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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, 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.