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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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 REVIEW
Festival del Sole / Monday, July 14, 2014
Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Alondra de la Parra, conductor. Pinchas Zuckerman, violin; James Valenti, tenor

Conductor Alondra de la Parra

DRAMATIC SUMMER MUSICAL FARE IN WEILL

by Terry McNeill
Monday, July 14, 2014

Napa’s Festival Del Sole’s summer resident orchestra, Sphinx, made a dramatic Weill Hall appearance July 15 with three star performers and a curious mix of pungent repertoire.

Violinist Pinchas Zuckerman received the biggest adulation from the audience, closing the first half playing Bruch’s G Minor Concerto, Op. 26, with his customary control and consistency. An old friend to the Concerto, Mr. Zuckerman played with fastidious if conventional phrasing through the three movements, and the ruminating Adagio elicited his most convincing virtuosity.

With conductor Alondra de la Parra keeping the orchestra mostly with the soloist, the gypsy rhythms of the finale allowed Mr. Zuckerman to dig into the strings and his quick appoggiaturas added spice. At times the violin line, a long romantic line in this poetic work, got lost in the orchestra fabric. There was a standing ovation from the 800 in the hall.

In a series of mostly Italian opera arias tenor James Valenti sang with firm control and balanced registers. He has an attractive stage presence and his voice, though this evening tending to the monochromatic, was especially rich in the baritone range. The Orchestra never covered Mr. Valenti even in Tosti’s dramatic “Ideale,” long a Pavarotti specialty, and Salvatore Cardillo’s lovely "Core ‘ngrato." There was a break from Italian with Lehar’s “Dein ist mein gazes herz”, and here Mr. Valenti emphasized the suave slow waltz rhythms that reminded me that Sigmund Romberg knew Lehar’s compositions.

There were three orchestra works interspaced in the program, beginning with a short and furious Overture from Bizet’s Carmen, and in the first half the famous Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. The Intermezzo’s tempo was judicious and Ms. de la Parra had a deft baton, changing the repeated phrases just slightly.

After intermission came Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony, the G major one from 1889. The Sphinx made the most of the work’s two boisterous movements, and the gracious Allegretto based on a charming waltz theme was performed with élan. Throughout the Symphony the conductor coaxed colorful and piquant effects from the orchestra, but with sporadic instrumental blemishes in horns and winds. Ms. de la Parra conducted without score but with a secure Dvorak flair.

This Orchestra, founded 16 years ago to spotlight Afro-American and Latino musicians, had the high string power that non-professional ensembles seldom have, but also lacked the string polish and articulation of top-drawer symphonies.