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MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor Norman Gamboa

APSC BRINGS NEW LIFE TO RENOVATED SRHS AUDITORIUM

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 20, 2012

In a memorable concert on Oct. 20, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) opened a new season with a new music director and a new home in an historic Santa Rosa hall.

It was with some trepidation that old-time audience members, familiar with the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium from the Santa Rosa Symphony’s 30-year residence ending in 1982, arrived at the refurbished 900-seat venue. How would the “people’s orchestra” play in a hall famous for bright but indistinct acoustics? And would there be lengthy speeches and the national anthem as de rigueur at opening concerts? Surprisingly, the remarks of APSC President Steven Peterson and Conductor Norman Gamboa were pointed and brief. There was good music afoot, along with an unusual seating chart. The first violins were stage right, followed clockwise by the violas, cellos and second violins.

In the opening bars of Schubert’s two-movement Symphony in G (“Unfinished”), Mr. Gamboa fashioned a quiet set of chords that led to an expansive B Minor Allegro Moderato, the themes stated throughout by clarinetist Nick Xenelis and flutist Debra Scheuerman. Gamboa’s stick technique is sharply different from the consummate control of Bruno Ferrandis and Michael Tilson Thomas, and it's a more leisurely in direction, animated only rarely, but the results were well-shaped and balanced.

The concluding Andante featured warm and committed orchestral playing, supporting Anton Rubinstein's remark that Schubert was "eternal sunshine in music." The two main themes were deftly and beautifully announced by the cellos and basses, and the clarinet-oboe duet was captivating. Rich and subtle horn playing was heard from Eric Anderson and John Lounsbery. As with the Dvorak work on the second half, Mr. Gamboa conducted without score.

Continuing an evening replete with exemplary brass playing, horn soloist Meredith Brown played Strauss’s Concerto No. 1, Op. 11, with grace and easy virtuosity throughout all three movements, the first two linked without pause. Everything in the solo part was in good order, the strongest playing coming in the higher registers where the lyrical E-Flat Major notes sang out to the back of the hall. The subdued Andante and robust and extended Allegro featured Ms. Brown in a resolute “call and response” with the orchestra to dramatic effect. The half-full auditorium provided a substantial ovation.

The second half was devoted to Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony. The opening Allegro con Brio highlighted Anthony Blake’s resonant timpani playing and the lush string sections. Tuba player Floyd Reinhart and trombonists Jeff Barnard and Bill Welsh were stellar in this movement, paced carefully by Mr. Gamboa. The fugal sections provided dramatic interest and contrast. The lovely nostalgic waltz theme in the Allegretto Grazioso third movement was played elegantly, the honeyed clarinet lines from Mr. Xenelis and Ken Ward again standing out.

Trumpet players Tom Hyde and Philip Beard performed the finale’s fanfare as one, dramatically launching a great finale of visceral emotion. This Allegro, the most Slavic of the symphony, featured an extended solo by Ms. Scheuerman, the principal flutist. Mr. Gamboa expertly built the tension, and in the accelerated coda parts, the orchestra exploded in a cascade of gaiety.

How was the sound in the circa 1924 hall? The acoustics are not warm, but they are thankfully not as bright and diffuse as before the renovations. The reverb is fast, yet the sound is better focused than at the APSC’s old home at the Wells Fargo Center. The APSC can and will make music in its new venue.