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ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
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.