Tao Lin, Pianist
Table of Contents Review:
St. Petersburg Piano Quartet shows maturity in Flagler concert
Marcio Bezerra, Palm Beach Daily News, 8 March 2017
Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International, September 2013
On record: Local classical discs in review
Greg Stepanich, Palm Beach ArtPaper, 31 August 2013
Review: Program change doesn’t stop St. Petersburg String Quartet, pianist Tao Lin from dazzling
Joseph Youngblood, Palm Beach Daily News, 28 January 2013
Tomas Cotik: Schubert duo sonata in A, D 574... on Centaur
Robert Maxham, Fanfair, 23 November 2012
Pianist provides memorable chamber concert
Reader reviews, Rapid City Journal, 25 October 2012
CD review of Live in Concert
Peter Burwasser, Fanfair, 35:1, Sept/Oct 2011
Passionate Brahms performances marred by piano tuning
Greg Stepanich, Palm Beach ArtsPaper, 25 June 2011
Confident ‘Creation,’ strong ‘Turandot,’ elegant Mozart
Greg Stepanich, Palm Beach ArtsPaper, 24 November 2010
Mostly Music Chicago commentary
Lakefront Outlook, 29 Sep 2010
Rodriguez falls ill, Tao Lin saves the day at Festival Miami
David Fleshler, South Florida Classical Review
Tao Lin, A fiery virtuoso Iris Lorenz-Fife, Coast Observer
Review: St. Petersburg Piano Quartet shows maturity in Flagler concert By Marcio Bezerra - Special to the Daily News Posted: 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 08, 2017
he Flagler Museum Music Series closed its current season — the first under new director Erin Manning — with a refined concert by the St. Petersburg Piano Quartet.
Pianist Tao Lin performed Tuesday with the St. Petersburg Piano Quartet at the Flagler Museum.
The quartet — which included Alla Aranovskaya on violin; Boris Vayner, viola; Thomas Mesa, cello; and pianist Tao Lin — delivered an evening of mature, well-concerted music making at Whitehall.
The program started with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Quartet for Piano and Strings No. 2 in E-flat Major, K. 493. Although one associates Mozart’s name more with perfection than with innovation, the composer was a pioneer of sorts in the piano quartet genre, being the first composer to give equally important parts to all players. Written in 1786, K. 493 was the composer’s second experiment. Sparkling and elegant — and somewhat missing in the introspection we tend to associate works of the composer’s late years — the work was performed flawlessly. The balance between strings and piano was particularly noteworthy, as well as Lin’s pearly touch and technical facility. The second part consisted of the more serious Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25 by Johannes Brahms. Once again, the performers brought a tightly woven interpretation, passionate and virtuosic, but also remarkably balanced. Although the antique Model A Steinway had limited power, there is no doubt that a modern concert grand would have overpowered the string players due to Whitehall’s complicated acoustics. The standing ovation naturally prompted by the last movement, Rondo alla Zingarese, was obliged by a heartwarming rendition of Robert Schumann’s Andante Cantabile from his Piano Quartet, Op. 47. After a season characterized by energetic, youthful ensembles, the mature music making offered by the St. Petersburg Piano Quartet stood out at Whitehall.
