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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
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...
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.