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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
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...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
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...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
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 (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.