REVIEW Written by Dominy Clements Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Duo Sonata in A major, Op. 162, D. 574 (1817) [21:11] Rondo in B minor, Op. 70, D. 895 Rondo brillant (1826) [14:04] Fantasy in C major, Op. 159, D.934 (1828) [23:49] Tomas Cotik (violin) Tao Lin (piano) rec. 3-5 September 2011, Gusman Concert Hall, Coral Gables, Florida, USA. CENTAUR RECORDS CRC 3250 [59:04] Schubert played both the violin and the piano, and the sense of natural music-making with the works in this recording stand as a testament to a skilled performer as well as the genius composer we all recognise today. The Duo Sonata D. 574 has appeared in versions for cello and piano, but the violin and piano original has an uplifting quality which is emphasised by Cotik and Lin’s lightness of touch. I’ve had a listen to a few alternatives online just to orientate myself, including Isaac Stern and Daniel Barenboim on Sony Classics and Lydia Mordkovitch and Gerhard Oppitz on Chandos, but this duo on Centaur pretty much ticks all the boxes. Cotik is perhaps less luxuriantly eloquent with the melody in the lovely Andantino movement, but is certainly expressive enough, and his clarity of colouring and dynamic allows the piano a more equal partnership than some. The recording is set in a not particularly resonant acoustic, but the Gusman Concert Hall certainly has enough space and air to make the sonorities of the instruments develop without swimming with resonance in quite the way Mordkovitch’s Chandos version does. Tomas Cotik gives a sense of gipsy exuberance to Allegro vivace finale of D. 574, and there is some continuation of this in the opening of the ‘Rondo brillant’ which makes for a fine centrepiece in this nicely balanced programme. The changes in harmonic depth between this and the more youthful sounding Duo Sonata are notable, but it is with the Fantasy D. 934 that the real ‘late’ Schubert is most apparent, the opening almost making the leap to the romanticism of Schumann, and certainly possessing some of the enigmatic mysteries of works such as Die Winterreise. The violin, a symbol of domestic leisure and contentment, could probably never carry quite the same weight as words expressed by the human voice, and this Fantasy takes us into more areas of showmanship and concert exhibitionism than the best of Schubert’s songs. The technical demands of the piece can be felt in this performance but not to the point of any discomfort, and both Cotik and Lin serve the music very well indeed. Tomas Cotik and Tao Lin form a very fine duo, and with new recording projects including work for Naxos this is clearly a team to watch. I am sure we will be hearing good things from them in the future. Meanwhile this superbly produced Schubert disc, while just one in a somewhat crowded market, comes warmly commended. Cotik and Lin serve the music very well indeed.
On re ecord d: Loccal cla assica al discs in revie ew Written by Greg G Stepaniich on 31 Auggust 2013 Schubert: Duo D Sonata in A, D. 5744; Rondo in n B minor, D. D 895; Fanttasy in C, D. D 934. A Artists: Tom más Cotik, violin; v Tao Lin, L piano; Centaur C (CRC C 3250) This survey of T o three large works for vioolin and pianno by Franz Schubert is an exemplarry presentatioon of some marvelous m music that is i rarely heaard in conceert these dayys, though r recordings off them abound d. The Argentinne-born violinist Tomás Cotik, T C secondd violin of t the Delray String Quarrtet, joins with w Lynn University i instructor Tao Lin in this scrupullously researrched and r recorded discc, which waas taken from m live perforrmances in September 20011 at the University of Miami’s M Gusmaan Hall. Schubert wroote a good deaal of music foor violin and piano, and t Duo Sonnata that open the ns the recordiing is in fact his fourth v violin sonataa, though it differs from its predecesssors in its m much more elaborate e lay yout, whereass the first thrree sonatas h hew more cloosely to the style s of Mozaart. And this is in every w a majorr sonata, eveery bit as woorthy as the Beethoven way sonatas to be heard as a matter of coursse in violin recitals. m sparklee. The first moovement of thhis sonata Surely it is thhe live nature of these recoordings that giives them so much h a delighttful spirit; wh has hen Lin enters with the secondary minoor-key contraasting theme, he makes thhe marchl rhythms snap, and lateer, when Schuubert calls forr galloping E major arpegggios, Lin makkes them bubbble. Cotik like i with him evvery step of the is t way, and the t quality off their partnersship can be heard in everyy bar. The second movement T m (P Presto) is fastt and powerfu ful, though noot overly fastt, and the twoo musicians make m the c contrasting T sound lik Trio ke a total breeak from the first section, as indeed itt is. But theyy do this by observing o Schubert’s sooft dynamicss while keepiing the temppo exactly thhe same, and the effect iss one of ear-catching m mystery. Thee slow movem ment (Andantiino) is an exercise in key changes, c and here h again the two musiciaans make t most of each one. Th the he simple opeening melodyy is barely allowed to speak before thhe composer is off in a another direcction, and Cotik C and Lin bring out the vivid emotion e inherrent in all of o Schubert’ss sudden m modulations. The finale (A T Allegro vivacee) is imbued with the spiriit of the dancce, with both players emphhasizing the emphases e a amid the lighhtness of the 1817-era sw wing that is thhe motor of this t movemeent. Lin and Cotik C drive the music r resolutely forrward without burning it out, o so that it has h a feeling of giddy deliiriousness, ann almost out-oof-control a adventure on the floor thatt no one wantts to end. It’s an exciting, strong s perform mance. 3
