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Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
Recital
AUTHORITATIVE BEETHOVEN SONATA IN KLEIN'S OCCIDENTAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, October 8, 2021
People attending the first Redwood Arts Council Occidental concert in 20 months found a surprise – a luxurious new lobby attached to the Performing Arts Center. It was a welcome bonus to a recital given by pianist Andreas Klein where the music seemed almost as familiar as was the long shuttered hal
Symphony
MOVIE MUSIC ON THE WINDSOR GREEN IN SO CO PHIL SEASON OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 3, 2021
People approaching the Windsor Green bandstand Oct. 3 for the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s season opening concert had some cause for concern. After 18 months of silence would the all-volunteer orchestra have enough musicians for a big movie music program? After all, performers can move, retire, or
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY RETURNS IN TRIUMPH
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 3, 2021
It is often the case that a single piece or performer steals the show at a symphony concert, but at the Oct. 3 performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the show itself stole the show. The concert opened with a serene 1982 tone poem by Libby Larsen, followed by a masterful performance by soloist Julia
Symphony
TWO WIND SOLOISTS CHARM AT SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 26, 2021
The house of music has many rooms. That dusty adage was never truer than when Weill Hall Sept. 25 hosted a roaring New Orleans-style musical party, and less than a day later a mostly sedate Sonoma State University student orchestra performance. Before a crowd of 200 conductor Alexander Kahn led a
Other
CLEARY'S NEW ORLEANS BAND IGNITES PARTY FOR THE GREEN AT SSU
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 25, 2021
A dramatic and unique start to the new Green Music’s Center’ 2021-2022 season exploded in a “Party for the Green” Sept. 25, a New Orleans (NO) style commotion featuring Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen band, inside and outside of Weill Hall. Beginning with a private gourmet dinner in t
GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Composer and Conductor Gabriel Sakakeeny

SAKAKEENY'S LION AND ROSE HIGHLIGHTS SO CO PHIL'S 20TH SEASON OPENER

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 22, 2018

Fresh from a triumphant tour in Latin America the Sonoma County Philharmonic opened its 20th season Sept. 22 in a celebratory concert in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium.

Keeping to the evening’s orchestra history and past performance, conductor emeritus Gabriel Sakakeeny, who led the So Co Phil in a tour of China, was at the podium to direct one of his own works, The Lion and The Rose, which was composed in 1987 and premiered in 2008 in a concert in Santa Rosa’s Wells Fargo Center. Mr. Sakakeeny clearly has not lost his mastery of balances and orchestra color, and the work has a shimmering quality that grows larger as the 15-minute cantata unfolds. The stage was crowded with 29 singers from the California Redwood Chorale, the 49-member Philharmonic and the powerful mezzo-soprano Sophia Santulli.

In remarks to the audience of 200 Mr. Sakakeeny characterized the work as a “musical rendering of a poem that interprets the gradual relinquishing of mind and ego in the course of spiritual meditation,” and a “timeless experience of delight and awe.” Whether the composer’s musical description generated a clear conception is subject to some question, but it’s a beguiling work that flows easily to the ear and at several climaxes packs a potent sonic picture.

Throughout the picturesque piece novel instrumental effects were heard – wood block taps, harp and marimba chime-like notes, timpani and horn interplay. What were barely audible was the piano part (only in Shostakovich’s orchestra works can I hear the piano) and the Chorale standing stage rear. Ms. Santulli’s singing, often in melisma, mixed artfully in ensemble under the composer’s baton, and at the biggest climax actually soared over the orchestra. Her words “Thy Will Be Done” put a stamp of finality to a long crescendo of sound, leavened only slightly by the entry of the Chorale. Pam Otsuka’s violin solo blended beautifully with the playing from the harp (Christina Kopriva), marimba and Ms. Santulli’s elegant singing.

Audience reaction generated the loudest ovation of the concert, with Ms. Santulli and Mr. Sakakeeny beaming with delight center stage.

In his 20-minute pre concert remarks to the audience conductor Norman Gamboa suggested that though the works of the first half had substantial merit, they might be forgotten when the warm themes of Dvorák were heard and would stay in the mind while driving home. It was so. It’s interesting that since about 1960 Dvorak has increasingly been found on concert programs, similar to piano programs with Schubert. He is popular. The D Minor Symphony (No. 7) from 1885 is arguably the Czech composer’s best, and was supposedly written to mirror Brahms’ F Major Symphony. For me it’s an odd and wrong juxtaposition, as the Brahms Third is lyrical throughout, and the Dvorák darkly intense in its four movements.

Mr. Gamboa was at the podium for the Symphony and drew a cohesive and potent interpretation, surprisingly leading without score. Clearly he has a reverence for the music, even increasing the volume in the opening allegro maestoso to blaring climaxes that put drama into Dvorák’s wealth of thematic ideas. The key of D Minor for Mr. Gamboa is indeed drama and muscular sonority.

Rich thematic support continued in the adagio with lovely clarinet and bassoon solos, fine horn playing (Eric Anderson, principal) and concise repeated-note phrases from oboist Chris Krive. String playing in pianissimo was very good, set off by soft woodwind chords and string pizzicato. A captivating movement, played wonderfully.

Czech rhythms dominated the vivace-scherzo and there was less folksy flavor to the music than the composer’s usual scherzos. Mr. Gamboa brought out a sound that was extended and at the same time relaxed, and moved seamlessly to the allegro finale. Here there were strains of Brahms (Tragic Overture) in a chorale and theme played warmly by the cellos. Mr. Gamboa had his hands full in the tempestuous climax and change to a somber D Major, and the upper strings were stretched to keep up an even ensemble. However, he kept the momentum under control and led his orchestra to a driving, albeit dark, finish.

Henri Tomasi’s Fanfare Liturgiques opened the concert, a unique amalgam of brass playing (13 musicians) that was joined by the percussion section. There were solos galore in the 20-minute Suite, composed in 1942 and taken from Tomasi’s opera Don Juan de Mañera. Standout playing was everywhere: Floyd Reinhart’s tuba; Jeff Barnard's trombone in the Evangile section; the five horns and five percussionists; and trumpeter Tom Hyde. There was intriguing dissonance in several unison parts and jarring sound from two snare drum players. The chaste concluding Procession du Vendredi-Saint was played slowly and then became a final eruption of exalted orchestral sound.

Mr. Gamboa had sovereign control in this unique composition, as he did all afternoon.