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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
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
SYMPHONY REVIEW

So Co Phil Feb. 2 in the Jackson Theater

FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 2, 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.