The second work on the disc, the Rondo in B minor (D. 895), also known as the Rondo brillant, is a wonderful piece, full of flashy but substantive effects in the piano and violin. Both musicians sound completely committed to the headlong energy of much of the middle section of this work, with its call-to-the-hunt passages and its catchy rondo theme, which Cotik at one point plays with a portamento swoop on the upbeat, though every other time it’s left clean; it’s a nice, subtle touch that grabs the listener by the ear and leads him on. As always with Schubert, the abundance of memorable melody in this work is astounding, with one lovely idea following another in rapid succession. But what also impresses here is its sheer effectiveness as a diverting concert piece. Schubert may not have been a virtuoso on either piano or violin, but he clearly knew what worked, and in the swift, muscular rendition of this Rondo by Cotik and Lin we hear a bravura side of Schubert that too many performers shy away from. The third and final selection is the huge Fantasy in C (D. 934), the last work for violin and piano he composed, and one of the few he ever heard in concert; it was performed in January 1828 by the Czech violinist Josef Slavik. This is a highly virtuosic piece, with a texture of almost perpetual busyness for both instruments until it reaches the central section of the Fantasy, which is a series of variations on a Schubert song, Sei mir gegrüsst (D. 741), though the initial presentation is considerably different than the 1821 song. The opening fast section, after the moody tremolandi and intense statements of the violin in the prelude bars (reminiscent of the great String Quintet in C), stands in stark relief next to it. Again, both players take care to always see the lightness of approach so integral to Schubert, no matter how stormy the music may become. Here, Cotik and Lin play canonically, and their tradeoff of scale figures and short, propulsive rhythms is beautifully done. The variations that follow are hugely difficult for pianist and violinist alike, but Cotik and Lin play them brilliantly. Lin’s wide-ranging scales roll like liquid off his fingers, and both players end each variation with surgical precision. They observe all the repeats, on the premise that this is the structure Schubert wanted; i.e., it wasn’t simply a thoughtless application of the formula of the day, and it lends to the music an air of deliberation and repose that the closing section cuts off with renewed and amped-up vigor. Cotik’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Miami was on these three Schubert works, and his notes for this recording are impeccably researched and gratifyingly unfussy. He has thoroughly examined many aspects of the Schubertian style: accents, pedaling, tempi, even tuning, and carried out the results of his scholarly investigations most admirably. This recording can be paid no higher compliment than to say that Tomas Cotik and Tao Lin have in their presentation of these too-often overlooked masterpieces honored not only their professions as musicians, but the memory and work of Franz Schubert.
Posted: 8:15 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 LABEL: REVIEW
Review: Program Change Doesn’t Stop St. Petersburg String Quartet, Pianist Tao Lin from Dazzling By Joseph Youngblood Chamber music of the highest order filled the auditorium of The Society of the Four Arts on Sunday afternoon, as the St. Petersburg (Russia) String Quartet, with guest pianist Tao Lin, presented a concert of music by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), Sulkham Tsintsadze (1925-1991), Dmitri Shostakovich (19061975), and Robert Schumann (1810-1856). The quartet was founded in 1985. First violinist Alla Aranovskaya and cellist Leonid Shukayev have been with the group since the beginning. Violist Boris Vayner joined in 2005, and second violinist Evgeny Zvonnikov in 2010. The group is quartet-in-residence at Wichita State University in Kansas. The concert was supposed to open with Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2. This work was replaced, and only the third movement — which contains the music that became And This Is My Beloved from the musical Kismet — was performed. This work features the lyric voice of the cello sounding above the other members of the quartet. The program change was announced from the stage by Aranovskaya. The new work was Five Miniatures on Jewish Folk Tunes, written in 1990 by Sulkhan Tsintsadze, a prolific composer from what is now the country of Georgia. Two of the titles are in English: Feast Song and Tailor’s Song. The other titles are a mixture of Hebrew and Yiddish: L’Chaim (To life), Lomir ayle inem (Let us all together), and Lomir ich iberheiten (Let’s forgive one another). All of the movements were played with flair, with attractive passages played by the viola. Pianist Tao Lin joined the quartet in Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57. Lin is an amazing pianist. His playing is totally clean and he alternates easily between delicate lyric passages and strong assertive passages. The warm sound of the viola is heard several times in exposed passages, and the cello is outstanding. The quartet as a whole has many full-voiced passages, which are completely together. The final work on the program was Schumann’s Quintet in E flat, Op. 44, for piano and strings. The piano moves easily between melodic playing and finger-busting aggressive passages. The March movement contains a quick pickup note, which the strings did not always perform together. The Scherzo brings rapid scales in sixths and octaves in the piano and a wild scamper in the strings. The finale unites themes from the first movement in a vigorous and at times heroic pace. It was an altogether rousing performance. The group gave one encore: the brilliant Scherzo from Antonin Dvorák’s Quintet for Piano and Strings in A, Op. 81. The St. Petersburg String Quartet is an outstanding group, and Lin is a dynamite pianist. It was a pleasure to hear them together.
