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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
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 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.