The ASQ and Joyce YangSan Francisco Classical Voice critic Steven Winn says our Schnittke Piano Quintet performance with Joyce Yang stole the show on Tuesday:

“Never mind the 19th-century pyrotechnics. It was the lesser-known, five-movement Piano Quintet by the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) that stole the show. … Yang and the Alexander were ideally attuned to the cause. Her flair for blending decisiveness and delicacy at the keyboard, in evidence throughout the program, formed the tent pole of the Schnittke. The quartet suspended skein after skein of diaphanous harmonies and searing bursts of color from it. The result was a fully integrated marriage of darkness and light, tension, and calm, despair and consolation. … The sustained emotional excursions and tiny details had an organic sense of inevitability. The first movement opened with sober, detached phrases that grew more brooding as the music moved toward a near-clinical examination of loss. An introverted theme, first announced by the piano, was echoed in pained, almost strangled whispers by the strings. A single, brittle high note, sounded by Yang in a long, haunting fadeaway, brought this harrowing movement to a close. Violinists Zakarias Grafilo and Frederick Lifsitz, violist Paul Yarbrough, and cellist Sandy Wilson gave the waltz the blurry tint of a ballroom shrouded in shadow. The following Andante was full of whirring trills and string chords melting and collapsing over the piano’s meanderings. Yang’s foot on the piano pedal delivered the movement’s closing, unaccompanied thumps of mortality. The Lento was a slow, anguished implosion. And then, like some unforeseen deliverance, came the untroubled, open intervals of the passacaglia’s theme. Repeated over and over by the piano, in Yang’s wondrous expression, it seemed at once new and deeply familiar. Snatches and scraps of the prior movements floated by in the strings and vaporized. Consonance prevailed over dissonance in the end. It was both a moving and fragile bargain made with grief. All had been lost and yet somehow redeemed.” —Steven Winn, San Francisco Classical Voice

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