Tomas Cotik: SCHUBERT Duo Sonata in A, D 574... on CENTAUR Classical Reviews- Composers & Works FanFare - The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors Friday, 23 November 2012 SCHUBERT Duo Sonata in A, D 574. Rondo in b, D 895. Fantasy in C, D 934 • Tomas Cotik (vn); Tao Lin (pn) • CENTAUR RECORDS CRC3250 (57:45) Violinist Tomas Cotik and pianist Tao Lin present a program of Franz Schubert's works for violin and piano that's outstanding from the very beginning -the jewel case opens to reveal not only informative notes about the composer and the circumstances under which he wrote these works but, even more important, an extensive discussion of the historical and artistic choices-timbral (the general approach to the instruments in order to approximate the period's tonal preferences), pedaling, vibrato, the realization of expression marks, tempos, note values, tuning, intonation (vertical and horizontal), repeats (they take them all), edition (Henle), accents, trills (from the main note unless otherwise indicated), and appoggiaturas (each adapted to the context)-each treated with ingratiating thoroughness, lucidity, and geniality. And the performances prove worthy of the auspicious introduction: Their lofty musicianship dwarfs their profound scholarship. In the Violin Sonata's first movement, Cotik and Lin generate a forward momentum, and Cotik's technical command allows for a sharpness of articulation that nevertheless doesn't seem either mannered or fussy, a strong lens bringing each bow stroke into focus. In the succeeding Scherzo, the two create dynamic contrasts that should make many listeners who are familiar with other performances take special notice. If this isn't Fritz Kreisler’s Viennese Gemutlichkeit, it's gemutlich nevertheless. In the notes, the performers describe their attempt to play through changes without losing the rhythmic thread-but reading about that practice will hardly prepare listeners for the charge this creates in performance. The duo embarks on the finale with a slash that brooks none of the comfort some performances suggest. But salon-like geniality somehow still tempers the reading’s concert-hall-like brilliance. The engineers captured the performers up close, so that they seem to be performing in an intimate venue (blessedly, there's no heavy breathing). In fact, though, they recorded the program in September 2011 in Gusman Concert Hall in Coral Gables, Florida; and the recorded sound conveys a clarity and tonal opulence rare in recordings of violin music, making both instruments sound both lifelike and rich in timbral nuance. Coti k's boldness of attack in the sonata redoubles in the opening of the Rondo briIIante, a work that, unlike the others, peppers Schubert’s sensitive lyricism with an almost ostentatious virtuosity. Cotik steps to the fore in the almost concerto-like violin part, engaging listeners with his pure tone (in all registers), his boldness of gesture, and a subtlety matched by his pianistic collaborator. Many passages, particularly near the end, should leave listeners almost breathless. Schubert's Fantasy has only slowly approached the gateway of the standard repertoire, perhaps because of its great difficulty (one leading violinist told me in an interview that she
couldn't imagine how so many young violinists dared to program it). Cotik and Lin make out of the opening a rapt dialogue that extends into the subsequent slashing section, with Cotik answered sonorously by Lin. The duo, both individually and in collaboration, plays the variations on Schubert's song, Sei mir gegrusst, with a vibrancy and attention to detaiI that endow each with a strong individuality and a vitality. At the beginning of many passages, it seems as though Cotik must faiI to reach higher than he already has, yet he somehow always manages to bring each phrase to a perfectly conceived culmination. In fact, as my interviewee pointed out, this isn't an easy work for the violinist (that's true of all the pieces on the program), but that difficulty doesn't seem to bother Cotik. In the finale, Cotik and Lin stimulate a rush of adrenaline. Lin plays a Steinway D, but the notes don't identify Cotik's violin. In a way, it's almost irrelevant, because playing of this strength would overshadow almost any instrument's profile. Cotik and Lin make Kreisler seem almost smarmy (of course, that's an overstatement, for time hasn't dulled the effect of Kreislerâ€™s legendary collaboration with Sergei Rachmaninoff); the strong-minded Isabelle Faust, who gave a performance (with pianist Alexander Melnikov on Harmonia Mundi 901870) that I described in Fanfare 30:4 as blending "velvet blackness" with "silvery lyricism" sounds almost-almost-mannered; and Julia Fischer's with pianist Martin Helmchen on PentaTone SACD 5186 348, which included both the sonata and the fantasia, which I reviewed in Fanfare 34:1, sound as though she's filed down the detaiI. For those who may have concluded sadly that Schubert didn't invest himself so fully in the violin pieces as he did in the songs and symphonies, these performances should be required listening. But Cotik and Lin should also raise appreciation of those already captivated by the works' charms to an even higher level, offering insights and vitality in almost every measure to spark their enthusiasm. Urgently recommended. Robert Maxham
