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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Sunday, September 28, 2014
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Michael d'Arcy, violin

Conductor Norman Gamboa

INTOXICATING ORCHESTRAL SONORITIES

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 28, 2014

For the first Sunday afternoon concert of their 16th season, on Sept. 28, the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented an all-Russian program that spotlighted intoxicating orchestral sonorities and heroic conducting from Norman Gamboa. He opened with a stunning performance of Kabalevsky's snappy overture to the opera "Colas Breugnon." This five-minute romp is reminiscent of Shostakovich's "Festival Overture," written 16 years later.

Renowned Irish violinist Michael d'Arcy followed with a focused but small-scaled reading of the soaring Prokofiev Second Concerto, from 1936. The tempos throughout were judicious, and balances favored the low strings, making some of his high notes nearly inaudible. Mr. d'Arcy began the Andante second movement eloquently, his line emerging from silence into a mournful theme of majesty, juxtaposed with the bassoon playing of Miranda Kincaid and Steven Peterson, and Mary Kruzas' richly hued clarinet. It was cantilena of a high order.

The swirling marcato finale was effective but lacked frenzy and power.

Power and pathos were in evidence after intermission with Tchaikovsky's sixth and last symphony, the "Pathétique." Mr. Gamboa adopted a slow tempo at the beginning, emphasizing the extraordinary sound of a low bassoon solo rising through the murk of the basses. He was in no hurry to lessen the impact of the prismatic themes and the many climaxes. The viola section could often be heard over the violins, perhaps a feature of Santa Rosa High School Auditorium's bright acoustics.

Standouts in the slow waltzes of the Allegro con Grazia were clarinetist Nick Xenelis, flutists Emily Reynolds and Debra Scheuerman, and the trombone section. Mr. Gamboa built the sonorities carefully, at times holding back in tiny ritards to give this sometimes convoluted score control and shape.

As usual in public performances, the last chords of the scherzo-like third movement (punctuated by timpanist Walt Bodley and blaring trumpets) elicited loud applause, and the conductor stood stoically before beginning the lament of the unique finale. Tchaikovsky's fourth and fifth symphonies are "fate" works that end in triumph, but the conclusion of the sixth is the harbinger of defeat and disaster. Successive notes came in alternation in first and second violins, whose seating on opposite sides of the stage maximized the effect. Even the soft gong stroke could be distinctly heard. The repetition of a new melody in a major key become obsessive, another marker of sadness that was touchingly played.

The nearly full house greeted the performance with a loud ovation, certainly due to the ensemble's capable playing and Mr. Gamboa's adroit direction.