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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 ...
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...
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.