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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, November 20, 2011
Barnabay Palmer, conductor

Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu

APSC WOOS WELLS CENTER AUDIENCE WITH AN AUTUMN ROMANCE

by Peter Jaret
Sunday, November 20, 2011

One measure of the maturity of an orchestra is the ability to shape its sound to the personal musical vision of a guest conductor. So far this season, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County is proving that it has come of age, playing with great sensitivity and musicality under the direction of guest conductors, each being considered for the position of permanent music director. The orchestra's first concert was led by Sonoma County native Tristan Arnold, in a technically-assured performance that got the season off to a strong start.

On Nov. 21 at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, Barnaby Palmer took to the podium to lead an ambitious program that included Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Op. 84, Elgar's Serenade for String Orchestra, Mahler's Songs of the Wayfarer and the second Brahms Symphony.

Mr. Palmer is best known for directing the San Francisco Lyric Opera Orchestra, so it's no surprise that he did an exceptional job of shaping discrete musical phrases, coaxing a rich and emotional sound from the orchestra. Beethoven's overture, which opened the program, got off to a shaky start, but the piece quickly became focused and energetic. Many of its passages were conveyed with great authority, even if the whole didn't quite add up to more than the sum of its parts. On the other hand Elgar's exquisite string serenade in E Minor, Op. 20, felt strong and coherent throughout, each of its shimmering and shifting sections seeming to lead naturally to the next. The sound was rich and sonorous, even in the dry acoustics of the Wells Fargo Center.

The first half of the concert ended with perhaps the most difficult piece on the program, Mahler's haunting Songs of the Wayfarer, featuring baritone Eugene Brancoveanu. The work is especially demanding of the orchestra as it accompanies the soloist in passages that are almost impressionistic, requiring great sensitivity to the piece's shifting tempos and moods. The music is among some of Mahler's most beautiful, and the orchestra conveyed that beauty with impressive ensemble playing. Mr. Brancoveanu is a handsome and powerful baritone who held the audience in thrall, even if his voice isn't perfectly suited to the piece's sinuous and lyrical passages. Songs of the Wayfarer requires a baritone with exceptional range, especially in the devilishly difficult higher passages, and Mr. Brancoveanu's tone was occasionally strained.

The concert ended with Brahms' D Major Symphony No. 2, Op. 73. The conductor and the APSC offered up a strong and nuanced performance of the well-known work. As with Beethoven's overture, the individual parts of the symphony, especially the second movement, were played with impressive suppleness and sensitivity, even if the larger arc of the monumental piece remained somewhat elusive under Mr. Palmer's baton. Still, playing for the first time under his direction, the orchestra did a fine job of conveying the conductor's lovely sense of musical phrasing. Perhaps that is not surprising, as many of the musicians have played with the orchestra throughout its 11-year history. Although the APSC is an all volunteer ensemble, its members count among their ranks many seasoned players.

Three more guest conductors will take the podium in upcoming months, and it will be interesting to hear how the orchestra adapts its sound and approach to their individual musical visions. Whoever is finally chosen as the next music director, he will take command of a group that now ranks among the best regional orchestras in northern California.