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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
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 ...
Recital
STYLUS AND PLAYING FANTASTICUS IN YOUNG'S ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Organist Robert Young gave a wonderful tour through the stylus fantasticus (fantastic style) organ literature June 25 playing a recital on the Casavant organ at Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Young recently became the organist at the Church and previously served for 20 years as Music D...
Chamber
KODALY DUO TRUMPS POPULAR MENDELSSOHN TRIO AT SLV CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
It’s not really a secret, but Sonoma County’s best chamber music series is one without much notoriety or publicity. The concerts at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village programs are only for residents and a few invited guests. Impresario Robert Hayden years ago honed his producer skills as founder of ...
Recital
DEMANDING VIOLIN SONATAS CONQUERED BY BEILMAN-WEISS DUO IN SCHROEDER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Violinist Benjamin Beilman’s ravishing Mozart performance at last summer’s Weill Hall ChamberFest finale lured an enthusiastic crowd to Schroeder Hall May 14 to hear if his secure virtuosity was up to a program of demanding sonatas. He did not disappoint. With the powerful pianist Orion Weiss in t...
Symphony
SOVIETS INVADE WEILL HALL, TAKE NO PRISONERS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis may be French, but he excels in Soviet repertoire. His Slavonic expertise was more than amply demonstrated at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s May 7 concert, where the program began joyfully with Khachaturian’s ballet suite from “Masquerade,” surged forward with Prokofiev’s second violin co...
Recital
MASTERFUL PIANISM IN GOODE'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, May 05, 2017
Pianist Richard Goode programmed an evening of treasures May 5 from four great composers, and is an artist of intimacy and intelligence, power and passion, able to go deep and to soar. Hearing Mr. Goode play this literature was a reminder of how music does indeed bridge worlds and time. Bach’s E m...
Recital
ELEGANT ORGAN SALUTE TO THE REFORMATION
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Organist Jonathan Dimmock presented an April 30 recital in homage to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, playing Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh instrument. Mr. Dimmock is the organist for the San Francisco Symphony, principal organist for the Palace of the Legion of Honor and teaches at...
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.