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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Saturday, October 20, 2012
Norman Gamboa, conductor; Meredith Brown, horn

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.