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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, March 17, 2018
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Ivalah Allen soprano; Mark Kratz, tenor; Igor Vieira, baritone

Sonoma Co Philharmonic and Singers March 17 Following Carmina Burana (JCM Photo)

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 where the stage was crammed with the full orchestra and two choirs, the Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus and the California Redwood Chorale (Robert Hazelrigg, director). It looked like nearly 60 singers filled the risers. The auditorium was packed with regular So Co Phil concert attendees and groups of family members, and Carl Orff’s theatrical Carmina Burana cantata from 1937 was surely the draw for the increased numbers.

It’s a complex work that has the most sections and sub sections in a performance that lasted just over an hour. With all these forces in the mix, including three vocal soloists and the Santa Rosa Children’s Choral Academy (all seated in the first row, and directed by Carol Menke from the sixth row) conductor Norman Gamboa had his hands full. In a work of these proportions a conductor usually has “the score in his head, or his head in the score,” and Mr. Gamboa deftly paid little attention to the sheet music in front of him. He clearly has given the knotty music long and dedicated scrutiny.

Sung mostly in Latin with some middle high German, old French and some Provençal, the 25 main sections unfolded with sonic power and a bevy of fine instrumental playing: long held notes from the three trombones and three trumpets: clarinet and flute solos (Nick Xenelis and Debra Scheuerman/Emily Reynolds); and an exceptional variety of percussion effects, some opposite at stage left/stage right. Dramatic sounds came from the small xylophone, three electric pianos, chimes, bells, castanets, gourds and cymbals. Certainly more were in the percussion blend that I missed.

The composer splashed many musical references about, from oddly the Flower Duet from Delibes’ “Lakmé” to late Renaissance composers (Josquin, Monteverdi), and with some neo-Baroque rhythms from composers in the 1920s. It’s a powerful stew, the sections frequently exploding without a break.

Three soloists seemed an adjunct to Carmina’s instrumental frenzy, with baritone Igor Vierira and soprano Ivalah Allen having the most extended singing, and tenor Mark Kratz was limited to one aria sung in raw falsetto. None of the arias were congenial for the respective voices, especially for Miss Allen at the top of her range in melisma over flutes and piccolo. However, she could spin a beguiling song, as in the lovely dulcissime (Sweetest boy) section, and Mr. Vieira had snazzy hand and face movements in the “All things are tempered by the sun” movement.

An extravaganza of vivid sound, Carmina ended with fortissimo punch and Erik Ohlson’s blows on the Philharmonic’s biggest bass drum. Instant audience cheers followed, and Mr. Gamboa seemed elated at his ensemble’s accomplishment, and motioned for several instrumental soloists to stand.

Hindemith is not a composer heard much in the North Bay, but the Symphonic Metamorphosis (on themes from Weber) is arguably his most popular composition for orchestra. The four-movement work from 1943 was played wonderfully, and in no way was it a modest lead in to the demands of Carmina.

The music at turns is sassy and is full of surprising accents, particularly in the fugue. Uncovering familiar Weber themes was out of reach, given the masterly orchestra details, many slight accelerandos in the scherzo, frequent dissonant chords that jarred the ear, and as usual persuasive wind solos from Ms. Scheuerman, Mr. Xenelis and bassoonist Steven Peterson. The final marsch with timpani and chimes closed a brilliant interpretation.

With such large forces at this concert praise was needed to anoint many, but the evening’s true hero was Mr. Gamboa. Thinking of just the manifold number of attacks and cutoffs that he managed so conclusively, it was an artful demonstration of control of intricate orchestral architecture and sonic texture.

This set was the final one for the Philharmonic’s 2017-2018 season, but one more “gift” to their loyal public comes in the same Hall June 15. The Orchestra, again under Mr. Gamboa’s direction, will showcase the works they are performing on the musical tour of Costa Rica, set to be June 17-25. It will be their second international tour, as Gabriel Sakakeeny (now Conductor Emeritus) led an arduous but wildly successful China tour in 2010.