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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
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, September 24, 2016
Norman Gamboa, conductor

Conductor Norman Gamboa

PRANKS AND HEROES IN SEASON OPENING SOCOPHIL CONCERT

by Alan Bloom
Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra prides itself on its informality. There is no dress code for concerts, as you could easily see at their Sept. 24 "Pranksters and Heroes" concert. They don't have an elegant, imposing concert hall, and while their venue at the Santa Rosa High School has excellent acoustics, it’s not cozy and is the kind of place that anyone can visit without feeling out of place. That is all by design. They want everyone, not just seasoned concertgoers, to feel welcome and come and enjoy classical music.

The informality does not extend to the quality of the playing. The volunteer professional musicians clearly love what they are doing and play to a high standard. That was evident in the evening’s first work, Strauss’ "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks". The various soloists seemed to be having fun with their musical interpretations of the protagonist's mischievous escapades. I heard audience members chuckling at one of concertmaster Pam Otsuka's solos that sounded like Till laughing after one of his pranks.

All three works on the program stretched the So Co Phil’s virtuosity, both on a technical level and in the interpretations from conductor Norman Gamboa. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite from the 1920 Commedia Dell’Arte ballet is from the composer's short neo-classical period and uses unique harmonies and rhythms. While not as symphonically complicated as the composer’s iconic "Rite of Spring," it is nevertheless a contrapuntal challenge. The orchestra’s performance rose to the occasion. Oboist Chris Krive played beautifully the theme that introduced in the second movement.

The final work transitioned from the "Pranksters" to the "Heroes" section of the concert with Beethoven's E-Flat Major Symphony, Op. 55, known as he Heroic. The Philharmonic doesn’t have the polish of a Vienna Philharmonic, but there is something about the magic in a live concert that you don't get from a recording. The tempos in the first Allegro con Brio were brisk and from the famous first two notes to the rousing finale I was taken with Mr. Gamboa's provocative reading. The audience seemed to agree, judging by their standing ovation.

The only disappointment in the afternoon's concert was that the hall appeared to be only half full, and perhaps that had something to do with it being the first concert of the season and competing events in the area. The Orchestra’s ticket prices are reasonable, it’s subscription audience loyal and each season they are adventurous in programming.