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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.