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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 Franciscoís 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 Festivalís 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 Griffesí 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
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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 Bachís Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasnít the highl
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PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT FEATURES GORGEOUS VOCALISM
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, July 29, 2021
The 2021 Valley of the Moon Music Festival continued on July 29 with a sumptuous online offering of French songs, concluding with the second piano quartet by Faurť, Op. 45. Such a beautiful bouquet of video performances wonderfully filmed and recorded softened the disappointment of not being able to
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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napaís First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
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BOGAS' TENURE ENDS IN OUTDOOR GUALALA CHAMBER CONCERT
by Iris Lorenzfife
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The preconcert call that music lovers should gather at Gualala Arts July 25 to attend the final Roy Bogas and Friends Concert was not quite as dire as it sounded. It seems that a year of Covid 19 and an 88th birthday had combined to convince Mr. Bogas that he was working too hard. But with cellist P
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CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonomaís Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24ís video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled ď
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RARE LANG SONGS SPARKLE AT VOM FESTIVAL VIDEO RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Unexpected pleasures are often the best. Valley of the Moon Chamber Festival presented a such a pleasure last week-a July 21 recorded performance by tenor Kyle Stegall and pianist Eric Zivian in another mini-recital (very mini-just 15 minutes!) of six songs by the nineteenth century German composer
Chamber
EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Braggís Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Franciscoís Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
SYMPHONY REVIEW

Norman Gamboa and Jassen Todorov Sept. 28

ELEGANT BEETHOVEN CONCERTO IN SO CO PHILHARMONIC'S SEASON OPENER

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 28, 2019

After last seasonís schedule with one big repertoire work per concert, the Sonoma County Philharmonic opened its 21st season Sept. 28 with two, and both received committed if disparate performances under resident conductor Norman Gamboa.

The first half in Santa Rosaís Jackson Theater opened not with the expected overture and a concerto, but with Brahmsí Third Symphony, Op. 90. In a pre-concert talk the conductor mentioned that the unobtrusive ending of the F Major Symphony was better suited to the first half than a normal concertís conclusion with the customary dramatic finish.

Judicious tempos were the order of the day in the Brahms with a lightweight high string sound, due to just five first and five second violins, with violas and low strings seated stage left. The opening sounded both fiery and then a little ambiguous, and then Mr. Gamboa fashioned a performance that with the selected tempos was mostly restrained and controlled. In the andante there was wistful trio playing from clarinetist Nick Xenelis, bassoonist Miranda Kincaid and Eric Anderson (horn), with a shimmering and drawn-out final chord.

The ensemble playing in the poco allegretto was at times unsteady, but also had splendid combined work from flute (Debra ScheŁerman), oboist Christ Krive and Mr. Andersonís fetching horn sound in the main theme.

The finale was played with off beat accents, some odd instrumental delays and short bursts of sound. Steven Petersonís contrabassoon sound was a rich addition to the mix, and Mr. Gamboa never had his head in the score, sculpting the ending phrase with lovely serenity in the long fermata.

Musical pace quickened with Beethovenís D Major Violin Concerto, occupying the concertís second half, with San Francisco State University faculty violinist and virtuoso Jassen Todorov as soloist. This reviewer has heard the violinist numerous times in recital settings with the elegant pianist William Corbett-Jones, but in the Beethoven Concerto only once in a long ago video, with poor sound, and it seemed an off night for him. But not this night.

With a reduced size orchestra from the Brahms (no trombones, one flute, 2 horns) Messrs. Todorov and Gamboa combined to give a reading that spotlighted dynamic control and carefully graded tempos. In this music from 1806 much of the writing is in the upper reaches of the solo instrument, and here Mr. Todorov was at his best. Playing from score but only occasionally noticing it, he was everywhere secure as the long, glorious allegro ma non troppo unfolded.

The cadenza (by Fritz Kreisler) had a wonderful interweaving of line and control, and when the pyro techniques ended Mr. Todorov played the simple returning theme with reduced vibrato and melting tone over pizzicato strings and murmuring horns. It was the concertís highlight, every note a telling one, every note touching your heart.

In the lovely larghetto ensemble attacks lacked precision but Mr. Gamboa also drew fine pianissimo playing and graceful phrasing from his orchestra, leading into the lively finale. Here the frequently repeated theme borders on the banal, but like every genius composer, Beethoven takes the tune and makes it memorable, anything but insipid. His creativity knows no bounds, something Mr. Gamboa adroitly exploited in the numerous repetitions.

Mr. Todorov again was at home in the high register and his trills were always expressive, contrasting with Mr. Petersonís low contrabassoon sound, up to a sparkling end. Audience applause was loud and long, leading to three curtain calls for both conductor and soloist, and a large presentation bouquet that Mr. Todorov graciously gave to concertmaster Pamela Otsuka.

It was an auspicious season beginning for the Philharmonic, with coming concerts in Jackson Nov. 16 and 17 featuring Prokofievís Violin Concerto No. 1. It looks like a banner year for string music and this splendid orchestra.
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