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MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
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.