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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Norma Gamboa Congratulates Hans Brightbill After the Elgar Cello Concerto

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 programmed works that have partly been on past Orchestra concerts in Sonoma County, including Frank La Rocca’s Crossing the Rubicon, the Symphonic Picture from Porgy and Bess, and the Elgar Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85.

The Elgar was the concert’s centerpiece, featuring the Orchestra’s principal cellist, Hans Brightbill. The soloist played the 1919 work in much the same way as he did in two late January performances, also directed by Mr. Gamboa, with a warm incisive sound. Tonal richness was greatest in the low registers, and Mr. Brightbill’s vibrato was varied, especially in the lyrical adagio, where he deftly increased or decreased its intensity for rich expressivity. Jackson’s acoustics are slightly dry and reverb is minimal, but the sound is direct and Mr. Brightbill’s cello line projected substantial sonority.

The plaintive theme in the second movement was reminiscent of the Schumann A Minor Concerto, with an extended and elegantly phrased cadenza. Different from Mr. Brightbill’s past readings was his consummate ability to play softly, even when the music had a faster tempo. In several places the soloist had unison phrases with the five section cellos, and his voice leading moved the Orchestra through efficacious modulations, each tinged with melancholy.

A standing ovation followed the performance’s conclusion, and a professional hug from Mr. Gamboa at the podium for Mr. Brightbill.

Costa Rican composer Julio Fonseca (1885-1950) orchestrates in a colorful manner, and his Tropical Suite: Fiesta Compestre has been a favorite of the conductor since childhood. There is a lot going on in the 12-minute work with continual section contrasts, and echoes here and there of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and Viennese dance hall charm. Clarinetist Nick Xenelis and violist Robby Morales played piquant solos with an identical ascending and slowing phrase, and that pattern was also played in the cellos. The five-person percussion section was active throughout. Cutoffs were crisp.

The evening’s concert had a reduced number of high string performers (just five each first violins and violas, seven second violins) and the insouciant brass section often covered with a vivid and rousing sound. The sonic impact of the brass and four horns bordered on histrionic, but the Tropical Suite is that kind of piece. Muscular indeed.

The reviewer was unable to stay for the second half.