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Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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 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.