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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, September 26, 2015
Norman Gamboa, conductor

So Co Phil Conductor Norman Gamboa

PROVOCATIVE LATIN WORKS OPEN SO CO PHIL'S NEW SEASON

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 26, 2015

Symphonic concerts with Latin programs usually have Copland’s El Salon Mexico, a suite from Chavez, and perhaps some Lecuana or Nazareth. Leave it to the Sonoma County Philharmonic and conductor Norman Gamboa to go in a different direction in their season-opening Latin Fiesta event Sept. 26 in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium.

The afternoon’s major work, Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras No. 7, is not as well known as numbers 1 and 5, and it the longest and darkest of the set of 8. But it’s a mesmerizing piece, and the SoCoPhil played with panache if not the last word in polish. Mr. Gamboa chose a slower tempo in the opening Prelúdio than one often hears, but all to the better to underscore the work’s tinge of sadness, thick sonority and intriguing harmonies.

Throughout the 1942 composition the conductor’s secure and gracious baton technique brought out the needed contrasts, especially in the more translucent Gigue that has clearer contrapuntal lines. And long lines they were, with standout horn and tuba (Floyd Reinhart) playing. In the following Toccata a surprising strain of movie music (Andrew Lloyd Webber?) appeared, the often blaring phrases and faster tempos accentuated by Tom Hyde’s trumpet, pizzicato playing from the bass section and fascinating percussion sounds that including xylophone and sporadically marimba. All through this Bachiana the percussionists were busy with wood blocks, tiny drums and a brass gong, often in concert with the piccolo (Emily Reynolds) and bassoonist Miranda Kincaid.

The concluding Fuga reflects Bach’s “Art of Fugue” and was a captivating capstone to the performance. It opens with the theme in cellos, then violas, then second violins and bass, and finally the first violins lead the orchestra to solos of flute (Debra Scheurman), oboe (Chris Krive) and finally three pungent trombones. Mr. Gamboa deftly let some phrases overlap, perhaps deciding that at least in this orchestral fugue unclouded sonority was not the goal.

Carlos Guzmán’s Symphony of the Volcanoes comprised the second half, a splashy four-movement suite written by the Costa Rican composer to depict the landscape and ambiance of active Central American volcanoes. In three of the movements scenes of mountains, flora and fauna were projected on the wall behind the 45-person orchestra (the section Rincon de la Vieja was omitted). The colorful display was alternatively engaging and distracting.

Much of the finest playing came in the rhapsodic sections of Poás (Spring Landscape) with piquant chimes, Nick Xenelis’ clarinet and the formidable trumpets of Mr. Hyde, Karl Johnston and Phil Beard.

An atmospheric and slightly bizarre Biribas’ Circus opened the program, part of Brazilian Lucas Galon’s five-part Circus Cycle. Short but not small bursts of orchestral color jump out of an initial soporific sound that is meant to depict a rainy day near a neighborhood circus ring in Brazil. Unique sounds from indigenous instruments abound, including the alto flute and a metal cylindrical instrument held between the hands that emits a muffled cry when a coated stick is rapidly inserted. One either likes these effects or doesn’t, and I am in the former category. A provocative sonic delight.

The conductor spoke entertainingly to the audience about the unfamiliar music in a pre-concert talk, and as in past SoCoPhil concerts a member of the all-volunteer orchestra did the housekeeping announcements. Mr. Hyde was insouciant in this role.

A small but vociferous audience was in the hall for the first of the two Latin Fiesta concerts, with more familiar fare (Barber, Copland, Gershwin) expected Nov. 14 and 15 to attract larger houses. The Orchestra played parts of the Latin-inspired works to students in the same hall the afternoon of the concert, in a bi-lingual presentation to considerable acclaim.