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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Sunday, October 13, 2013
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Bonnie Brooks, mezzo-soprano

Conductor Norman Gamboa

SMOOTH SAILING IN SEASON'S FIRST APSC CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 13, 2013

In a program with water and ocean themes the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) opened their 15th season Oct. 12 and 13 in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Center. The day was sunny and dry but the music was a saturated with color and often radiance.

Mendelssohn’s charming overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27, opened the concert with strong playing in all sections, notably in the brass and the horns playing fluttering phrases. Conductor Norman Gamboa moved the orchestra ship steadily towards home port, presaged by a blaring trumpet fanfare and fine flute playing by Emily Reynolds.

Mezzo-soprano Bonnie Brooks joined a reduced-size APSC in two melancholic works: Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Barber’s Dover Beach. Both are mostly contemplative and eschew splashy vocal lines. Ms. Brooks used the score for each and her mellow voice was secure throughout its range, with warm resonance in the chest voice. Elgar’s five Pictures are alternatively leisurely and declamatory and Ms. Brooks mastered each, especially projecting the third Picture Sabbath Morning at Sea with considerable power. The long and dramatic The Swimmer was sung in a powerful duo with the orchestra, though at places the orchestra’s sound covered the soloist.

Following intermission the early and still popular Barber work was heard, in his orchestration for strings from the original 1931 version for baritone and string quartet. Even more than the Elgar Dover Beach is a dark journey and Ms. Brooks gave it a melancholy and woeful characterization, changing often and deftly her vibrato. It was somber but assured singing.

The enlarged orchestra hit its stride with the concluding Debussy masterpiece, La Mer. Mr. Gamboa was in no hurry to get any place and throughout took tempos that underscored the rich colorations and subtlety of instrumentation. Harpists Constance Koo and Laura Simpson played lovely passages solo and supporting the strings, and Mary Kremec’s piccolo playing was lyrically distinctive. At the beginning of the second “Play of the Waves” movement the entrances were ragged but soon the conductor had all under control and this evocative scherzo became convivial.

In the finale the muted horns, including Eric Anderson resonate high G, carried to the back of the hall, along with cornetist David Lindgren's triumphant call to action near the end. Mr. Gamboa understands how to balance disparate section parts, allowing small duos from flutist Debra Scheuerman and oboist Chris Krive to be easily heard above the dense orchestral texture. Especially telling was the conductor’s control when he inserted many small crescendos. It was a richly satisfying reading of opulent music.

At intermission conductor emeritus Gabriel Sakakeeny spoke engagingly from the stage about the APSC’s librarian, Harry Fry, who died in 2011. Mr. Fry was described as a “crusader for beauty and truth” in music, and Mr. Sakakeeny’s anecdotes elicited happy memories from many of the insouciant Mr. Fry’s friends in the audience. Barbara Fry and her daughter Susan Fry Lee were present and had underwritten the Saturday and Sunday programs.