BBC Concert Orchestra delivers fine performance
By Hali Bernstein Saylor on February 13, 2013

Cello soloist for the Haydn concerto was Sophie Shao. A recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant at age 19, Shao has earned numerous accolades for her performances around the world and has won the top prizes at the Rostropovich and Tchaikovsky competitions. As she played Monday, one could hear why.

Shao put her heart and soul into her performance. Her entire body moved in rhythm with the music and in sync with her bow as it glided across her cello's strings.
Las Vegas Review-Journal
British Invasion in Northridge
by Stephen Cohn on February 18, 2013

Elgar’s music sounds like it is clearly part of the tradition of communicating human spirit and emotion rather than experimenting with the language as were some of his contemporaries, like Stravinsky and Berg, at the time the Cello Concerto was written.

The work begins with a solo recitative which returns in several forms and, bringing us full circle, is the final statement of the last movement. The orchestration, although containing great contrasts is, for the most part, quite transparent, leaving a great deal of dynamic space for the soloist. Ms. Shao made elegant use of this space with courageously soft, lyrically expressive passages and very full, rich, assertive ones that filled the auditorium. Throughout, her performance was confident, soulful and both her sound and her stage presence spoke of an artist who is one with the music. The sensitivity to the unfolding of the cello/orchestra dialogue between Ms. Shao and Maestro Lockhart was as moving as it was intriguing.
LA Opus
BBC Concert Orchestra features state, taste
By Timothy Mangan on February 13, 2013

Cellist Sophie Shao, winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, gave a thoughtful and strongly phrased reading of Elgar's Cello Concerto, avoiding the overcooked dramatics that many cellists bring to the score. Her rhythms, even in quietude, were gently pointed. Her playing highlighted the delicate and spare aspects of this autumnal music. Lockhart and the orchestra supported her handsomely.
Orange County Register
Cellist Sophie Shao and pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute offer romanticism at its finest
By Stephen Brookes on October 28, 2013

Bringing off a whole afternoon of romantic-era music isn’t easy; all that sighing and swooning and hot-blooded emoting can get a little ripe in modern ears after a while. But in a program of Schumann, Brahms and Beethoven at the Phillips Collection on Sunday, the extroverted cellist Sophie Shao — accompanied by the wondrous Lithuanian pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute — found an eloquent balance between rapture and cool restraint, and turned in a deeply satisfying performance.
Despite (or maybe because of) their distinct personalities, Shao and Jokubaviciute seemed ideally paired with each other. Opening with Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro in A-flat, Op. 70, Shao threw her head back and leapt in — hair flying and nostrils flaring in fine romantic abandon — as Jokubaviciute accompanied with quiet precision and delicacy, supporting Shao’s sweeping interpretation but bringing a compelling edge and nuance of her own. It made for romanticism at its best: impassioned, even transporting, but with a clear-eyed intelligence that kept it from overheating into mush.
That finely calibrated interplay marked the entire afternoon. Brahms’s spirited Sonata in E Minor, Op. 38, with its restless and sometimes combative back-and-forth between the two players, was a case study in the art of the duet, and Shao held little back in a warm, glowing reading. Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73, was equally satisfying — the playing just got better as the afternoon progressed — with an almost palpable connection between the players.
The Washington Post
A Perfect Trio
by B.A. Nilsson on December 12, 2013

As for the performance: we heard it in the Haydn and the dynamics of the Schumann only confirmed that Shao and friends achieve a remarkable clarity of presence. Although the three instruments philosophically function as one, there are moments when you should be hearing one or two of them more prominently, and they achieve this throughout. Tempos are well chosen and there’s not an over-emphasis on “interpreting” the music, in the sense of slathering upon it unnatural pauses as if to proclaim some super-cosmic emotional kinship. Let the music speak for itself and it will accomplish what’s needed, so my thanks to this threesome for doing so.
New cellist joins the Apollo Trio for emotional evening
Saturday February 11, 2017

By Susan L. Pena

The Apollo Trio returned to the stage of the WCR Center for the Arts with a new cellist, Sophie Shao (replacing Michael Kannen), and with three works of highly diverse moods and styles. The Friday evening concert was part of the Friends of Chamber Music of Reading series.

Shao, winner of the Avery Fisher Career Grant and two top competitions, is a remarkable musician whose eloquence and gorgeous tone - her cello used to be owned by Pablo Casals - make her a fine fit with violinist Curtis Macomber and pianist Marija Stroke.
French Evening in Rockport
by Nate Shaffer on June 13, 2015

While there was a fair amount of spotlight-sharing, Cellist Sophie Shao radiated throughout the final selection of the night: Debussy’s Cello Sonata. Shao’ passion, along with her elegant and effortless technique, made for vibrant cantabile playing, even with the extended sections of pizzicato in the 2nd movement. Her phrasing had an elasticity to it: even in the more reserved moments, the inevitability and potential energy buzzed in her tone. Lee came out of her shell a bit more, perhaps having to tackle a more robust piano part. She demonstrated her timbral sensitivity, portraying the richness of articulations and color in Debussy’s orchestration. The pair gave a stunning performance of the work, certainly the quickest 11 minutes of the night.
The Boston Musical Intelligencer
Cellist Sophie Shao, pianist Andre Watts pair for high-wattage concert at Spa Little Theater
by Judith White on August 18, 2010