READER REVIEWS: Pianist provides memorable chamber concert October 25, 2012 4:00 am • By The Sunday, Oct. 14, concert presented by the Black Hills Chamber Society featured pianist Tao Lin. Born and trained in Shanghai, China, Tao combines his teaching duties at Florida's Lynn University with a touring schedule that covers the United States and much of the world. His repertoire in Rapid City included works by Brahms, Ravel and Rachmaninoff. It was a superb evening, combining the intelligence, facility and precision you'd expect from an academician with moments of opulence and fanfare that come from being a born entertainer. The audience at Rapid City's First Congregational Church warmly and enthusiastically received the performance. Kudos to the local Black Hills Chamber Society for bringing Tao Lin and other virtuosos into the cultural life of Rapid City. — Dawna Estes Tsitrian On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 14, an audience of dedicated lovers of quality chamber music received a wonderful afternoon of chamber music with the performance of Chinese American pianist Tao Lin. The concert of piano music composed by Brahms, Ravel and Rachmaninoff was performed with superior technical skill and outstanding musicianship. This concert is one that every person who enjoys quality piano performance should have attended. The performance was memorable and the appreciative audience responded with enthusiastic applause. The concert is an example of the high qualify of musical performance the Black Hills Chamber Music Society is committee to bringing to the citizens of the area. This was a WOW moment for all who attended! — Victor and Charlotte Weidensee
CD Review by Peter Burwasser CHOPIN Piano Sonata No. 3. D. SCARLATTI Sonatas: in F, L 385; in d, L 422. MOZART Rondo in D, K 485. Fantasy in c, K 475. Piano Sonata in c, K 457 • Tao Lin (pn) • ARTEK 0055-2 (67:28) Live: Fremont, California 3/20/2010
The conceit of this album, as expressed by the pianist in his liner notes, is that live musical performances have a noticeably different character than studio recordings. I emphatically agree, and this recital, captured in California in 2010, is a good example. Tao Lin, a Shanghai-born and -trained pianist now living in America, has a fine, clean technique, so there are no blatant bloopers on this disc, which can be a feature of live recordings, and a reason some collectors avoid them. I don’t mind an occasional mistake in a performance; they can add a certain quality of humanity to the music. For example, I actually relish the little slips and smudges that one can readily hear on the famous 1965 Carnegie Hall recital of Horowitz, which was his first public appearance in 12 years. The playing is glorious, and the less than spot-perfect technique enhances the outsized personality of the interpretations. Naturally, a performer of Horowitz’s already highly nervous, we might even say neurotic, personality would experience anxiety at a concert that was surely the highlight of the season, or even many seasons. But that anxiety is a key element of almost any recital (much more so than an ensemble performance, where the players can, to an extent, cover for one another). Lin starts his recital, for example, with a lively rendition of Scarlatti that feels just a bit rushed, just enough so as to add a positive level of energy to the music that would probably have not occurred in the studio. The great Mozart sonata seems a tad pedantic at first, but Lin’s playing gathers energy and drama as it goes. By the end of the first movement, the depth and passion of this extraordinary music is fully engaged, and in a very natural way. Similarly, Lin finds a pace in the grand, sublime slow movement that allows him to grow into the theatrical space of the music. The Chopin Sonata No. 3 does not lack for fine performances, but here again, the special energy of live performance enhances this playing. I heard Mitsuko Uchida play this in concert last season, and in the last movement wondered how she could maintain the level of intensity that she had initiated. Yet her power rallied, leading to a uniquely exciting conclusion. I cannot pay Lin a higher compliment than to say that his playing of the final passages of this music put me in mind of that Uchida recital. There are too many excellent performances of these works to mention, and in a way, comparisons are beside the point. Lin means to demonstrate the special dynamics of live musicmaking here, and in that sense he has succeeded. This article originally appeared in Issue 35:1 (Sept/Oct 2011) of Fanfare Magazine.
