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Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

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.