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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.