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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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 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.