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Chamber
BEETHOVEN FEATURED IN SF TRIO'S OCCIDENTAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Conventional repertoire in uncommonly good performances highlighted the San Francisco Piano Trio’s Jan. 19 concert in the Occidental Center for the Arts. Haydn’s No. 44 Trio (Hob. XV:28) came from late in his long career, when he was in and out of London, and received a sparkling reading that featu...
SIMONE PORTER ASPIRES TO STARDOM WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 12, 2020
The Sibelius violin concerto is one of several mountains that violin soloists need to ascend before they can lay claim to stardom. Hundreds make the attempt every year, but only a few reach the top. Simone Porter, who played the concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony on Sunday afternoon, got close bu...
Choral and Vocal
ORPHEUS OF AMSTERDAM'S MUSIC IN SCHROEDER ORGAN CHORAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, January 10, 2020
“All over the map.” Sonoma Bach, directed by Bob Worth, has taken its audiences this season on journeys through many centuries and many lands. The programming is fresh and intriguing and the performers varied and creators of beauty and interest. The January 10 program was centered on organ works by...
Choral and Vocal
OLD NORTH GERMAN CAROLS IN SONOMA BACH'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, December 15, 2019
“Cast off all sorrows…also dance in heavenly fashion.” A volume called Piae Cantiones was printed in 1582 in North Germany, lively songs going back to the 14th century, and this treasure trove provided material for numerous composers to arrange Christmas carols over following generations, from simp...
Symphony
EVERLASTING LIGHT AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Monday, December 09, 2019
The Mozart Requiem includes four intermittent vocal soloists, but the real star is the choir, which is featured in almost every movement. That stardom shone bright at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s memorable Requiem performance on Monday night. The soloists were good, but the choir was superb. Located wi...
Symphony
UNFINISHED AND FINNISH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 08, 2019
Having a new resident conductor on the podium for the Ukiah Symphony was an attractive invitation for a long-delayed visit to Mendocino College’s Center Theater Dec. 8. The insouciant Les Pfutzenreuter recently retired after decades of conducting the ensemble, replaced by Phillip Lenberg who also j...
Choral and Vocal
PRAERTORIUS IN RENAISSANCE GLORY FROM SONOMA BACH
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Sonoma Bach Choir, in collaboration with Barefoot All-Stars Viol Consort and The Whole Noyse Brass Ensemble, presented “Sing Glorious Praetorius!” November 16 to an almost full Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. The Soloists were soprano Dianna Morgan, Christopher Fritzsche, (countertenor), m...
Symphony
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL EXCITEMENT IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Beginning with a scintillating reading of Rossini’s Overture to the Opera “Semiramide,” the Sonoma County Philharmonic performed a splendid program Nov. 16 in the Jackson Theater, and featured two additional works, one showcasing the winner of the San Francisco Conservatory’s Young Artist Award. It...
Chamber
SPIRITUAL LATE BEETHOVEN QUARTET HIGHLIGHTS MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, called “unparalleled in its inexhaustibility” by critic Thomas May, is a daunting challenge. Orchestral in concept, filled with wit and charm, melancholy and fury, it almost overwhelms listeners. Playing the frenetic Scherzo, a viol...
Symphony
MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANCE IN UNIQUE SRS CONCERT IN WEILL HALL
by Terry McNeill
Monday, November 04, 2019
It was a concert full of surprises Nov. 4 as the Santa Rosa Symphony responded to the area’s wild fires and evacuations with challenging, songful and somewhat unique music in Weill Hall. The last of a three-concert series titled "Master of the Modern Banjo" is reviewed here. The evening began with...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, September 28, 2019
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Jassen Todorov, violin

Norman Gamboa and Jassen Todorov Sept. 28

ELEGANT BEETHOVEN CONCERTO IN SO CO PHILHARMONIC'S SEASON OPENER

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 28, 2019

After last season’s schedule with one big repertoire work per concert, the Sonoma County Philharmonic opened its 21st season Sept. 28 with two, and both received committed if disparate performances under resident conductor Norman Gamboa.

The first half in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater opened not with the expected overture and a concerto, but with Brahms’ Third Symphony, Op. 90. In a pre-concert talk the conductor mentioned that the unobtrusive ending of the F Major Symphony was better suited to the first half than a normal concert’s conclusion with the customary dramatic finish.

Judicious tempos were the order of the day in the Brahms with a lightweight high string sound, due to just five first and five second violins, with violas and low strings seated stage left. The opening sounded both fiery and then a little ambiguous, and then Mr. Gamboa fashioned a performance that with the selected tempos was mostly restrained and controlled. In the andante there was wistful trio playing from clarinetist Nick Xenelis, bassoonist Miranda Kincaid and Eric Anderson (horn), with a shimmering and drawn-out final chord.

The ensemble playing in the poco allegretto was at times unsteady, but also had splendid combined work from flute (Debra Scheüerman), oboist Christ Krive and Mr. Anderson’s fetching horn sound in the main theme.

The finale was played with off beat accents, some odd instrumental delays and short bursts of sound. Steven Peterson’s contrabassoon sound was a rich addition to the mix, and Mr. Gamboa never had his head in the score, sculpting the ending phrase with lovely serenity in the long fermata.

Musical pace quickened with Beethoven’s D Major Violin Concerto, occupying the concert’s second half, with San Francisco State University faculty violinist and virtuoso Jassen Todorov as soloist. This reviewer has heard the violinist numerous times in recital settings with the elegant pianist William Corbett-Jones, but in the Beethoven Concerto only once in a long ago video, with poor sound, and it seemed an off night for him. But not this night.

With a reduced size orchestra from the Brahms (no trombones, one flute, 2 horns) Messrs. Todorov and Gamboa combined to give a reading that spotlighted dynamic control and carefully graded tempos. In this music from 1806 much of the writing is in the upper reaches of the solo instrument, and here Mr. Todorov was at his best. Playing from score but only occasionally noticing it, he was everywhere secure as the long, glorious allegro ma non troppo unfolded.

The cadenza (by Fritz Kreisler) had a wonderful interweaving of line and control, and when the pyro techniques ended Mr. Todorov played the simple returning theme with reduced vibrato and melting tone over pizzicato strings and murmuring horns. It was the concert’s highlight, every note a telling one, every note touching your heart.

In the lovely larghetto ensemble attacks lacked precision but Mr. Gamboa also drew fine pianissimo playing and graceful phrasing from his orchestra, leading into the lively finale. Here the frequently repeated theme borders on the banal, but like every genius composer, Beethoven takes the tune and makes it memorable, anything but insipid. His creativity knows no bounds, something Mr. Gamboa adroitly exploited in the numerous repetitions.

Mr. Todorov again was at home in the high register and his trills were always expressive, contrasting with Mr. Peterson’s low contrabassoon sound, up to a sparkling end. Audience applause was loud and long, leading to three curtain calls for both conductor and soloist, and a large presentation bouquet that Mr. Todorov graciously gave to concertmaster Pamela Otsuka.

It was an auspicious season beginning for the Philharmonic, with coming concerts in Jackson Nov. 16 and 17 featuring Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1. It looks like a banner year for string music and this splendid orchestra.
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