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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

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.