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Symphony
A PIANIST AND ORCHESTRA IN NEED OF A PIANO
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Sonoma County Philharmonic conductor Norman Gamboa mounted a crackerjack program Nov. 15 to end the Philharmonic's 2014 calendar year. It was a balanced menu of dramatic orchestral playing, beguiling choral works and an intriguing piano soloist in Santa Rosa's High School Auditorium. The evening's ...
Symphony
A CELLO CONCERTO FROM A DISTANT WORLD
by Terry McNeill
Monday, November 10, 2014
Several surprises characterized the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 10 Weill Hall concert, the first being an almost full house on a Monday night after the same program was heard the two previous days. The important surprise was how well the audience liked the thorny Dutilleux cello concerto, Tout un...
Recital
ROBUST PLAYING IN KENNER'S ANGELICO HALL DEBUT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 09, 2014
Europe-based Kevin Kenner chose a husky program for his Marin debut recital Nov. 9 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall, and elected three masterpieces from the Romantic piano literature. Schubert’s C Major “Wanderer” Fantasy has nearly disappeared from recital programs, but it was a deft openi...
Recital
CHAMBER MUSIC MASTERY IN VALLEJO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, November 09, 2014
The Vallejo Symphony Orchestra presented the first small group performance of its 2014-2015 season Nov. 9 in the casual setting of Vallejo’s First Presbyterian Church. Clarinetist Diane Maltester wowed the audience with stunning performances of pieces by well-known and rarely heard composers. “Dian...
Recital
FRANCK ORGAN WORKS SUBLIMELY PLAYED BY MANWELL IN CAS RECITAL
by Jim Harrod
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Organist Philip Manwell played a sublime recital of the major organ works of César Franck October 26 at Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish. The concert was a delightful treat both for those not acquainted with Franck’s organ music and for the many organists in the audience who have studied the Belgian...
Chamber
A BRUCH SURPRISE IN TRIO'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Part of the Trio Navarro’s sterling reputation rests with the rare repertoire they perform. So it was a bit of a surprise Oct. 26 in Schroeder Hall when they programmed popular works by Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. Somehow Max Bruch pieces managed to sneak into the mix. The Bruch in a way stole th...
Symphony
DARK SPIRITS IN SPOOKY ANDERSON AND ROE WEILL PROGRAM
by Sonia Tubridy
Friday, October 24, 2014
The Anderson and Roe piano duo have been a force in the music world for over a decade. Their arrangements and performances present virtuoso abilities and commitment to engaging audiences in the beauty and drama of classical music, juxtaposed with contemporary artists' music of other genres. The conc...
Recital
THREE DISPARATE SONATAS HIGHLIGHT BELL'S SR SYMPHONY BENEFIT IN WELLS
by Nicki Bell
Friday, October 24, 2014
Superstar violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Alessio Bax made the Well Fargo Center their first stop Oct. 24 on their world tour, and it was a scintillating benefit recital for the Santa Rosa Symphony. Mr. Bellʼs virtuosity and musicianship have elicited universal critical praise including swe...
Recital
IMPECCABLE ARTISTIC TASTE IN ANTON NEL SRJC RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Reporting on a recital by the Austin-based pianist Anton Nel is a predictably satisfying task. His playing Oct. 19 in SRJC’s Newman Auditorium mirrored a recital on the same stage nearly two years ago and showcased a high level of professionalism and artistry. Beginning with Mozart’s D Major "Dupor...
Symphony
BOUNDLESS BAROQUE ARTISTRY IN LIVE OAK SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Sunday, October 19, 2014
On October 19 the Live Oak Baroque Orchestra, directed by baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, appeared in the first of several concerts it is to present at Schroeder Hall in Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. The new 250-seat recital space is the perfect venue for chamber music, whi...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
American Philharmonic Sonoma County / Sunday, November 20, 2011
Barnabay Palmer, conductor

Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu

APSC WOOS WELLS CENTER AUDIENCE WITH AN AUTUMN ROMANCE

by Peter Jaret
Sunday, November 20, 2011

One measure of the maturity of an orchestra is the ability to shape its sound to the personal musical vision of a guest conductor. So far this season, the American Philharmonic Sonoma County is proving that it has come of age, playing with great sensitivity and musicality under the direction of guest conductors, each being considered for the position of permanent music director. The orchestra's first concert was led by Sonoma County native Tristan Arnold, in a technically-assured performance that got the season off to a strong start.

On Nov. 21 at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, Barnaby Palmer took to the podium to lead an ambitious program that included Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Op. 84, Elgar's Serenade for String Orchestra, Mahler's Songs of the Wayfarer and the second Brahms Symphony.

Mr. Palmer is best known for directing the San Francisco Lyric Opera Orchestra, so it's no surprise that he did an exceptional job of shaping discrete musical phrases, coaxing a rich and emotional sound from the orchestra. Beethoven's overture, which opened the program, got off to a shaky start, but the piece quickly became focused and energetic. Many of its passages were conveyed with great authority, even if the whole didn't quite add up to more than the sum of its parts. On the other hand Elgar's exquisite string serenade in E Minor, Op. 20, felt strong and coherent throughout, each of its shimmering and shifting sections seeming to lead naturally to the next. The sound was rich and sonorous, even in the dry acoustics of the Wells Fargo Center.

The first half of the concert ended with perhaps the most difficult piece on the program, Mahler's haunting Songs of the Wayfarer, featuring baritone Eugene Brancoveanu. The work is especially demanding of the orchestra as it accompanies the soloist in passages that are almost impressionistic, requiring great sensitivity to the piece's shifting tempos and moods. The music is among some of Mahler's most beautiful, and the orchestra conveyed that beauty with impressive ensemble playing. Mr. Brancoveanu is a handsome and powerful baritone who held the audience in thrall, even if his voice isn't perfectly suited to the piece's sinuous and lyrical passages. Songs of the Wayfarer requires a baritone with exceptional range, especially in the devilishly difficult higher passages, and Mr. Brancoveanu's tone was occasionally strained.

The concert ended with Brahms' D Major Symphony No. 2, Op. 73. The conductor and the APSC offered up a strong and nuanced performance of the well-known work. As with Beethoven's overture, the individual parts of the symphony, especially the second movement, were played with impressive suppleness and sensitivity, even if the larger arc of the monumental piece remained somewhat elusive under Mr. Palmer's baton. Still, playing for the first time under his direction, the orchestra did a fine job of conveying the conductor's lovely sense of musical phrasing. Perhaps that is not surprising, as many of the musicians have played with the orchestra throughout its 11-year history. Although the APSC is an all volunteer ensemble, its members count among their ranks many seasoned players.

Three more guest conductors will take the podium in upcoming months, and it will be interesting to hear how the orchestra adapts its sound and approach to their individual musical visions. Whoever is finally chosen as the next music director, he will take command of a group that now ranks among the best regional orchestras in northern California.