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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 / 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.