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Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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’...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Saturday, February 23, 2013

Norman Gamboa

RUSSIAN ROMANTIC WORKS HIGHLIGHT APSC CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2013

Luxurious orchestration has always been a hallmark of Russian symphonic music, as was evident in the works of Liadov, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich performed by the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) at the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Hall on Feb. 23.

Guest conductor Mark Wardlaw led a novel work to begin the concert, Liadov’s "Eight Russian Folk Songs," Op. 58. This well-balanced suite from 1906 showcased many sections of the orchestra, with bassoonist Steve Peterson and principal cellist Margaret Moores giving extended solos. Mr. Wardlaw carefully matched the string sections in the third folk song, "Plaintive," where the theme was successively handed from the cellos to the first violins and finally to the second violins and basses. The fifth song, "Legend of the Birds," was taken as a sad lament, with the strings playing an eerie shimmer at the end. The performance made these abbreviated and pithy songs sound greater than the sum of their parts.

Closing the first half was Tchaikovsky’s charming "Rococo Variations for Cello and Orchestra," Op. 33, with Ann Suda playing the solo part. Working with a reduced ensemble, Mr. Wardlaw helped craft a rich sonic tapestry for the cellist in this Mozartian work from 1877. The hall, at least from the lower orchestral seats, seems to favor low frequencies, and Ms. Suda’s instrument projected with substantial resonance. Early in the work her tone at the top had a dry edge, but it broadened throughout the rest of the seven variations. The delightful top-to-bottom slides on the fingerboard were impeccable, and in the cadenza Ms. Suda never hurried, letting the long pauses add suspense to the music. She clearly identified with the subtle and non-heroic interplay of cello and orchestra.

During the Tchaikovsky, Debra Scheuerman and Emily Reynolds played a scintillating flute duet, and hornist Randall Masselink performed chaste solo parts. In the fast finale with swirling, almost breakneck, interplay between cello and orchestra, Mr. Wardlaw kept the musicians from running off the rails, and the applause from 600 in the hall was long and loud.

Following intermission, Shostakovich’s effervescent E-Flat Major Ninth Symphony, Op. 70, completed the program. There was a time when a Shostakovich symphony would have been a tough challenge for the APSC because the orchestra lacked instrumental depth in the high strings and winds. That has changed.

Mr. Wardlaw introduced the Shostakovich symphony with a verbal description of the work’s genesis and the situation in the Soviet Union at the end of the "Great Patriotic War." All through the performance, the orchestra executed the familiar Shostakovich sonic landmarks: virtuoso wind playing, brilliant string sonics in the highest range, banal themes resolving into cogent and stirring marches, and always masterful orchestration. In the Moderato, the clarinet and oboe solos by Nicholas Xenelis and Chris Krive, respectively, were opulent. Described by the conductor as a horse race, the Presto movement was exciting and everywhere under control. Tom Hyde’s trumpet solo was beautiful, as was Ms. Reynolds's sparkling piccolo work.

Mr. Wardlaw highlighted Shostakovich's commanding sense of orchestral color and dynamics, and the performance brought the audience to its feet after the roaring finale. It was lighter than usual Shostakovich, but no less impressive. With this third concert in its new home, the APSC has developed a warm familiarity with the solid acoustics of the refurbished auditorium.