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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 14, 2015
Norman Gamboa, conductor

So Co Philharmonic Conductor Norman Gamboa

LA ROCCA'S "CROSSING" A MINIMALIST DEBUT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 14, 2015

Conductor Norman Gamboa is known for innovative programming, especially with Latin-theme music, but in the Nov. 14 concert at Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Hall he chose three familiar works by American composers But true to form a new piece from local composer Frank LaRocca was also in the mix.

Barber’s The School for Scandal: Overture, the composer’s first popular work, received slow tempos but had additional clarity of instrumental voices that Mr. Gamboa coaxed from the Orchestra in under 10 minutes. Scruffy string playing was offset by wonderful wind voices from Nick Xenelis (clarinet), Chris Krive’s oboe and flutist Debra Scheuerman. Barber’s 1933 neo Romanticism was well served in the performance.

Four Dance Episodes from Copland’s music for the ballet Rodeo followed, each unique in texture and excitement. In his 115th birthday role Copland’s pre-1950 works now sound more readily Americana than Gershwin or Bernstein, and the bookends “Buckaroo Holiday” and “Hoe-Down” were played with flair and just the right amount of western “swing.” The conductor controlled the fast rhythmic sections with anchored tempos, and in the “Hoe-Down” the prominent piano part (Brien Wilson) alternated with lovely deep phrases in the cellos.

There was fetching harp playing in the bucolic “Corral Nocturne” and beguiling solos from English hornist Anthony Perry.

Following intermission and the always popular wine raffle Mr. La Rocca’s 1994 orchestral suite Crossing the Rubicon was expertly played, and in a surprising blend of minimalist forms. I don’t recall a large minimalist work being played in Sonoma County, save for long ago performances of Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine and possibly Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians.

First came from a lonely piccolo theme (Emily Reynolds) over short crescendos, repeated unendingly, and more intricate oboe, harp and piano solos. The long and often lyrical melodic lines and pensive character of Crossing were carefully shaped by Mr. Gamboa, spiced by marimba and robust percussion playing. Mr. LaRocca’s Crossing is an effective composition, tightly crafted but unabashedly poetic. Audience members wanting music of minimalist dissonance needed to look elsewhere.

The composer was in the audience and was recognized by the conductor and a now standing Orchestra.

This reviewer was unable to listen to the evening’s final piece, Gershwin’s Symphonic Suite from the 1937 Opera Porgy and Bess.