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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
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 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.