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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 / Sunday, April 10, 2016
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Marilyn Thompson, piano

Pianist Marilyn Thompson April 9 Acknowledging Applause

SPANISH SPLENDOR IN SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 10, 2016

Two program staples for the Sonoma County Philharmonic have been works of a Latin flavor, and spotlighting local soloists. Conductor Norman Gamboa has mounted intriguing Central American, Mexican and Spanish works for years, and flutist Kathleen Lane Reynolds, pianists Alice Zhu Lauren Xie, and trombonist Bruce Chrisp have recently been featured.

So it was no surprise at the April 9 concert in Santa Rosa High School that these worthwhile trends continued, with pianist Marilyn Thompson playing virtuoso parts in Falla’s “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” and as an orchestra member in the same composer’s Suite from the revised 1924 edition of the ballet El Amor Brujo.

In the “nights” performance Mr. Gamboa gave the shimmering score a mostly relaxed tempo character, the acoustics of the bright hall favoring orchestra power over the piano part. Ms. Thompson had fetching short duos with violist David Hill but all through the 25-minute work the piano sound, save for the top treble, lacked brilliance against the often too loud orchestra.

In the concluding “En los jardines de la Sierra Córdoba” there were extended orchestral solo parts, eerie tremolos and explosive sforzandos for both piano and orchestra, and the soloist’s most convincing playing. This music evokes fragrant Spanish colors, and Mr. Gamboa fashioned slight hesitations in the beat that accented the rhythms. The long slow coda was played luminously.

Falla’s brilliance as an orchestrator can be spoken of in the same breath as Ravel and Shostakovich, and his 1917 Suite from the ballet El Amor Brujo was a riot of pungent sound in twelve parts, with three short vocal solos. The composer chose interesting duos to expand the sonic fabric, including oboe and trumpet (Chris Krive and Tom Hyde), Valerie White and Debra Scheuerman’s flutes and clarinetist Nick Xenelis. All evening Mr. Krive played elegant solo parts, often stating main themes. A honeyed sound from the middle of the orchestra.

In this sonic feast there were lush lyrical sections (En la Cueva, A Media noche) that Puccini would have appreciated, the piano sounding like chimes, cellist Margaret Moores’ solos and a one-time solo by concertmaster Pam Otsuka. As in the Santa Rosa Symphony’s April 4 concert that featured Falla’s “El Sombrero de Tres Picos,” the short parts here for a singer don’t seem to add much to the mix. Soprano Carmen Mitchell’s expressive voice wove in and out of the orchestral fabric, catching the dry and sporadically piercing pitches of Falla’s Andalusia inflection.

Mr. Gamboa has a penchant for these colors and rhythms, which carried over to two short works with definite Spanish flavor that contrasted well with the big Falla works: Turina’s La Procesión del Rocio, Op. 9, and Gerónimo Giménez’ Intermezzo from La Boda de Luis Alonso (The wedding…). Both are often included as openers to programs of Spanish music, and both received glowing and theatrical readings under Mr. Gamboa’s command.

The Turina was perhaps the least Iberian work of the concert, but no less sassy and brassy for it. An opening long flute solo over snare drum obbligato was taken by the conductor at a leisurely pace, capturing the “procession” of the music in a gallant way.

Gerónimo Giméniz specialized in the Spanish zarzuela dance style, and the “Boda” was a barnburner piece that hints of his contemporary Francisco Tárrega’s Castilan compositions, with rapid changes in tempos and snazzy castanet sounds. This music quickly grabs your attention and elicits some bodily “swing” in a short ten minutes. It’s hard to remain motionless when each delicious repetition returns with greater flair.

In remarks to the audience of 300 the conductor mentioned that earlier in the day parts of the concert’s pieces were played before a packed hall of Santa Rosa school children in outreach, with a large portion of them Spanish speaking and enthusiastically cheering. In the more formal evening performance the playing delightfully brought similar responses.