Passionate Brahms performances marred by piano tuning Written by Greg Stepanich on 25 June 2011. Anyone who’s been to an arts camp or summer festival has heard that sound before – enthusiastic, friendly voices loudly acclaiming a performance by members of the team. Tuesday night at Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Persson Hall, the applause from a home-court crowd was heard for two aggressive performances by faculty members at the summer Stringendo School for Strings, who played music by Brahms: his Piano Quartet No. 1 (in G minor, Op. 25), and the Piano Quintet (in F minor, Op. 34). And indeed these performances, featuring well-known local players as well as members of the Cleveland and Atlanta orchestras, were completely committed, engaged ones, in which the musicians could be seen attacking this seminal music with real passion. But while there was much fine playing in both pieces, the evening was marred for me by an out-of-tune piano, with a noticeably flat C above middle C and what sounded like some shaky notes around it as well. The bad tuning threw off the intonation of the whole concert as the string players referenced a faulty model, the proof being in the soli sections without the keyboard, in which the strings could be heard in revised, balanced adjustment with themselves. The G minor Piano Quartet, featuring the fine pianist Tao Lin along with violinist Jun-Ching Lin (of the Atlanta Symphony), violist Stanley Konopka (of the Cleveland Orchestra), and cellist Jonah Kim, began in sober style but very much out of tune, a problem underlined by the many unison octaves in Brahms’ writing. Amid the off-key proceedings could be heard some attractive playing, and by Kim in particular, who made the most of his solo passages such as the intensely emotional introduction of the second subject.
From the outset, the four players demonstrated a strong sense of ensemble, and they had a clear unity of interpretive vision. The Intermezzo second movement was more deliberate than light on its feet, and the trio had a markedly gentle quality as it opened. The Andante con moto third movement had the same kind of tense, big-boned reading as the other movements, and it proceeded inexorably and powerfully to the waltz-time march in the middle; it was here that his performance really began to cook. The Gypsy finale (marked Presto) of this quartet is a proven crowd-pleaser, and this foursome took it at a swift but not blistering pace. All four did good work with the almost constant sixteenth notes that run through this movement, and pianist Lin did an expert job setting up the coda with murmurs that slowly built to the foot-stomping conclusion. The almost-full house at Persson Hall gave the players three long curtain calls. The Quintet, which featured the two Lins and Konopka, with cellist Claudio Jaffe and Stringendo director Patrick Clifford on second violin, was similar to the Quartet in that it was large-minded and boldly colored. It’s a more cohesive piece than the Quartet (as fine a work as that is), but no less fiery, and the five players dove into it with intensity. So this was a first movement, leaving the tuning aside, that had sweep and majesty, especially in its main theme, aided by the group’s excellent ensemble. The second movement’s mid-section had good duet work from Clifford and Konopka, and there was a kind of restless serenity about the playing as a whole, and a careful focus on the primary six-note motif that extends throughout. As with the Quartet, things really got moving in the third movement, easily the best-known of the four, with violinist Lin and Konopka setting up the military tattoo with memorable precision, and all five tearing into the big climactic tune with near-abandon. The beginning of the finale is tough to bring off after that level of excitement, and it was a little unfocused here, but cellist Jaffe played the Haydnesque main theme with lovely tone and rhythmic sinew, moving the performance back onto the rails. Overall, intensity was the guiding principle, and again, the five musicians built powerfully to the ending, handling all of their very difficult, perpetual-motion parts with admirable skill. It’s a testament to the seriousness and the strength with which this music was played that the out-ofwhack piano was not as noticeable through both works as it could have been. But it still hurt the music, through no fault of the players. Before the final concert Tuesday, which includes the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata (which in A minor) and the Borodin Piano Quintet (which is in C minor), someone needs to tune that piano.
