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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic, Sonoma County / Sunday, May 10, 2009
Gabriel Sakakeeny, conducting

Conductor Gabriel Sakakeeny

TWO PREMIERES AT APSC TENTH SEASON GALA

by Larry Flor
Sunday, May 10, 2009

The American Philharmonic Sonoma County presented their tenth season gala concert May 9 and 10 at the Wells Fargo Center, an event to celebrate a unique and accomplished performing arts organization. Most of the APSC musicians are advanced amateurs who volunteer their time to bring classical music to Sonoma County, including the work of musical director and primary conductor, Gabriel Sakakeeny. To celebrate a decade of innovative music making, the performances included two world premieres, a pianist new to the concerto performance arena, and the combined choirs of the Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus under director Dan Earl, and the Santa Rosa Junior College Concert Choir with Jody Benecke directing.

The concert began with the world premiere of Pentangle by local composer Charles Sepos. Although a one-movement opus, the work had three distinct sections: Moderato, Andante, and Allegro. The highlight was the Andante, where the composer built forward momentum to set up the concluding Allegro. The first section was not memorable, and the Andante had deft moments but seemed overly long for the material at hand. At times the momentum was affected by uncertainty of instrumental entrances and thinness of orchestration, though perhaps the latter was the composer’s intention to depict transparency. Entrances and intonation were difficult for the brass section, but Pentangle was remarkable in its ability to project contrasts among strings and winds.

Concluding the first half was Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto in B Flat, Op. 23, with soloist Slade Trammell. A recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, Trammell was making his first performance on stage with an orchestra in the familiar three-movement Concerto, written in 1875. One cannot help but hear comparisons with so many recordings, and the volcanic interpretations by Horowitz and Argerich come to mind. Trammell demonstrated that he possesses the equipment to handle such a work, but the tempos he selected were safe, and there where spots where he was not in sync with the orchestra. Glances between soloist and conductor were noticeable. Intonation was again a problem in the lower strings, especially after the solo cadenza in the first movement. It was a good performance but a little pedantic, lacking the passion and intensity one expects to hear in a work with such soaring themes and thunderous orchestration. Trammell followed the Concerto with an encore, “Mexican Hat Dance,” arranged by his current teacher Earl Wild. The encore had rhythmic excitement.

The second half opened with another world premiere, Sakakeeny’s “The Lion and the Rose,” with mezzo-soprano soloist Jennifer Panara and the two combined choirs. It was led by guest conductor John Kendall Bailey. This was definitely a treat and a pity that it will be some time before it will be heard again. The piece grabs your attention from the opening through the skillful use of color, phrases and rhythm, and it keeps your attention throughout. It was not always easy to understand the words of the soloist due to the muddled acoustics in the Wells Fargo Center, but the music would have been understood in any language. Bravo to Sakakeeny’s opus, Bailey’s conducting, the orchestra and the choirs.

The concert ended with Ravel’s Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloe, from 1912, conducted by Sakakeeny. Originally a ballet of an hour’s duration, Ravel extracted two richly hued suites. The orchestra seemed to find its stride during the second half. Gone were the inconsistencies of the opening segments, and Sakakeeny conducted with a firm grasp of the Ravel’s intentions. The orchestra responded in the “Danse Generale” with powerful sonority. The flute playing was particularly vivid, and balances were adroit.

The APSC has lots to celebrate after 10 years, as it is professional in every way, and a distinct service to the North Bay community.