Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic, Sonoma County / Sunday, April 27, 2008
Gabriel Sakakeeny

Gabriel Sakakeeny

A TRIUMPH OF INSPIRED PROGRAMMING

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Season finales for orchestras seem always to be memorable events, and the American Philharmonic Sonoma County concert on May 18 was no exception. Before an audience of 900 at the Wells Fargo Center, the county's 'other' orchestra provided a rousing ending to an adventuresome season.

How adventuresome' In earlier concerts this season, this orchestra of mainly non-professional performers played Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' and Scriabin's 'Poem of Ecstasy.' Sunday's menu, aimed at young attendees, shunned the usual 'Peter and the Wolf' and 'Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra,' offering instead five substantial and varied works.

Music Director Gabriel Sakakeeny began in a romantic vein, speaking to the assemblage of the tribulations of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and then conducting Tchaikovsky's 'Overture-Fantasy' about the doomed lovers. The beginning in the bassoon and clarinet sections was shaky, but it was to be the last pesky playing of a glorious afternoon. Sakakeeny made the most of generally slow tempos to bring out the thematic richness. The cello section was especially sumptuous.

How better to follow the lush Tchaikovsky than with the pungent and now almost equally popular 'Short Ride in a Fast Machine' by California composer John Adams' This joyous minimalist work from 1981, a precursor to 'The Chairman Dances,' begins with a woodblock playing more loudly than the orchestra, which is already at forte, and continues for just four minutes. Sakakeeny kept the hurtling rhythms in check. An Arizona composer friend once lamented that Adams's great success was partially due to using snazzy titles, but here the 'Short Ride' was appropriate and telling.

Completing the first half was another sonic reversal, the 300-year old Concerto for Two Trumpets by Tomaso Albinoni. Soloists Daniel Norris and Thomas Hyde played what I think were B-flat piccolo trumpets. The opening theme was a call to action, with the bright sounds from the adept solo playing easily cutting through the orchestral fabric. Only the most rapid passage work gave the soloists any clarity trouble. It was a celebratory concerto, well played in a Baroque style. Was it a nod to ancient practice to have half the ensemble standing, and half seated'

There is a mystical and religious feel to most of the compositions of Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000), and in his 1970 work 'And God Created Great Whales' the effects are memorable: pre-recorded yelps, snores and grunts of various whales, along with some aleatory parts for the players. The string tremolos, first appearing in the bass viols and then in the violas and violins, were evocative, as were the harp solos and descending trombone slides. An inspired selection, skillfully performed.

The concert concluded with Respighi's colorfully scored 'Pines of Rome,' a four-movement 1924 work. The opening Via Borghese section depicted youthful frolics in Rome's great park, followed by chilling bass sounds from the depths, Catacombs. The highlights came in the Janiculum section, with prismatic arpeggio flourishes from the orchestra's pianist leading to haunting solos from the clarinet, harp, celesta and oboe. The recorded voice of a nightingale provided a benediction.

The brilliant march of the concluding Pines of the Appian Way spotlights off-stage brass and English horn solos, driving the music to an inexorable climax, a champagne orgy of sound fitted to a marching Roman army outbound on a quest for empire. The orchestra's brass section made a generous contribution to the surround-sound effect. Here one couldn't quibble with the Wells Fargo Center's acoustics, as the dramatic effects brought listeners into the army's Appian Way column and ultimately to their feet.

Sakakeeny has said that repertoire choice is crucial to the success of the American Philharmonic, perhaps more so than for the Santa Rosa Symphony or even the San Francisco. People come to the last two orchestras often by tradition, but the American Phil lives or dies by providing familiar and sporadically challenging music to listeners, many of whom are having their initial symphony experience. The orchestra is meeting this need, and their concert was a triumph of inspired programming and adroit playing.