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Symphony
HEALDSBURG PHILHARMONIA PLAYS THE RAVEN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Les Pfutzenreuter is a conductor that gets around, moving from his Ukiah base at Mendocino College and the Ukiah Symphony to festival and concert appearances with many orchestras. February 22 found him with the Healdsburg Philharmonia in that City’s Raven Theater with works of Copland and Tcha...
Symphony
CHAMPAGNE ORGY OF SWISS ORCHESTRA'S SOUND IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Orchestras on tour usually perform hefty display works to showoff their virtuosity and power. And so it was with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR) Feb. 14 in Weill Hall. Big works, weighty display. And in a surprise the compositions by Stravinsky and Ravel in the second half did the rare th...
Symphony
LENGTH? HEAVENLY LENGTH AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 14, 2015
A Bruckner Symphony performance can be a demanding task for both the orchestra and audience, as each of the nine are long and musically wandering. But not that wander are lost, as the Sonoma County Philharmonic proved in their Feb. 15 concert in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Center. L...
Symphony
BOLD OPERATIC AND SYMPHONIC CONTRASTS IN SF SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Pianist Peter Serkin and San Francisco Symphony Laureate conductor Herbert Blomstedt pulled musical extremes together on Feb. 12 in Weill Hall Symphony concert where artistic experience was a defining factor. From the warmth and humor of Mozart’s F Major Piano Concerto, K. 459, to the turmoil, drama...
Symphony
A BANDONEONIST WALKS INTO A BAR ...
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 08, 2015
Seeing a bandoneón player in front of a symphony orchestra reminds one of the old joke about a kangaroo walking into a high-priced bar. The bartender says, "We don't get many kangaroos in here," to which the kangaroo replies, "With these prices, I can see why." Likewise, if a bandoneónist were to wa...
Chamber
INTENSE STRING PLAYING IN HEALDSBURG'S ALL-POLISH COMPOSER PROGRAM
by Nicki Bell
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
A surprise program change greeted a full house in Healdsburg’s SHED Grange Room Feb. 4 when the Szymanowski Quartet from Warsaw played an all-Polish composer concert. Judging by audience comments at intermission the displacement of an arrangement of a Mussorgsky work by Penderecki’s Third Quartet w...
Chamber
KNOTTY CELLO MUSIC THAT WAS (MOSTLY) EASY TO LOVE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 01, 2015
Notable cello concerts have recently graced Sonoma County with Edward Arron’s Oakmont recital and Yo Yo Ma’s sterling solo outing in Weill. So it was not surprising that Sæunn Thorsteindóttir walked onto the Schroeder Hall stage Feb. 1 with pianist Elizabeth Roe and found a packed house of non-Supe...
Symphony
ZOOLOGICAL THEME RESOUNDS IN SPLENDID VSO HOGAN CONCERT
by Elizabeth Warnimont
Sunday, January 25, 2015
A pair of virtuosic young pianists wowed the crowd Jan. 25 at the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra concert in Vallejo’s Hogan Auditorium, and part of the proceeds from the mostly animal-themed music benefited the Humane Society of the North Bay. Symphony conductor David Ramadanoff warmed up the afternoon...
Chamber
SNAZZY CLARINET-PIANO WORKS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Often international-level instrumental duos are pickup couplings, one virtuoso’s schedule meeting another’s with the resulting desultory concerts. An exception would be the violinist Anne Sophie Mutter with her long-time partner Lambert Orkis, and the Nakamatsu-Manesse Duo. The latter played a pro...
Recital
MESMERIZING BACH AND CASALS IN MA'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Cellist Yo Yo Ma’s warm friendship with North Coast audiences entered a new chapter Jan. 24 in a standing-room only and stage seats Weill Hall recital. Playing three Bach Suites for solo cello, Mr. Ma could have echoed the young Liszt’s famous comment, “the concert is me.” But the concert was real...
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.