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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
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...
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.