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Chamber
THREE BEETHOVEN TRIOS BEGUILE AUDIENCE IN FEB. 19 WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Chamber music concerts featuring one composer can be tricky, but the Han/Setzer/Finckel trio made a Feb. 19 Weill Hall audience of 500 hear and to a degree see the boundless creativity of Beethoven. The G Major Trio, Op. 1, No. 2, opened the afternoon’s Beethoven odyssey and one wonders why it is t...
Chamber
AUTHORITATIVE BARTOK HIGHLIGHTS TETZLAFF VIOLIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Christian Tetzlaff’s Feb. 18 violin recital rolled along with lively and fresh readings of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert when the specter of Bartok’s granitic Second Sonata intervened. The sonic shock to the audience of 250 in Weill was palpable. Composed in 1923 the 20-minute two-movement work i...
Symphony
WHAT SOUND DO STAR-CROSSED LOVERS MAKE?
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so the Santa Rosa Symphony feted the occasion by telling and retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet, a tale ever the more poignant during our era of stark divisions. The first telling was from Berlioz; the second from Prokofiev. In between was Brahms’ monu...
Chamber
GOOD OLD WINE IN GOOD OLD BOTTLES AT VOM CONCERT
by Jeff Chan
Saturday, February 11, 2017
February 11 was the first day of sunshine in Sonoma County after nine days of rain, but a nearly full house of music lovers chose to spend their afternoon in Schroeder Hall instead of being outside, soaking up the warm sun. There were two equally compelling reasons to attend this concert, which fea...
Symphony
FUNG TRIUMPHS IN SHOSTAKOVICH CONCERTO WITH VSO
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 29, 2017
The Vallejo Symphony Orchestra presented their season’s second concert Jan. 29 in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium, devoted to early Haydn, middle Shostakovich and Beethoven’s ground-breaking “Eroica” Symphony. In remarks to the audiences of nearly 400, Conductor Marc Taddei characterized Haydn’s Sympho...
Chamber
ENSEMBLE PERFECTION IN KLR TRIO'S 40TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Longevity has its place in classical music. Composers and especially conductors live a long time, and venerable piano trios can linger for years. One can recall the great Cortot-Thibaud-Casals staying on the international scene for decades, and more recently Stern-Istomin-Rose, Oistrakh-Oborin-Knu...
Symphony
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 w...
Recital
RISKY SPEED IN POTENT LUO RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 22, 2017
Each half of pianist Wei Luo’s Schroeder Hall recital Jan. 22 contained beguiling interpretations and consummate technical command of Shostakovich and Albeniz works, but each half finished with less than exalted playing. Two of Shostakovich’s Op. 87 Preludes and Fugues opened the recital, from the ...
Recital
COLORFUL SCHUBERT AND CHOPIN WARM WEILL HALL IN AX RECITAL
by Nicki Bell
Friday, January 20, 2017
On a stormy winter evening Jan. 20 a rainbow of colorful Schubert and Chopin music came from the fingers, feet and heart of pianist Emanuel Ax.  Playing at the Weill Hall for the first time, this recital was a tribute to beauty in the arts. It conveyed the value and glory of balance, lyricism and el...
Chamber
A MUSICAL ODYSSEY IN RIVITING PRESTON HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 15, 2017
A standing room audience warmly greeted pianist Carolyn Steinbuck Jan. 15 in the season’s second Ft. Bragg Center For the Arts concert in Mendocino’s plebian Preston Hall. Ms. Steinbuck, to be joined in the program’s second half by clarinetist Eric Kritz and cellist Marcia Sloane, programmed Schube...
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.