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Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
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.