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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, January 28, 2017
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Roy Zajac, clarinet

Clarinetist Roy Zajac Receives Applause Jan. 28 in SRHS Hall

SUBLIME MOZART CLARINET CONCERTO TOPS SO CO PHIL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sonoma County Philharmonic’s long history of featuring soloists from the neighborhood struck gold again Jan. 28 with a ravishing Mozart Clarinet Concerto performance with soloist Roy Zajac.

Before an audience of 300 the Santa Rosa High School hall the A Major Concerto (K. 626) unfolded gracefully with Mr. Zajac’s virtuosity everywhere in evidence. He played the work with the Santa Rosa Symphony several years ago, and the piece was prominent during last summer’s ChamberFest in Weill, with David Shrifin the artist.

Initial orchestra entrances were not smooth and violin section pitch wavered, but all was swept away with Mr. Zajac’s juxtaposition of insistent notes and softly floating notes, always wrapped in patrician phrasing. His mid-range tone was lovely and he is a master at the end of long phrases in letting extended thematic notes fade to the quietest of Pianissimos. The carefully gauged three step up trills in the Allegro were delicately shaped, and the roulades interweaving with the orchestra were exquisite.

Under conductor Norman Gamboa’s direction the Adagio was a captivating lament, the plaintive clarinet’s themes answered by the orchestra, and Mr. Zajac played seamless connected phrases with perfectly-weighted legato and charm. This sublime movement was the concert’s highlight.

In the concluding Rondo the horn playing was uneven but again the soloist’s command conquered all and here he beguilingly made subtle changes in the repetitions, and played unison themes with the violins. There are no cadenzas is this 1791 work but in a way each movement had ample interior cadenzas of melting beauty.

Mr. Gamboa has a penchant for changing the stage arrangement of his orchestra, and this concert’s first work (Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite) began with the basses and cellos stage right (when have you see the bass section at the back stage right?) and the second violins stage left.

This short work in five sections spotlighted perhaps the SCP’s strongest section, the winds. As during the entire afternoon slow tempos were the norm, allowing compelling playing from Debra Scheuerman (flute), Chris Krive (oboe), Nick Xenelis (clarinet) and bassoonist Miranda Kincaid. Ravel’s Suite, in places similar to the more comprehensive and later Suite No. 2 from “Daphnis et Chloé”, was well played but elicited little audience response. The French composer’s classic orchestral sonority appeared most persuasively in the “Empress of the Pagodas” movement, and Mr. Gamboa drew rich color from his winds, as he did in the following “Conversations” movement’s slow waltz with a soaring high violin solo (Mary Cornet) and harpist Kristin Lloyd.

Mr. Gamboa was in no rush to finish in the nostalgic “Enchanted Garden” but drove to more sonority with violin and viola duos and the unique bass clarinet sound. The same composer’s 1922 orchestration of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” concluded the program, and Mr. Gamboa reseated the ensemble with cellos at stage right, violas in the middle and a large percussion section at the rear. The music proved a tough mountain for the all-volunteer orchestra to climb, with often-ragged entrances and releases, weak horns and string intonation uncertainty.

The slow tempos selected were perhaps needed to insure cohesive ensemble but tended to reduce the punch of the sonorous composition, though when faster music was played in the “Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks” there was sparkle and momentum. Often between movements Mr. Gamboa wanted long sonic delays that allowed some respite, but as in the transition from the “Promenade” to the downward bass/cello passage of “The Gnome” it lowered tension and effect.

David Lindgren's trumpet work was masterly throughout, especially so in Section 6 ("Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle"). Welcome was unique sound from saxophonist Megan Rice, especially when paired with the bassoon parts and Mr. Xenelis’ chirpy clarinet. Ensemble evened out in the last two movements, and the conductor’s control and slack pacing produced the aura of majesty (with strong timpani playing of Russell Hendon) in the final “Great Gate of Kiev.”

Audience applause will full with Mr. Gamboa taking two curtain calls and recognizing members of the orchestra.

The Orchestra’s next program will be April 8 and 9 in the same hall, featuring Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (“Titan”) and Rachmaninoff’s C Minor Piano Concerto.