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Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE WITH SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Symphony
DVORAK AND TCHAIKOVSKY ORCHESTRAL COLOR AT SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A concert with curious repertoire and splashy orchestral color launched the 19th season of the Sonoma County Philharmonic Sept. 30 in Santa Rosa High School’s Auditorium. Why curious? Conductor Norman Gamboa paired the ever-popular Dvorak and his rarely heard 1891 trilogy In Nature’s Realm, with t...
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...
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...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
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.