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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
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Sunday, April 7, 2019
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Debra Scheüerman, piccolo

Piccolo Solist Debra Scheüerman and the So Co Phil April 7

SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 7, 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 Overture, Op. 20, began the Sunday concert, only the second hearing of the work that premiered at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s gala Weill Hall opening event in 2013. It proved to be a bustling and busy work with big sections brass fanfare and snazzy sound from five percussionists and timpanist Tony Blake. Tempos selected by conductor Norman Gamboa in the interlocking sections were brisk, and piquant music came from chimes, snare drum, marimba, piano (Carol Schindler), harp and soprano saxophone. All this musical commotion overwhelmed the string sections, albeit with a lovely cello solo from Hans Brightbill and beautiful sounds from three flutes.

Copland from the 1930s and more recently John Williams’ music were compositional influences for the composer, and a strident loud climax ended the 14-minute work.

Frisky musical momentum continued with a unique concerto, Israeli composer Yosef Hamami’ s “Freakollo” for piccolo and orchestra. The Orchestra’s principal flutist Debra Scheüerman triumphed in the 15-minute piece, playing from the sheet music though having to wait to enter for an extended orchestra introduction. Much of the solo part is integrated into the Orchestra’s score, though there was a cadenza and a lengthy held note ending the first part, leading to more music with a Middle East/Egyptian flavor and a sunny harp part (Kristina Kopriva) and ample horns.

Ms. Scheüerman moved the solo part along with many agogics and florid runs, mostly descending. There was little variation in the solo instrument’s volume and the artist alternated lyrical phrases with short melodic lines and speedy scales. The Hamami piccolo concerto was probably a North Bay premiere, effective in its smallish size and this perceptive performance.

It comes as no surprise that the impact of the two pieces in the first half were quickly swept away with the arrival of the second half’s mighty Prokofiev 5th Symphony, Op. 100, in B-Flat Major. Mr. Gamboa’s forces got off to a shaky start in the opening andante and throughout the 49 minutes in four movements he was content with judicious tempos, slower than many other conductors prefer. Not ponderous, but in no hurry to get anywhere with this richly orchestrated formidable music from 1944. Balcony acoustics in Jackson have short reverberation and dryness, but admirable clarity, and the andante exhibited flute (Valerie White) and piccolo (Mary Kemnec) duets with oboist Chris Krive and band-like brass playing from trombones and trumpets. An extended fortissimo twice ended a dramatic coda.

Wind instrument virtuosity in the scherzo had some of the best playing of the afternoon (oboes, Nick Xenelis’ magical clarinet, bassoonist Miranda Kincaid) juxtaposed with a theme in the violas (Robby Morales) coming out of the middle of the Orchestra. Mr. Gamboa sits his strings conventionally, cellos and basses stage left, and the exciting and sometimes sinister music was extra effective as he took phrase repeats at slightly different tempos and volume. Changing from a pokey pace to an accelerando gave this movement lift and punch.

Expansive themes characterized the great adagio, as did persuasive individual performers: tubist Floyd Reinhart, Mr. Xenelis and Mr. Krive, Ms. Kopriva and Ms. Kincaid. Mr. Gamboa spotlighted the music’s dissonances and mystery in the dark march section with piquant flute, cymbal, gong, much trombone artistry and finally a faint arpeggiated chord from the clarinet.

The conductor drew an energetic reading in the allegro finale and each new theme seemed to sweep over the preceding ones, almost all joyous except for some solemn interludes. There was a “fate” theme in the cellos and scrappy horn and snare drum playing towards the end, with a trumpet flourish that sped the movement to a tumultuous and propulsive ending.

Many in the audience of 300 rose in raucous appreciation, and used the opportunity in this season’s final concert to chat with the musicians in the large and picturesque Jackson lobby.

Orchestra member (oboist) Anthony Perry doubled as the program’s insouciant announcer, and presented information concerning the coming 2019-2020 season that will differ from past years with more conventional repertoire. There will be two sets in each of four concerts, beginning Sept. 28 and ending April 5. Mr. Gamboa will direct all eight during his eighth season with the Philharmonic.