Review roundup: Confident ‘Creation,’ strong ‘Turandot,’ elegant Mozart
Lynn Philharmonia/Tao Lin (Nov. 5, Wold Center for the Performing Arts) It’s often been noted that despite his early death at just 35, and despite the astonishing pieces he wrote while still in his teens, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart actually was a late bloomer. But things started to come together for him as a great innovator in 1786, the year of Le Nozze de Figaro and the Piano Concerto No. 25 (in C, K. 503), which received a tender, lovely performance at the hands of pianist Tao Lin on Nov. 5 at a concert by the Lynn Philharmonia. Lin, who teaches at the Boca Raton college, offered a reading of the Mozart that was technically polished and musically wise, offering up the almost childlike theme of the third movement, for example, with a kind of personality and wit that made it more memorable. Throughout, he and the Lynn, led by conductor Albert-George Schram, played the concerto with restraint and taste that allowed its bolder moments to shine simply by being performed so faithfully. In the first movement, Lin played his own cadenza, an arrangement of two existing cadenzas by Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Josef Hofmann. The sheets of runs at the end of the cadenza came off as eminently logical rather than extravagant, and well in keeping with Lin’s elegant reading of this beautiful piece. The other two works on the program, Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila overture and the Symphony No. 2 (in D, Op. 43) of Jean Sibelius, offered good demonstrations of the strengths and weaknesses of this commendable conservatory band. The group’s expanded string section (which allows it to do the Sibelius and to open the season with the Mahler Fifth) is impressive, with its two violin sections fully up to the challenge of playing the zippy main theme with admirable unity, and at a headlong tempo. Things were just as good in the Sibelius, allowing for some early uncertainty about the pulse; the violins in particular were able to bring off the naked emotionalism of the primary section of the first movement with exactly the right kind of big-orchestra Romantic bravado this music demands. But the brass playing remains something of a problem for the Philharmonia, even if on balance there were more things right than there were wrong, and granting some slack for the difficulty of the music. The Sibelius has many exposed moments for the brass in which there is nothing underneath, and when things are in good alignment, this kind of scoring offers something akin to an aural painting in which swatches of color are more important than the composition. In the Saturday night performance, there were simply too many flubbed notes and too much inexact intonation, which marred the overall effect of the music and almost made it appear as though there were two orchestras on stage: One featuring a high-flying string section, and one with a brass department still finding its wings. It’s exciting that Schram has programmed these major orchestral works for the Lynn, in keeping with his notable readings of the Shostakovich Tenth, Prokofiev Fifth and the Schoenberg Five Pieces for Orchestra in recent years. It’s to be hoped that a big improvement in brass consistency will be evident when the orchestra tackles the Verdi Requiem this spring; that would be another reason among many to eagerly anticipate that concert. (Written by Greg Stepanich | 24 November 2010)
Mostly Music Chicago
Commentary Lakefront Outlook, 29 Sep 2010 Mostly Music Chicago kicked off their 38th season Sunday afternoon with a piano recital devoted to the music of Chopin. A gorgeous room on the third floor of the Dreihaus Museum was packed to capacity as Chinese born Tao Lin performed on a Fazioli piano brought in especially for the occasion by Pianoforte. The six foot grand was a little smaller than one might have expected, but it was the largest instrument that would fit into the Dreihaus elevator and Lin certainly had no trouble making it sing, shine and rumble in a space offering live sound. Lin displayed technical skills in abundance, and nimbleness with flashy scales running up and down the keyboard. An easy singing style characterized his performance of the Barcarolle in F sharp minor and there was lots of fluid rumbling in Ballade No. 1 in G minor. The major work on the program was Chopin's glorious Sonata No. 3 in B minor. Lin Favors a more equal balance of the two hands than is usual and he made this choice convincing and pleasing. This is also a musician who likes to push the volume, the tempo and the pedal in a neck-grabbing way. I would have liked more in the way of quiet airiness for contrast, but muscle has its way of making a point too. There was more introspection in his encore, Grodowsky's arrangement of the Tango by Albaniz.
