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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
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...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, January 27, 2018
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Hans Brightbill, cello

Hans Brightbill Jan. 27 After Playing Elgar Concerto (J. Chilman Photo)

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 extravaganza of orchestral color and virtuosic playing. Led with careful pacing by conductor Norman Gamboa, the work seemed shorter than its 36-minute duration, always a sign of a compelling conductoral vision and instrumental clarity in the 1916 work’s many sections. Initially the big brass choir (3 trombones, 3 trumpets, tuba and five fiery horns) set the sonic standard, taken up in the poco allegretto and poco adagio by the So Co Phil’s famously first-cabin wind section.

There is much Sibelius (and even Glazunov) in the Nielsen Fourth, and a lot is going on at once – a surprise solo cello line, “bird call” reprises from Emily Reynolds (piccolo) and flutist Debra Scheuerman, laconic wind phrases over pizzicato strings, and energetic continual tympani mastery by Anthony Blake. Mr. Gamboa kept control over a complex sonic mix right to the final accelerando climax with thunder from tympani stationed stage left and right.

Mention needs to be made of greater unanimity in the violins than in recent concerts, and at the beginning of the adagio the violins stated a theme of great breadth and authority, later supported by cellos and violas. Perhaps this intensity was augmented by the seating Mr. Gamboa has favored in recent years, with second violins at stage left in front of the bass viols. Shostakovich wrote climaxes as good as in this Nielsen performance, but more than 20 years later. The long diminuendos chosen by Mr. Gamboa deftly smoothed transitions, and there was ample instrumental “screaming” from piccolo, strings and clarinets. But what captivating “screaming” this music has.

Hans Brightbill was the soloist in the first half’s closing work, Elgar’s E Minor Cello Concerto, Op. 85. My guess is that the performance was the first large Elgar piece heard locally since Hillary Hahn played the Violin Concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony (Jeffrey Kahane) in the old Well Fargo Center. Though of the same 36-minute duration, the Cello Concerto is more diffuse and wandering than the Violin Concerto, and Mr. Brightbill made a strong case for its inherent originality and occasional vehemence. The tempos were judicious and Mr. Brightbill exhibited a warm incisive sound, particularly in the low registers with a wide vibrato. His bow attacks were punctual and the playing was only lacking in accurate intonation and projection at the very top treble.

Warm applause from the audience and members of the orchestra were heard at the end of the final allegro and multiple presentation bouquets were passed to the soloist.

A beguiling curiosity opened the concert, Théodore Dubois five-movement Second Wind Suite, played by two clarinets, two bassoons, two flutes, horn and oboe, and without the optional string bass. This was light French whipped cream charm from about 1900, similar to Ibert, Chaminade and early St. Saëns. The ensemble played the bouncy phrases with often dance-hall swing, especially in the concluding menuet. It was refreshing music, beginning exactly at 7:30, but arguably passed without much notice compared with the monumental Elgar and Nielsen.

The Suite’s performers were not listed in the program, but included Ms. Scheuerman, Valerie White, Nick Xenelis, Cathy Brooks, Chris Krive, Miranda Kincaid, Steven Peterson and Eric Anderson.

Orff’s popular “Carmina Burana” will be the featured work in the Philharmonic’s next set, March 17 and 18. They will be joined by the Santa Symphonic Chorus and Santa Rosa Children’s Choral Academy, and singers Ivalah Allen, Mark Kratz and Igor Vieira.