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Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
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.