Tao Lin,  Pianist                    

Home Biography Repertoire Telecast CDs Photo Gallery




Pianists, Soprano Vary Menu for Mainly Mozart

June 18, 2008   - The Mainly Mozart Festival is winding down its May and June schedule with a series of popular classics combined with a few difficult bravura works. Despite some annoying ambient noise (including a rude listener with an open cell phone) in and out of the Westin Colonnade’s conference “salon” June 15, the festival’s late afternoon concert featured some exciting works performed by pianists Catherine Lan and Tao Lin with guest soprano Christine Reber.

Lin and Lan, soon to be husband and wife, are both familiar faces on the local and regional piano circuit and collaborated closely with Mainly Mozart Music Director Frank Cooper on the selection of the program. Lin, a student of Ivan Davis, joins the Bergonzi String Quartet at Music Mountain in Falls Village, Conn. for their Summer Chamber Series Aug. 17 and will accompany the violinist Shunsuké Sato at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 28.

The two pianists started with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-91) Sonata for Four Hands, K. 521 in C major, a work that belies its so-called “easy” key signature. In fact, in a letter from 1787 to his pupil Franziska von Jacquin’s brother Baron Gottfried including a copy of the score he said, “with my compliments and tell her to tackle it at once, for it is rather difficult.”

In the Allegro fanfare their touch was light and shimmering with just the right drop of seriousness. Scales had clean runs and trills rang with a sharp crispness with Lan in treble and Lin in bass. The Andante was somewhat wan and colorless despite their facile interchanges. Little pauses and retards were handled with assurance and the tone had a slightly “Schubertian” tinge to its melody line. The final Allegretto seemed more serious than its humorous, even slapdash surface implied. Despite the quibbles, both players should make an excellent two piano team.

German-born soprano Christine Reber has a strong background in opera and oratorio with performances both in Europe, the U.S., and Canada. She has played roles like Fiordiligi from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Rosalinde in Stauss’ Die Fledermaus, and Musetta in Puccini’s La Boheme. Not surprisingly, she chose the world’s greatest lieder king (over 600 songs), Franz Schubert (1797-1828) with three works: Nachtstücke, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, and Mignons Gesange. Her voice has a warm and resonant quality with comfortable support in the lower range. After some initial roughness in the first stanza she gained more fluidity and inserted a halting sorrowful tone into the narrative against the piano’s broken chord bass line. Auf dem Wasser was familiar with its piano introduction and Reber had better command in her hand-off as her voice became full-throated with mellow high notes in the sequence of crescendos. Despite a little shrillness towards the end of Mignons her bass notes remained secure and lyrical.

Robert Schumann’s (1810-56) Piano Sonata, op. 22 in G minor was written in 1837 and demonstrates all the passion and fervor he created for his love interest and future wife, Clara Wieck. Part of the challenge with classical music is that passion and technique are often self-cancelling. In the first movement Catherine Lan seemed so intent on the technical demands that the stormy psychodrama fell away to a polite shower of hard-gained notes. In several passages her fortissimo had too brittle a touch. While the Andantino wandered around at first it gained more poignancy and direction towards the mid-section. Despite a few flubs towards the end, the Scherzo re-asserted some of the bounce and verve one expects from Schumann’s sense of joyous abandonment. The technically fierce Presto was a perpetual motion of toccata-like accelerations alternating with slower lyrical interludes, a pattern Lan handled with distinction and grace.

After intermission, Lin and Lan returned with Schubert’s great Fantasy for Four Hands, D. 940 in F minor, perhaps the genre’s true masterpiece. What strikes one immediately is ineffable beauty of the main melody and its glinting mutability. For performers it requires great stamina to maintain both its artfulness and architecture. Despite a little sluggishness in the tempo the couple coalesced and established a decent exchange of voices. If the overall effect was somewhat bland the final fugal ending had animation and the shifting dynamics were well calibrated.

Reber returned with two Mozart works, the first operatic, the second, a lied or song, his longest at 110 bars. In “Ch’io mi scordi di te” from Idomeneo, Act II, scene 1 her stamina was apparent with strength in the mid-range, fine dramatic skill, and robust scale range at the end. Lin’s piano complemented splendidly with the modulation to E flat major. Abendempfindung, sung without a score, was pleasant, sentimental and arpeggiated without sounding tedious or cloying.

Finally, Tao Lin tackled Schubert’s popular Fantasy, D. 760 in C major, Wanderer, a work that can easily fall into bombast. Precise and self-controlled, he delivered clean, decisive octaves without limiting the expanding sense of inner melody voices. Both dynamics and rhythm held firm. Lin’s ability to mute and slowly build up momentum proved to be effortless. If his interpretation lacked overwhelming power the result was sophisticated and architecturally erect with fine inner passion.

Mainly Mozart ends its regular season June 22 with Ibis Camerata and pianist Biljana Milovanovic in Mozart, Brahms, Turina, and Mendelssohn.

 - by Charles Greenfield, Coral Gables Gazette

News   |  Critical Reviews   |  Comments from Presenters

Collaborations   |  Performance Calendar

Copyright © 2006 Tao Lin.  All rights reserved.

 Last updated:  06/18/2009