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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...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.