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Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 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 Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
Chamber
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Sunday, April 07, 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 07, 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 (Emily Reynolds, Mary Kemnec) and oboe (Chris Krive) duets 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.