It was a night of drama at Festival Miami, as the pianist for Friday’s concert wound up being hospitalized just hours before the event, and organizers had to quickly come up with a replacement. Santiago Rodriguez, a member of the University of Miami’s piano faculty, was to play a recital of Mozart, Schumann and Rachmaninoff at Gusman Hall. But after the lights had dimmed, Shelton Berg, dean of the Frost School of Music, came on stage and said, “I have some very, very sad news. Santiago Rodriguez is very ill. His wife took him to the hospital. I think it’s probably just a very bad flu.” But, the dean said, the show would go on. The pianist Tao Lin, who was present as an audience member, would perform instead. The Rodriguez recital would be rescheduled, with everyone in the audience given a free ticket. Lin, a faculty member of Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music, is a well-known South Florida musician, with many recital and chamber performances in the area. He came on stage to an unusually long and loud round of applause for someone who had not yet played a note. “Good evening, surprise, surprise,” he said. “Thank you for staying.” 14
Under the circumstances, he would have been forgiven for offering a short program just to give the audience something instead of nothing. But he played a full-length, all-Chopin recital with several substantial works, including the Ballade No. 1, Ballade No. 4, Barcarolle, Nocturne Op. 55 No. 2, four last Mazurkas and Sonata No. 3. Given the rushed nature of Lin’s appearance on stage, it would have been too much to expect a completely polished recital, which this was not. But it was clear why he devoted the recital to Chopin, for he has a real feel for the composer’s style, and his performance had an authenticity that compensated in large part for any technical imperfections. In the Ballade No. 1, Lin’s natural lyricism made the quiet central section sing, and he brought real grandeur to the forte statement of the theme, with a rapid coda that was a whirl of fearless passionate virtuosity. In the Ballade No. 4 he brought out the rising tension of the work from its quiet opening, playing the melodies with a wistful melancholy, and assaying the work’s heroic and tragic qualities as his hands ran up and down the keyboard in sweeping chords and arpeggios. Using Robert Schumann’s famous description of Chopin’s music as “cannons buried in flowers,” many performers have been characterized as emphasizing one over the other. In Lin’s case it was clearly the flowers, despite his way with the heroic sections of the ballades. His performance of the mazurkas, for example, favored a more vocal approach, without the marked style that would have brought out the characteristic Polish rhythm. And in the Nocturne, his rubato — the little accelerations and decelerations that aren’t on the printed page — brought out the hidden tensions in the melodies. The last work on the program was the Sonata No. 3. He played the first movement with great force and dignity, never over-personalizing the music in a way that would allow it to lose shape. Possibly due to the lack of a printed program, which would have shown the work has four movements, several eager members of the audience interrupted with applause every time the pianist reached a cadence. At the end, Lin received a well-deserved standing ovation for his fearless, last-minute performance. In an interview at intermission, the dean said he heard at about 2 p.m. that Rodriguez was ill but still hoped to play the recital; by 4 p.m., the pianist’s wife was taking him to the hospital. Berg said he had considered cobbling together a recital from some pianists at the university, including himself, but then heard that Lin was planning to attend the recital. The dean said he expects an update today on Rodriguez’s condition.
Tao Lin, A Fiery Virtuoso By Iris Lorenz-Fife, Special to the ICO Tao Lin at the piano is like Fourth of July sparklers, his fast fingers are a blur and I would not be surprised if the keys fused from the heat. Despite such pyrotechnics his fingering is crisp and precise and his playing is both intellectual and appreciative of the composers’ intentions. Tao Lin is a virtuoso. Tao Lin interpreted Joseph Haydn’s intentions with the first movement of the Piano Sonata in C Major by giving us both an Allegro tempo and a happy sound. He clearly enunciated the two themes while sending their variations scampering across the keyboard in hot, and complicated, pursuit of each other. Crisp and lighthearted. The Adagio takes a much-needed breath before indulging in flights of fancy; and the final, short, Allegro molto, stops and starts, deliberately hesitates, plays with our expectations, and dares us to laugh out laud at its antics. Tao Lin’s fingers danced. Tao Lin handled the four movements of Frederic Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor with thoughtful intensity, bring us rivers of sound that swirled and eddied to reveal new delights with every passage. From the Allegro Maestoso’s stately opening and lovely, gentler, second theme, through the super fast scherzo that open the Molto vivace movement and let to a lovely legato section, he kept the contrasts distinct yet integrated. He waded into the Largo with a series of heavy chords that were then echoed with the lightest, ephemeral, touch. His handling of the whole had a feeling of both surprise and inevitability, and his ease at the keyboard belied its difficulty. Post intermission brought more Chopin with four Mazurkas, then a major Impromptu by Franz Schubert that displayed lovely legato playing and had a crystalline intensity. The program ended with Mily Balakirev’s Islamey – a piece of such technical difficulty that the composer admitted there were passages he could not play. Premiered by Nikolai Rubinstein in 1869, it opens with pure fire, smolders through a center section, then bursts into flame again. I swear there was smoke rising from the keyboard at the end, but Tao Lin looked relaxed and closed with a glimmer of a smile.