Gu delivers a sparkling debut

Amelia Perron

Professor of violin Wen-Lei Gu, in collaboration with professor of piano Anthony Padilla, offered her first recital at Lawrence Sun., April 29, rewarding the large audience with spectacular virtuosity and moving musicianship.
Gu’s program proved to be impressive from the start, with a lineup of many major works from the violin repertoire.
“They cover a nice spectrum of historical musical styles,” Gu remarked, “from the highly polyphonic Bach to the technically demanding and virtuosic Paganini and Sarasate; from the charming and deeply moving Tchaikovsky pieces to the emotionally charged Franck ‘Sonata.'”
Members of her studio who attended were impressed by the heft of the program. Such a wide variety of works demands that performer shift quickly from one style to the next. The first half of the program was primarily earlier works, including unaccompanied Bach, a Niccol• Paganini caprice and Mozart.
The second half included the intense and dramatic “Sonata” by Cesar Franck. Gu was as convincing in the chirpy playfulness of the Mozart as in the seriousness of the Franck.
The program also demanded a lot emotionally and physically from the performer. Many of the pieces were stunningly virtuosic, which, although not apparent from Gu’s performance, were taxing on the violinist’s hands, arms and concentration.
The program ended with Pablo de Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy”: 15 minutes of show-stopping virtuosity, with essentially every impressive and challenging technique available to violinists of Sarasate’s era. A glance around the audience found a number of violin students grinning incredulously.
The demands of the works were clearly no problem for Gu. “Her playing is exquisite: rapid and clear, but also tender and sweet,” said sophomore violinist KT McCoy, echoing the sentiments of many listeners.
Beyond Gu’s technical mastery, she showed a deep connection to the music as she played. “I picked those pieces for my recital because these are pieces very close to my heart,” she explained, “and they are the crŠme de la crŠme of the violin repertoire.”
Her passion for the music came across to the audience. McCoy said, “Her performance tonight, as with each of her performances, evoked every emotion on the smorgasbord.”
Gu’s performance was only enhanced by Padilla’s piano playing. “Mr. Padilla is a wonderful pianist, very musical and sensitive,” Gu remarked. “It was great collaborating with him.”
This year is Gu’s first teaching at Lawrence, but already her students are more than content with her insightful and demanding teaching style.
“Her teaching is quick, effective, and easily understandable,” McCoy observes, “which brings out the best musicality of each individual student.”
Gu’s attitude towards her students is certainly part of her success. “I love my students and I love teaching,” Gu says. “And it is very gratifying for me to see the progress my students have made this year.”
It’s clear that her students respond well to their new teacher. “Who would have thought someone with such talent would be such a kind, charismatic person?” asked McCoy. “I feel honored and lucky to have her as my teacher.