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Recital
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
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Sunday, Feb. 9, performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the ...
Symphony
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
Symphony
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
Opera
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
STRING QUINTETS, RARE AND FAMILIAR, IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, January 26, 2020
One hundred attendees in Schroeder Hall were treated Jan. 26 to a pair of stirring two-cello string quintets: Schubert’s much beloved masterpiece Quintet in C (D. 956), and Catoire’s Quintet in C minor (Op. 16), the latter mostly a forgotten work written in 1909. The performers were violinist Victo...
Chamber
MOSTLY MOZART WITH A LITTLE BEETHOVEN AND SOR IN NAPA
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Sharing the stage with a local diva is a tough task for even seasoned musicians, but Napa College faculty soprano Christina Howell stole the show Jan. 26 when the Napa Valley Music Associates presented an eclectic program of mostly Mozart music. Somehow compositions of Sor and Beethoven joined the m...
Chamber
CHALLENGING WORKS IN GOULD TRIO'S MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 26, 2020
The Gould Piano Trio, founded 28 years ago by violinist Lucy Gould, has been one of the UK’s most prestigious ensembles. Its January 26 performance in Mill Valley Chamber Music Society’s series demonstrated how richly they deserve that reputation. The concert, held at the Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Chu...
Chamber
LOCAL MUSICIANS SHINE IN MTAC BENEFIT CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 25, 2020
After a fire-related postponement of four months, the Sonoma County Chapter of the Music Teachers Association of California Jan. 25 gave their annual scholarship benefit in a charming Sebastopol home. Showcasing local musicians in an intimate setting with two pianos, the first half highlights inclu...
Symphony
MOZART MASTERWORK HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Excitement was palpable in the Marin Civic Center Auditorium Jan. 25 as the Marin Symphony in splendid full force took the stage for a richly textured Masterworks II program. Prevented from giving its first Masterworks offering by the wildfire-caused blackouts last October, the orchestra returned wi...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, November 16, 2019
Norman Gamboa, conductor. San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College Division Competition Winner as Soloist (TBA)

Violinist Pierce Wang with Conductor Norman Gamboa

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’s pretty hard to not move your body with Rossini’s infectious rhythms and thematic charm, and the audience of 200 seemed to enjoy doing so, even with conductor Norman Gamboa adopting mostly poky tempos and conventional phrasing. The horn section sounded pungently brassy and oboist Chris Krive’s elegant playing paralleled the virtuosity of Debra Scheüerman’s flute and the smile inducing high-wire piccolo line of Emily Reynolds. This Overture from the early 1820s is a sure-fire opening for whatever comes next in the program, usually musically disparate. Loud bravos and applause were heard.

And different Prokofiev’s D Major Violin Concerto was, with the young soloist Pierce Wang playing without score, and though it took a while for him to get going, he did catch the mysterious shimmer of the opening chords. His upper register was his most secure, and the So Co Phil woodwind section gave admirable support throughout the opening Andantino – Andante. Christina Kopriva’s harp solos were always audible. In the second Adagio di molto movement the composer’s dissonant harmonies were strikingly played in the brass and Mr. Wang’s octave playing, with occasional pitch variance, combined in duos with the flute and piccolo. Ms. Kopriva played a lovely glissando half way through and the high strings sang again the melancholy first theme.

Fine bassoon (Miranda Kincaid) and clarinet playing were heard in the finale, with Floyd Reinhart’s tuba line heard clearly behind the pyrotechnical virtuosity from the soloist’s double stops, quasi-sarcastic tune projection and fast ascending scale passages. Surprisingly the Concerto ended with a long fermata in D major, and a return to the quiet shimmer of the opening. It was haunting and beautiful. The applause was long and strong, with a bouquet for Mr. Wang, one curtain call, a short speech by an SF Conservatory Dean, but no soloist encore.

There had been talk that County fire-related abbreviated rehearsals could affect the Orchestra’s ability to manage the many rhythmic complexities of Rachmaninoff’s Op. 45 Symphonic Dances. But no worry, as Mr. Gamboa drew a performance that underscored the composer’s brilliant orchestration with glittering playing in each section. In three loose movements the Dances have consonant harmonies and include sad themes with a seemingly Czarist Russian color and flavor. Contributing to the rich sonic mix were Mr. Krive and clarinetist Nick Xenelis; bass clarinetist Kathy Brooks, harp and Orchestra pianist Carol Schindler .

Short march sections featured four horns and at times three trumpets, and the playing veered in the Lento assai – Allegro from and occasional raw sonic “edge” to a swaying 1930s dance character, with difficult undulating passages for the violins. The conductor found the nostalgic warmth that underlies even the most demanding writing, a character of the composer’s music from this 1940 work and the A Minor Symphony (his third) that came just four years before. The woodwinds in this movement were first cabin, as were Dave Lindgren’s trumpet playing and the bright snare drum rattle from an unannounced percussion player.

It was altogether a wholly creditable and convincing concert, the second in a set of two. Mr. Gamboa conducts an all French program (Debussy, Ravel, Berlioz) the first two days of February in Jackson, the Philharmonic’s penultimate concert of the 2019/2020 season.