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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 / 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.