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Recital
ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
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....
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Conductor Norman Gamboa

APSC BRINGS NEW LIFE TO RENOVATED SRHS AUDITORIUM

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 20, 2012

In a memorable concert on Oct. 20, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) opened a new season with a new music director and a new home in an historic Santa Rosa hall.

It was with some trepidation that old-time audience members, familiar with the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium from the Santa Rosa Symphony’s 30-year residence ending in 1982, arrived at the refurbished 900-seat venue. How would the “people’s orchestra” play in a hall famous for bright but indistinct acoustics? And would there be lengthy speeches and the national anthem as de rigueur at opening concerts? Surprisingly, the remarks of APSC President Steven Peterson and Conductor Norman Gamboa were pointed and brief. There was good music afoot, along with an unusual seating chart. The first violins were stage right, followed clockwise by the violas, cellos and second violins.

In the opening bars of Schubert’s two-movement Symphony in G (“Unfinished”), Mr. Gamboa fashioned a quiet set of chords that led to an expansive B Minor Allegro Moderato, the themes stated throughout by clarinetist Nick Xenelis and flutist Debra Scheuerman. Gamboa’s stick technique is sharply different from the consummate control of Bruno Ferrandis and Michael Tilson Thomas, and it's a more leisurely in direction, animated only rarely, but the results were well-shaped and balanced.

The concluding Andante featured warm and committed orchestral playing, supporting Anton Rubinstein's remark that Schubert was "eternal sunshine in music." The two main themes were deftly and beautifully announced by the cellos and basses, and the clarinet-oboe duet was captivating. Rich and subtle horn playing was heard from Eric Anderson and John Lounsbery. As with the Dvorak work on the second half, Mr. Gamboa conducted without score.

Continuing an evening replete with exemplary brass playing, horn soloist Meredith Brown played Strauss’s Concerto No. 1, Op. 11, with grace and easy virtuosity throughout all three movements, the first two linked without pause. Everything in the solo part was in good order, the strongest playing coming in the higher registers where the lyrical E-Flat Major notes sang out to the back of the hall. The subdued Andante and robust and extended Allegro featured Ms. Brown in a resolute “call and response” with the orchestra to dramatic effect. The half-full auditorium provided a substantial ovation.

The second half was devoted to Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony. The opening Allegro con Brio highlighted Anthony Blake’s resonant timpani playing and the lush string sections. Tuba player Floyd Reinhart and trombonists Jeff Barnard and Bill Welsh were stellar in this movement, paced carefully by Mr. Gamboa. The fugal sections provided dramatic interest and contrast. The lovely nostalgic waltz theme in the Allegretto Grazioso third movement was played elegantly, the honeyed clarinet lines from Mr. Xenelis and Ken Ward again standing out.

Trumpet players Tom Hyde and Philip Beard performed the finale’s fanfare as one, dramatically launching a great finale of visceral emotion. This Allegro, the most Slavic of the symphony, featured an extended solo by Ms. Scheuerman, the principal flutist. Mr. Gamboa expertly built the tension, and in the accelerated coda parts, the orchestra exploded in a cascade of gaiety.

How was the sound in the circa 1924 hall? The acoustics are not warm, but they are thankfully not as bright and diffuse as before the renovations. The reverb is fast, yet the sound is better focused than at the APSC’s old home at the Wells Fargo Center. The APSC can and will make music in its new venue.