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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 / Saturday, November 16, 2013
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Alice Zhu, piano

Pianist Alice Zhu

POLISH, WITH POLISH

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 16, 2013

As with many orchestras, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) produces programs with a theme, and the Nov. 16 concert in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Auditorium had the title "Polish." But only Chopin's E Minor Piano Concerto was the genuine article, though the companion Third Tchaikovsky Symphony, Op. 29 ("Polish"), was the star of the show.

Alice Zhu was the soloist in the Concerto, the engagement related to her being awarded the Orchestra's young artist prize in 2012. The work, from 1829, is lyrical throughout, even more melodic than the better-known and architecturally tighter F Minor Concerto. There was no orchestraal cut in the long introduction. Conductor Norman Gamboa elicited a muscular reading, with Ms. Zhu matching their forceful presentation--a needed approach, as the hall's resident 72-year old piano has slipped below a professional level. The days of Perahia and Laredo performances on that piano are long gone.

The pianist had a fine grasp of Chopin's evanescent rubato and the vocal nature of the opening Allegro, but the instrument's monochromatic sound made the cadenza seem harsh. Conditions improved in the lyrical Romanza, with its melting opening passage for the violins, and Ms. Zhu deftly shaped the long line and subtle phrases. The duos between soloist and horns were charming, but the movement's last chords were abrupt rather than shimmering.

Mr. Gamboa chose a judicious tempo for the finale, the Concerto's most technically challenging in ensemble, and Ms. Zhu's adept scale playing could always be heard over the frequently loud orchestra.

After intermission and the traditional raffle prize announcements, the APSC played the 47-minute Tchaikovsky Symphony with affection and sporadic brilliance. The five-movement work from 1875 possesses much of the thematic development and powerful dramatic effects heard in the composer's more popular last three symphonies. Throughout the Symphony, the horns had a workout, especially in the mournful Andante Elegioco, and the playing of bassoonist Miranda Kincaid, oboist Chris Krive and flutists Debra Scheuerman and Emily Reynolds was outstanding. The APSC had developed a first-cabin wind section, deep-toned and precise.

Throughout the Symphony, the low strings tended to overpower the violin sound, especially in sonorous passages, but even in Tchaikovsky's extended use of pizzicato. This probably was a result of the auditorium's acoustics rather than an underpowered violin section, but the effect of robust cellos and the three bass viols was pungent. Mr. Gamboa led an exuberant Allegro con fuoco finale, underlining each fugal entry, and letting the brass sections generate a prodigious sound. Trombonists Jeff Barnard and Bill Welsh and trumpeters Karl Johnston and David Lindgren were everywhere sonorous and secure, as was solo timpanist Joseph Lang.

The APSC has developed a substantial command of weighty works under Mr. Gamboa's flexible baton, a likely indication that Tchaikovsky's great final symphonies will be on future programs, along with those of his peers.