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Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
Recital
STYLUS AND PLAYING FANTASTICUS IN YOUNG'S ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Organist Robert Young gave a wonderful tour through the stylus fantasticus (fantastic style) organ literature June 25 playing a recital on the Casavant organ at Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Young recently became the organist at the Church and previously served for 20 years as Music D...
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.