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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 / Friday, June 15, 2018
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Hans Brightbill, cello

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.