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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.