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Recital
SCHUMANN AND BARTOK HIGHLIGHT BRONFMAN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Lee Ormasa
Friday, April 21, 2017
Those people once addicted to the “Angry Birds” game application likely suffered an auditory flashback during the opening measures of the allegro from Bartok’s Suite, Op. 14, the opening work in Yefim Bronfman’s April 21 recital at Weill Hall. The repetitive opening figures of the Bartok were...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
Symphony
FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHARACTERS OF THE BAROQUE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, known as Akamus, played a Weill Hall concert March 12 in a program called "Foreign Affairs -Characters of the Baroque.” The ensemble, that began in 1984, has 15 musicians led by concert master Bernhard Forck. Attired in elegant black with red accents, ranging from tie...
Recital
MUSCULAR PIANISM DOMINATES MILL VALLEY CHAMBER SOCIETY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Piano recitals since the beginning of the genre open with finger pieces - Scarlatti or Soler Sonatas, Bach, a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue or perhaps Mozart or Haydn. Sarah Daneshpour’s March 12 opening work at the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society series abruptly avoided the norm with the 10-minut...
Recital
NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont. The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connois...
Chamber
CONSUMMATE ENSEMBLE FROM THE MIRÓ IN WEILL
by Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell
Sunday, March 05, 2017
A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert. Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four dist...
Recital
BRILLIANT VIOLIN AND PIANO ARTISTRY CHARMS SCHROEDER HALL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A tiny Schroeder Hall audience heard a flawless recital Feb. 26 by Yu-Chien Tseng, arguably the best recent local violin recital since Gil Shaham’s transversal of the complete Bach Suites in Weill and Frank Almond’s Oakmont recital in 2015. Muscular playing was the afternoon’s norm, and with pianis...
Chamber
MUSIC AND ART MELD IN ZUCKERMAN TRIO CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, February 24, 2017
A Feb. 24 Weill Hall concert by the Pinchas Zuckerman Trio juxtaposed formidable music making with palpable associations about visual art. Brahms’ C Minor "Sonatensatz” (Scherzo) is a short youthful work for violin and piano, and was an opening call to action. Lively and vigorous playing alternated...
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.