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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 it seems to be on almost every...
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...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
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...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
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...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
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.