic Era

Pianist Yura Margulis at Hidden Valley

Last night at Hidden Valley pianist Jura Margulis treated us to an evening of bold and expressive keyboard virtuosity. That he has a vast arsenal of virtuoso skills is never in doubt, and he is not shy about showing them off. Thus, in the six Scarlatti Sonatas opening the program Margulis was not trying to give us examples of scholarly and historically informed performance, but rather examples of his own very personal and romantically styled approach to Scarlatti. Some of the faster passages flew by at warp speed while the slower passages tended to be burdened with expressive emoting. Each of the six chosen sonatas is a minor masterpiece, and, like any masterpiece, is capable of a wide variety of stylistic executions, since the original works are greater in conception than can ever be realized in actual performance. So, true to himself, Mr. Margulis gave us an old-fashioned view of romanticized Scarlatti, and for him this approach worked. Read full story

Archived in these categories: Piano, Romantic Era

A Penchant for Percussion: Alexander Gavrylyuk in Recital

Closing his singular and exhausting recital at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Monday, May 18, with the Horowitz transcription of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Russian virtuoso Alexander Gavrylyuk demonstrated the fiery and often stentorian arsenal of keyboard technique he brandishes with a singular aplomb, raising both the roof and the exhilarated sensibilities of his appreciative audience. In virtually dire contrast to his second encore, “Of Foreign Lands and Peoples” from Schumann’s Kinderszenen, which enjoyed a serenity of spirit that a grateful soul feels after the passing of either a windy tempest or a volcanic eruption: the last work on the official program had been the Rachmaninov Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36 (1913; rev. 1931). The last movement of this work had Gavrylyuk’s urging brilliant, chromatic runs and chords in furious motion, with one of Rachmaninov’s patented lyrical themes in D. The shifting affects of Rachmaninov’s work seemed to encapsulate the virtues — and issues — with Gavrylyuk’s especial style and flair. Read full story

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

Monterey Symphony Ends Season with a Bang!

Pianist Philippe Bianconi

The Monterey Symphony ended its 2017-2018 season last night at Sunset Center in a blaze of glory. The ending work on the program, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, sent us on our way with its famous themes resonating in our heads and reminding us how great a piece it is, no matter how many times we may have heard it in the past. The Monterey Symphony, under the direction of Max Bragado-Darman never sounded better, and it is with shock and surprise that we learned in the printed program that Maestro Max will be leaving us at the end of the 2019-2020 season. We will miss him, but he has accomplished a lot during his tenure and will be leaving a much stronger orchestra than the one he inherited. Read full story

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