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Star-Bulletin Features


Thursday, November 18, 1999



Christian Steiner photo
Wu Han and David Finckel perform tomorrow at Orvis.



Classical
renegades

By Burl Burlingame
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

The pleasure of classical music is in the listening, and like other forms of intimate activity, it's best when it's live. But you can't knock back a beer Friday nights at a bar and listen to the house band whip out Beethoven sonatas. The ratio is still about one classical musician to one million rock 'n' roll musicians, so live classical music is a relatively rare thing.

The University of Hawaii's Outreach College bucks the odds tomorrow when cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han perform Beethoven and Franck sonatas and a Shnittke suite. And if you sense chemistry between the two, it turns out they're not only married to each other, they're also business partners.

In addition to the 50 or so concerts they perform together every year, Han does about that many solo and Finckel does a hundred or so concerts, both solo and as a member of the Emerson String Quartet.

They met at the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut, where Wu was a promising pianist from Taiwan, and the Emerson Quartet was in-residence. Wu -- whose brother Hung is a Honolulu violinist -- won a competition to sit in with the Emerson boys. Sparks flew.

Both are well-regarded. The Washington Post, for example, gushed "The virtuoso pyrotechnics were startling," for him and "A firebrand pianist in the spirit of a young romantic!" for her.

But when the final notes are played Friday, what's left? Memories? Both Wu and Finckel are concerned about their musical legacy, and so they created their own recording label, ArtistLed. They do the recording and engineering themselves, lean over the designers and webmasters, and sell the albums at concerts and over the Internet at www.artistled.com.

While rock and punks musicians have long done the same, it's still fresh territory for classicists.

"We envisioned that we might as well be the first classical musicians to take steps to get out of the big-label recording system," said Wu.

"As music becomes more independent, the responsibility becomes more important to us," said Finckel, who thinks about business matters primarily on airplane flights. "It's also important in terms of quality; we can tweak the subtleties of live recording to our own vision. We take the recording process very seriously."

They're aided by engineer, violinist and friend Da-Hong Seetoo, who sets up the equipment. After that, they're on their own.

"There's no substitute for live music, so a recording should try to capture that feeling as much as possible," said Finckel.

"Live performances are exciting," said Wu. "But judgments on most recordings aren't made by the musicians themselves."

"Technology has opened so many doors," said Finckel.

"A big CD store is easily influenced by the commercial aspects of their products, and you hear the same things over and over," said Wu. "On the web, we're all on equal footing."

It's working. At a concert in Los Angeles, Wu was told by by an usher, "I had to meet you."

Said Wu, "She had heard us and knew all about us from our CDs she had gotten off the net. A fan from cyberspace!"


On Stage

Bullet What: Wu Han and David Finckel perform sonatas by Beethoven, Franck and Shnittke
Bullet Where: Orvis Auditorium
Bullet When: 8 p.m. tomorrow
Bullet Tickets: $24 general; $15 students, available at Harry's Music, UH Campus Center ticket office and at the door
Bullet 956-8246




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