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SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Symphony
ORFF AND HINDEMITH SONIC SPLENDOR AT FINAL SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts are continually artistically successful but on the Santa Rosa High School’s stage the orchestra rarely numbers above 40, and in the 900-seat hall audiences can be scant. Violinists can be in short supply. An opposite scene occurred at the March 17/18 concert set...
Symphony
A FIFTH CONTENDER ENTERS THE RING FOR THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, February 10, 2018
In these international times, what makes a piece of music American? For Michael Christie, the answer is that it needs to have at least premiered on these shores, if not been composed here. Thus the rationale for the “all American” program that Christie--the fifth and final conducting candidate for t...
Symphony
MONUMENTAL NIELSEN SYMPHONY CAPS SO CO PHIL CONCERT AT SR HS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Turning again away from conventional repertoire, the Sonoma County Philharmonic programmed Jan. 27 three works in what were local debut performances in Santa Rosa High School’s Performing Arts Center. Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, Op. 29, called “Inextinguishable,” closed the program with an extravaga...
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 REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, November 18, 2017
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Pam Otsuka, violin; Robby Morales, viola

Violist Robby Morales

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 School. The first of the set is reviewed here.

The Belgian composer’s only Symphony is difficult structurally to perform, though underpinned by the recurring them in each of the three movements. To some it’s a theme bordering on banality, and to others it’s a theme of nobility crafted and ingeniously developed by the seasoned master in 1889, shortly before his death. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew from his Orchestra a performance of considerable power and excitement. The many short climaxes of the opening allegro gave cumulative cohesion to the sound, with faint references to the beguiling contemporary harmonies of Wager’s operas and Liszt’s tone poems.

Christina Kopriva’s harp solo opened the andante were Chris Krive’s elegant oboe solo over murmuring string pizzicato was a highlight. Tempos were judicious throughout, and the sonic momentum of the first movement’s allegro returned in the finale. The brass sounded heroically and Anthony Perry’s plaintive English horn solos were handsome. Mr. Gamboa built an apex of Franck’s inspired drama, anticipating the cutoff at the ending that has always seemed to me too short and inconclusive. Audience response was warm and loud.

Mozart’s E-Flat Major Symphonia Concertante (K. 364) was the capstone of the first half and featured as soloists two of the So Co Phil’s principals, violinist Pam Otsuka and violist Robby Morales. Jeffrey Kahane conducted a memorable performance of the work in Weill two summers ago, and Mr. Gamboa’s interpretation shared many of the same felicities – attention to small details, chaste phrasing and soloist support. The music from 1779 is of course sharply different from the two other works on the program, with a reduced size ensemble and needing transparency of sound rather than robust volume and thick textures.

The long introduction (the soloists played through the tutti) to the allegro maestoso led to the opening solo entrances, both well played and indicating, especially in the cadenzas where seemingly ample rehearsal time was spent. The goal here is to capture the music’s delicacy, but always wrapped in impeccable instrumental technique and balance. It’s odd that pitch and phrase coordination in these luscious cadenzaduos mostly avoided the intonation deficiencies and blurring in short trills and turns that were often present when playing in the first movement’s ensemble. Mr. Morales overcame these pesky problems in the lovely sadness and lament of the andante where his bottom register tone was burnished and secure.

Tricky horn phrases opened the presto finale and the orchestra exhibited some of the most cohesive playing of the evening, deftly controlled by the conductor. The slower-than-usual tempo allowed Ms. Otsuka’s violin line to soar and carry to the back row of the acoustically lively hall. Her violin tone was lambent, alternatively melding and contrasting with Mr. Morales. Greeting the soloists after the final convincing chord were a standing ovation and several presentation bouquets.

Opening the evening was a rollicking eight-minute playing of Shostakovich’s Festive Overture. It was a snazzy way to begin and always an audience favorite, as evidenced by recent local performances by the Santa Rosa Symphony, Russian National Orchestra, Mariinsky Orchestra and the Mendocino Music Festival Orchestra. Outstanding in this exciting romp were Mary Kemnec’s piccolo playing, and the persuasive solos of flutists Debra Scheuerman and Emily Reynolds. Mr. Gamboa conducted without score.