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Featured guest cellist Sophie Shao opened this first program since the resignation of director Chantal Juillet with a mesmerizing performance of Bach's notoriously difficult Suite No. 4 for Solo Cello. Eyes closed, Shao produced a mellow tone in the low introduction of the suite's Prelude, and moved on to show a very even sound throughout her instrument's range at the Sunday afternoon performance. She built chords with great sensitivity, giving each added note individual respect. She took no unnecessary liberties with Bach's music, playing it straight and perfectly in tune. Her final jig-like dance was lively and fun.
Shao was back onstage with Andre Watts and the Philadelphia Orchestra's amazing principal clarinet, Ricardo Morales, for Brahms' Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano in A Minor. Beginning with a whisper-soft upward clarinet run, this four-movement work gave ample opportunity for Morales and Shao to demonstrate technical prowess and musicality. Watts watched and listened attentively as he played his piano part, never over-shadowing the others. There was a full range of moods in this music, which offered sweet, delicate solo lines in the second movement, a lilting waltz in the third, and a fierce opening to the fourth movement. The trio of musicians sounded triumphant at the close of the work.
Saratogian News
Arts and Culture in Pictures by The Times/ Cellist Sophie Shao
Los Angeles Times


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THE PERILS OF ROMANCE Music review by Kevin T. McEneaney Sun Jun 17th, 2018 An unusual faculty recital was held at Vassar College’s Skinner Hall this past Saturday. While not well-publicized this concert was of enormous interest for those who love music. Cellist Sophie Shao and pianist Thomas Sauer offered both an unusual program as well superb musicianship. They opened with the ever-popular Rondo, Op. 94 by Dvorák, famously composed on Christmas Day by Antonín Dvorák who wanted a worthy showpiece for his esteemed cellist playing in the quartet they were touring in. This piece often appears in cello competitions because it demands a blend of rigorous technique and soulful emotion—qualities that shone in Shao’s resonant, buoyant sound. Shao performs on the cello that Pablo Casals once played. Dvorák’s Silent Woods, Op. 68, evoked an atmosphere of meditative contemplation. The stage was set for the World Première of Robert Cuckson’s 2016 Sonata for Cello and Piano. Cuckson (who was present in the audience), born in the U.S., was raised in Australia and educated in England. His sonata was in three movements: it began with the slow development of infatuation between piano and cello; a romance between the instruments developed; a march, which became sarcastic and satiric ensued, then the instruments argued about the direction of each digression, each musical idea, ever more furiously, until they ironically echoed with bitterness their very first notes from the opening movement. This comic portrayal of the arc of infatuation, romance, and divorce was adroitly played by both performers with the exasperated lower register of Shao’s fiercely sawing cello evoking mirthful laughter in me and smiles in other audience members too timid to laugh. Despite the obvious literalism of the program, this was quite an amusing outing worthy of a second hearing. After a brief intermission, Sauer played Scherzo No. 4 in E major for piano by Frédéric Chopin. Many commentators declare the recording Stanislav Richter to be definitive, yet Benjamin Grosvenor has recently challenged the Richter legend with a light, lyrical, cleanly gossamer version that has been much acclaimed. Yet Sauer delivered a different interpretation rooted in Chopin’s life. On May 28, 1842, Chopin’s lover George Sand wrote a letter acclaiming two new mazurkas by Chopin to be “worth more than twenty novels.” Yet six weeks later the lovers were both ill. George was afflicted with an infected optic nerve and had to wear eyeshades to block sunlight which bestowed baleful headaches as she rushed to complete her latest novel set in Venice and the Czech Republic under the duress of a preposterous deadline. Chopin was bedridden for nearly two months in the hot summer heat with what may have been strep-throat, his neck swollen bulbously with mucus. He composed the Scherzo, his last and the only one in a major key, in fits-and-starts during this debilitating illness, thinking he was at death’s door. Sauer captured the manic desperation of Chopin’s struggle highlighting the alternation of hope and despair, imbuing his performance with desperate improvisational edge. Sauer’s interpretation and performance was extraordinary; he brought out the passionate interior of the artist defying defeat through dramatic suspension, hopeful glissando runs, and surprise asymmetry that emphasized episodic construction. This was the aspiration, agony, and ecstasy of Chopin at work despite debility. Sauer revealed the process of composition as a struggle of incremental organic growth, stripping away the imaginary setting of the polite social salon by focusing on the isolated crisis of creation: the Polish folk tune of romance, upon which the Scherzo was based, became a living monument of Chopin’s inspirational love for music itself under Sauer’s fingers. Will there be a recording? I don’t want to listen to anyone else’s interpretation. Alluding to the difficulties of love, Shao re-appeared and they performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 102, no.1. In four movements, piano and cello conducted a civilized conversation arriving at flirtation. Each instrument had civilized things to say, yet their conversation never achieved anything—as they appeared to politely “talk” at cross-purposes without understanding each other. No solution to this quandary was achieved: the composition merely ended. What had recently occurred in Beethoven’s tumultuous life was this: Countess Marie Erdödy, to whom Beethoven had dedicated several of his chamber works, admired Beethoven’s music, and had invited him to live at her home as a lodger. Beethoven discovered that the Countess had been paying his manservant for sexual favors. In a rage, Beethoven moved out and rented a room in a brothel. This rarely performed Sonata is a satiric exercise about good music that goes nowhere. While the evening’s program had begun with convention, it had suddenly veered off into the perilous terrain of love and art. I’ve always admired the subtle connections of Sauer’s recital programs, yet this seemingly modest concert was a giant event.

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