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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, 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.