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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, November 15, 2014
Manuel Matarrita

Conductor Norman Gamboa

A PIANIST AND ORCHESTRA IN NEED OF A PIANO

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sonoma County Philharmonic conductor Norman Gamboa mounted a crackerjack program Nov. 15 to end the Philharmonic's 2014 calendar year. It was a balanced menu of dramatic orchestral playing, beguiling choral works and an intriguing piano soloist in Santa Rosa's High School Auditorium.

The evening's chief works were preceded by the charming Dvorak Serenade for Wind Instruments, Op. 44. For some the Dvorak might have appeared to be an opening "filler," but actually it was a feast for winds--two each oboes, clarinets and bassoons; three French horns; and an ungainly-looking contrabassoon. A cello and bass provided the needed continuo.

The music has a baroque character and was played terrifically by all, with particularly rich performances by oboists Chris Krive and Anthony Perry, clarinetists Nick Xenelis and Mary Kruzas, and Miranda Kincaid and Steven Peterson on bassoon. The delicate and blended horn ending of the Andante was lovely.

Mr. Gamboa conducted with easy command and moderate tempos, as he did throughout the Mozart A Major Concerto, K. 488, that ended the first half. The popular Concerto is always effective and joyous, but was just off the mark in several ways. In a reduced orchestra of 34 musicians, the violins had pitch and projection issues, and the piano used by Costa Rican virtuoso Manuel Matarrita was not up to a professional level. The piano's faults limited the soloist's thematic and legato projection and also affected the orchestral and piano balances.

Mr. Matarrita played the usual first-movement cadenza, but with some delicious personal additions and accents, and his trills in all movements were even and varied. Flutist Emily Reynolds played beautifully in a work that puts winds on a delightful par with the upper strings.

Mr. Matarrita was to reappear later in Beethoven's Op. 80 Choral Fantasia, but since a chorus is needed for the piece, it seemed right for Mr. Gamboa to first spotlight two choral works sans orchestra. Thirty-three singers from the California Redwood Chorale filled risers at stage rear. Under the direction of Robert Hazelrigg, they performed Rutter's Psalm 23 from his 1985 Requiem. This short work underscoring "The Lord is My Shepherd," heard often at Anglican funerals, was well sung and featured a penetrating oboe solo from Ms. Krive. John Hazelrigg was the assisting pianist.

An a cappella work, Gawthorp's "Sing Me to Heaven," was next, and the performance caught much of the expressive mystery of the rejoicing ode.

The 22-minute Fantasy begins with an extended piano introduction, and here Mr. Matarrita lavished many intriguing expressive notions on an unresponsive instrument, all the while able to meld with the sections of the orchestra and chorus that successively joined the mix. Mr. Gamboa again adopted relaxed tempos and allowed a progression of chorus and orchestral voices (flute, clarinet and bassoon) ample room to shine. The vocal sextet's singing was well defined but undistinguished. At the inspiring and forceful ending chords, the audience of 500 rose almost as one in loud acclaim.

Sonoma County's "people's orchestra" produces programs with many small but important personal touches: the conductor meeting listeners in the lobby at intermission, ample volunteer house staff and stage announcements from individual Philharmonic musicians, the now famous wine raffle, and copious home-made cookies. It has become a large musical family.