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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.