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!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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...
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’...
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...
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 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.