As a solo pianist, Donna is especially praised for having an “innate and unique” feel for the music of Chopin, for the “warmth and intensity” of her Rachmaninov, “the absolute, musical perfection of beauty” in her Debussy, and the “love, the identification, and the joy of phrasing” in all of her Mozart concerti performances. And if she had to choose just four composers to spend the rest of her life with, it would, perhaps, be those four: Rachmaninov, for sure, and Mozart, Chopin, and Debussy – she identifies with each of them for very different reasons. But she has also receives tremendous critical acclaim for her Beethoven concerto performances (see a sampling of her REVIEWS, here) and his 3rd Piano Concerto is one of her absolute favourite pieces to perform, along with the deFalla Nights in the Gardens of Spain!
Meanwhile, numerous composers continue to create new works for her to premiere, and of these, she especially loves sharing “Walk within Winter”, written for her by world-music composer Brent Heisinger. She has thus far premiered this wonderful piece in over 20 countries and innumerable cities, always finding the audience members to be deeply moved by this particularly personal work, regardless of their country or culture.
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Solo Piano Repertoire/Sample piano recital programs:
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Piano Concerto Repertoire:
DUO-RECITAL PROGRAMS and ACCOMPANYING
Donna’s first experience of duo-recital work was as a teenager, when the double-bass soloist Gary Karr flew into San Jose, California to perform a sold-out concert and his accompanist, who’d become quite ill during the day, didn’t arrive. Donna, known for her sight-reading skills, was contacted two hours before curtain time. The two were introduced on stage at the start of the concert. Mr Karr handed her the stack of music, and announced to the audience that he was going to keep his back to Donna the entire evening, to show that “innate ensemble is by feel, sound and breathing together” rather than visual contact. The recital program (and ensemble) was a huge success, and Donna was hooked on the adrenalin rush of duo-recital programs and/or accompanying, for life. She has since been called on to join a vast number of renowned artists of all instruments, on stage and on tours. She has toured with two different major flautists so knows that repertoire very well, and also with major cellists and violin soloists of both America and Europe. And she has, for many years, cherished a special duo-recital collaboration with the immensely gifted young violist, Erin Nolan, performing together in a wide variety of repertoire and venues all over the world.
But Donna is probably the most renowned for her work with classical singers. While living in Italy and UK for many years, Donna was asked to become a repertoire coach and recital accompanist to some of the opera stars at La Scala, Munich Opera, and Royal Opera (London) and this in turn led to invites from other singers from Spain, Israel, and Russia. During 2015, Donna’s plans include recording a CD of Rachmaninov Romances with the phenomenal young Russian counter-tenor Andrey Nemzer (winner of 2012 Met Opera auditions and a prize winner in 2014 Operalia). The two have already done several successful performances together and are planning to tour Europe and the UK in a very special duo-recital program during Summer 2015. Meanwhile, she is also performing with famous Bolshoi Opera bass Mikhail Svetlov in several different recital programs, and beginning to work with other renowned singers as well.
Donna has also recently launched some innovative duo-recital programs combining solo piano with another solo artist of a different instrumental tradition, where the two artists then create new works together. For example, Donna is currently doing unique duo-recital programs on tour with Chinese guzheng master Winnie Wong, and with Vietnamese multi-instrument artist Van Anh Vanessa Vo (who has toured with Kronos Quartet and composed works for them). In both cases the recital program involves each of the two artists performing solo works, separately, and then combining on mutually created duets that exploit the different cultures and timbres of the Western classical instrument (piano) and the Asian one. Many more duo-collaborations are in process.
For a video sample of Donna and Winnie Wong performing a traditional Chinese piece together as a duet, watch this.
As one might expect, with someone who loves people, loves communicating, and loves music – yes, Donna loves playing and performing in all formats of chamber music! She has been performing and coaching chamber music from a fairly early age, after forming a piano trio in her teens and acting as their promoter/booking agent, getting them several paid concerts per month over the two years that they played together. While still a teenager she was privileged to coach with the Cleveland Quartet when she was a prize winner at the James Dick International Piano Festival. In more recent years, during her solo tours of Europe she has been invited to perform piano quintets and quartets as guest soloist with major renowned ensembles, and continues to treasure that opportunity in any location, whether with young people or renowned artists. Her favourite composer for the genre is Brahms, particularly the piano quartets, but she has also loved the Schumann and Dvorak Quintets and performing the Beethoven Triple Concerto with some wonderful artists in major halls.
Meanwhile, Donna has also launched a new recital-series concept combining classical piano with 2-5 ethnic/traditional instruments from the “classical music” of other cultures.
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Chamber Music repertoire involving piano:
Donna began singing out of necessity at age 12-13 when she was directing and producing musicals of her own composition at a community theatre. She then became part of a choral group that performed on radio and television. While still a teenager anxious to earn some pocket money, she put her sight-reading skills to use and enjoyed accompanying voice lessons in the studios of three renowned opera singers. So, as she likes to put it, “any vocal abilities that I might have, sort of got in there by osmosis”. Choral groups began asking her to perform and tour with them as soloist, both nationally and internationally, and a few composers began creating pieces specifically for her to premiere, simply because of her uniquely rich, dark contralto voice. Among the more standard repertoire her vocal timbre is most suited to the Russian, Eastern European and German sound/languages, but the Verdi Requiem mezzo part is one of her absolute favorites as well.
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(all are mezzo/contralto solo roles):
DONNA’s ORIGINAL COMPOSITIONS
Donna began “composing” on the piano from almost her first lessons at age three. She feels extremely fortunate that her teacher from age 5-16 was a composer and pianist studying music composition under Darius Milhaud at Mills College during that same period. At age ten, Donna performed piano sonatas of her own composition on national radio affiliates. She has continued to appreciate the “compulsive, creative urge that suddenly hits and won’t let go” – but only when a promised song or piece is due! She feels most free of other compositional influences when creating choral and vocal music, but has also enjoyed creating cross-cultural arrangements for multi-genre concerts.
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Donna's Original Compositions
that are currently in use: