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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 / Sunday, February 02, 2020
Norman Gamboa, conductor

So Co Phil Feb. 2 in the Jackson Theater

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 Co Phil, Norman Gamboa fashioned a performance of Debussy “Images Pour Orchestre” with a lot of musicians on stage, and captured the quiet introduction of the opening “Gigues” with many graded crescendos and decrescendos, fine playing from the winds and penetrating brass from four horns and four trumpets. Bass clarinetist Cathy Brooks played elegantly.

Throughout the first half the conductor favored leisurely tempos in the Debussy and warm sound from the high strings. Exemplary solos were everywhere in this brilliantly scored work: harpist Christina Kopriva, Eric Anderson (horn) and clarinetist Matthew Bringedahl. Even the raucous snare drum sound added to the mix. This music, as in the afternoon’s concluding Ravel work, has many changing moods that add to difficulty for Mr. Gamboa in balancing sections. The fourth movement (Rondes de Printemps) was played with swirls of sound and the laconic English horn of Anthony Perry.

Berlioz’ famous Love Scene from the Roméo and Juliette Symphony (Op. 17), one movement in the whole of five, began the second half. Here there is no scored brass and subtlety of tempo changes are again critical to maintain. Attacks and cutoffs were clear and the So Co Phil violin section was at their best with more power than in the first two concerts of the season. At 19 minutes the performance did not seem long, and Mr. Gamboa’s shaping of phases in the richly saturated themes was convincing. There was a fetching duo with clarinet (Cathy Brooks) and flutist Emily Reynolds. The bantamweight ending was shimmering.

Ravel’s magical La Valse took only 15 minutes to finish the concert, but has a bevy of instrumental pitfalls that for any orchestra are difficult to avoid. Rhythms and tempos constantly change and false cadences abound, and harmonies shift from mundane Viennese Strauss to decadent post World War I. Mr. Gamboa often wanted a raw sound to contrast familiar waltz strains, and got it from the three bassoonists, glockenspiel, castanets, triangle and a loud bass drum. The continual repeating waltz motives featured knotty chromaticism, harp glissandos and murmuring figures in the cellos.

Mr. Gamboa pushed the tempo all the way to the end, distinct section music dissolving into a rubric of a propulsive, insistent and increasingly loud dance that wasn’t a waltz anymore. It was a unique and stunning performance of a Ravel masterpiece, and the audience of 200 loved it.

One more season concert remains, April 4 and 5 in the Jackson, with a big mountain for the Philharmonic to climb – a violin concerto premiere and Mahler’s momentous Fifth Symphony. However, in a surprise, they announced their first ever Pops concert, June 27, also in the spacious Jackson, which should be an odd juxtaposition with the great Mahler work of April.