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Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Sunday, May 06, 2012
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Brigitte Armenier, piano. James Warren, organ.

Brigitte Armenier Receiving Applause May 6 (Andreas Knuttel photo)

SONIC SPLENDOR IN FINAL APSC CONCERT AT WELLS

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 06, 2012

May 6 marked the American Philharmonic Sonoma County's final concert in the Wells Fargo Center, and with the Santa Rosa Symphony leaving Wells after mid-May, orchestra events may soon be a dim memory in the venerable hall.

An audience of 950 sat through the usual bevy of announcements and raffle prizes, along with candidate conductor Norman Gamboa's slightly inane descriptions of what the concert's two compositions meant to him. But it was that kind of event, and the crowd was heavily sprinkled with young people, much to the delight of APSC's board.

But what of the music? Saint Saëns' monumental "Organ" Symphony occupied the second half of the program, with James Warren playing the minimal organ part. The opening Adagio began with a whisper, the string sections matching perfectly with richly hued solos from clarinetist Jeff Chan and flutist Emily eynolds. Though Mr. Gamboa gave little subtlety to the long Saint Saëns phrases, he sculpted the sensuous arching theme in the second movement deftly. And what a theme it is, reminiscent of the closing first movement melody in the same composer's C Minor Piano Concerto. The slow tempos favored by the conductor throughout the afternoon were here delicately precise.

The Allen organ, a massive electric instrument driving a line of speakers behind the brass section, sounded made for the hall, but its sparing use made one want to hear it more often. Mr. Warren, who apparently supplied the instrument, was a capable performer, but he sat by for long stretches without much to do.

The Allegro Moderato third movement was played with bounce but lacked clarity. Perhaps playing Presto sections without overlapping balances and phrase cutoffs is beyond the Philharmonic. In any event, the effect was scrappy. In the finale, the energy of the music carried the day, beginning with a wonderfully loud 32-foot organ stop and generating the requisite menace as the movement grew. There was outstanding playing by oboist Chris Krive and clarinetist Chan, both leading to an abbreviated fugue that began in the strings.

Mr. Gamboa was clearly in his element towards the end the symphony. The APSC created a tsunami of sound that drew the audience to its feet after the last chord. The conductor then recognized individual sections and players while enjoying the ovation.

Beethoven's E Flat Concerto, Op. 73, opened the program, with local pianist Brigitte Armenier playing the demanding solo part. Here again the conductor chose spacious tempos, which seemed to suit the pianist. Ms. Armenier lacks a big technique and a heroic approach to this most heroic of pieces; but what she brought to the work was a compelling intensity without extraneous details. She is an artist focused on the job at hand without sartorial puffery or platform theatrics. Her scale playing was lucid, and she offered brilliant right-hand trills.

The opening Allegro went smoothly with just a hint of problems to come in connecting the piano part with the orchestra. Several of the ascending runs began with the tuttis still ringing in the hall. Perhaps this was Ms. Armenier's choice, as she didn’t begin the runs with dampers raised to mimic the ambient sound, a method used in long-past "Emperor" performances.

The following B Major middle movement was gorgeous, with Nick Xenelis providing beguiling clarinet solos and Ms. Armenier's tone the most lustrous of the day, even in the top register. The effect was captivating. Moving directly into the Rondo finale, Mr. Gamboa had difficulty keeping the APSC in sync with the pianist, the latter gamely jumping ahead when possible. Technically Ms. Armenier was in good form, her right-hand skips on target. In a surprising deviation from contemporary practice, she doubled the left-hand B Flats at bars 229 and 237 to resounding effect.

To have a local and largely unsung pianist play this masterwork on an auspicious occasion with Mr. Gamboa's committed if wayward direction was a fitting end for the Wells Fargo chapter of APSC's 13 years of unconventional music making.

Next season the APSC will revisit the format of two-set programs, four in all, at the refurbished 900-seat Santa Rosa High School Auditorium. This hall was once the home of the Santa Rosa Symphony under Corrick Brown. What remains to be seen is if the APSC can transfer the palpable glamor of the "people's orchestra" into the small space on Mendocino Avenue.