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Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
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.