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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
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Saturday, November 16, 2013
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Alice Zhu, piano

Pianist Alice Zhu

POLISH, WITH POLISH

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 16, 2013

As with many orchestras, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County (APSC) produces programs with a theme, and the Nov. 16 concert in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Auditorium had the title "Polish." But only Chopin's E Minor Piano Concerto was the genuine article, though the companion Third Tchaikovsky Symphony, Op. 29 ("Polish"), was the star of the show.

Alice Zhu was the soloist in the Concerto, the engagement related to her being awarded the Orchestra's young artist prize in 2012. The work, from 1829, is lyrical throughout, even more melodic than the better-known and architecturally tighter F Minor Concerto. There was no orchestraal cut in the long introduction. Conductor Norman Gamboa elicited a muscular reading, with Ms. Zhu matching their forceful presentation--a needed approach, as the hall's resident 72-year old piano has slipped below a professional level. The days of Perahia and Laredo performances on that piano are long gone.

The pianist had a fine grasp of Chopin's evanescent rubato and the vocal nature of the opening Allegro, but the instrument's monochromatic sound made the cadenza seem harsh. Conditions improved in the lyrical Romanza, with its melting opening passage for the violins, and Ms. Zhu deftly shaped the long line and subtle phrases. The duos between soloist and horns were charming, but the movement's last chords were abrupt rather than shimmering.

Mr. Gamboa chose a judicious tempo for the finale, the Concerto's most technically challenging in ensemble, and Ms. Zhu's adept scale playing could always be heard over the frequently loud orchestra.

After intermission and the traditional raffle prize announcements, the APSC played the 47-minute Tchaikovsky Symphony with affection and sporadic brilliance. The five-movement work from 1875 possesses much of the thematic development and powerful dramatic effects heard in the composer's more popular last three symphonies. Throughout the Symphony, the horns had a workout, especially in the mournful Andante Elegioco, and the playing of bassoonist Miranda Kincaid, oboist Chris Krive and flutists Debra Scheuerman and Emily Reynolds was outstanding. The APSC had developed a first-cabin wind section, deep-toned and precise.

Throughout the Symphony, the low strings tended to overpower the violin sound, especially in sonorous passages, but even in Tchaikovsky's extended use of pizzicato. This probably was a result of the auditorium's acoustics rather than an underpowered violin section, but the effect of robust cellos and the three bass viols was pungent. Mr. Gamboa led an exuberant Allegro con fuoco finale, underlining each fugal entry, and letting the brass sections generate a prodigious sound. Trombonists Jeff Barnard and Bill Welsh and trumpeters Karl Johnston and David Lindgren were everywhere sonorous and secure, as was solo timpanist Joseph Lang.

The APSC has developed a substantial command of weighty works under Mr. Gamboa's flexible baton, a likely indication that Tchaikovsky's great final symphonies will be on future programs, along with those of his peers.