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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, November 17, 2012
Jovan Živkovíc, conductor. Stephen Waarts, violin

Jovan Zivkovic

NORTHERN LIGHTS SHINE BRIGHTLY

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 17, 2012

Programming an orchestra concert with Nordic music would seem to be simplicity itself: Grieg for romantic themes, Sibelius for instrumental virtuosity, Nielsen for a 20th-century harmonic component. The combination worked to perfection in the American Philharmonic Sonoma County’s Nov. 17 “Northern Lights” concert in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Auditorium.

Guest conductor Jovan Zivkovic kept a firm hand on the sonic proceedings, generating the same cogent and balanced sound heard when music director Norman Gamboa opened the season in October. Zivkovic used expansive tempos in the first piece, Grieg’s first suite from the Op. 46 incidental music to “Peer Gynt.” The “Morning” section featured richly hued clarinet playing from Ken Ward. The three soft and somber chords ending the “Death of Ase” segment were perfectly gauged, as was the pizzicato playing in the finale (the famous “Hall of the Mountain King”), beginning in the basses and joined by the horns and subsequently strings. It was not transparent playing, but there was good ensemble throughout.

The Sibelius Violin Concerto followed, with the APSC’s Young Artist Award winner Stephen Waarts as soloist. Long a staple in the standard repertoire, the concerto received a committed performance by Mr. Waarts. Occasionally he had trouble taking notes cleanly coming out of fast bass register passages, but his top notes were brilliantly played with sure-footed intonation. He was able to vary his vibrato as the music’s tempo changed, and the big trill in the first-movement cadenza grew with expression.

Mr. Zivkovic, a restrained conductor with precise but not extravagant stick movements, carefully controlled the shimmering slow movement. Mr. Waarts played the twice-repeated ascending passage soulfully, each time taking the repeat pianissimo. The concluding Allegro was full of scrappy orchestra playing, occasional intonation difficulties in the strings, and fast passage work for the soloist.

Perhaps due to the APSC getting used to the new hall, which this evening had an audience of 300, the soloist was often covered by the orchestra. They were simply too loud, notwithstanding the thematic projection from Mr. Waarts. Afterwards, the soloist offered an extended encore, Paganini’s C Minor Caprice, Op. 1, with copious multiple instrumental stops in difficult hand positions, and he played it adroitly.

Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony, a 30-minute work of grand contrasts and great emotional impact, closed the program. Nichikas Xenelis's suave clarinet and the horn section began the first of two movements over a viola ostinato, the martial character continually reminding one of early Shostakovich. However, Nielsen’s work came four years before Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1. The menace and visceral nature of the music were kept in balance by the conductor. Percussionist Joe Lang was the persistent and obtrusive snare drummer throughout the first movement.

In the final Allegro, the music’s themes quietly and subtly appeared, leading to strong outbursts by the brass sections, and finally a surging fugal part beginning with the first violins, then violas and bassoonists Miranda Kincaid, Steve Peterson and Mary Ann Sacksteder. There were screeching bird call phrases from the winds, broken by bits of rhapsodic and even bucolic music. Emily Reynolds’ flute playing in the finale was outstanding and echoes of another contemporary of Nielsen, Bartok, appeared in the sonic mix. Good company.

The Nielsen symphony was the highlight of the concert, and it received an incisive and comprehensive interpretation under Mr. Zivkovic’s baton. For the next day’s performance, the audience reportedly doubled in size, nearly filling the hall. The word got around.