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Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising 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.