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Recital
DRAMATIC DIVA SINGS WORKS OF AMERICAN COMPOSERS IN WEILL
by Vaida Falconbridge
Sunday, April 13, 2014
After opening her April 13 Weill Hall recital with the bright “The Year’s at the Spring,” probably Amy Beach’s best-known song, soprano Deborah Voigt paused for a moment to say to the audience, “When we were putting the program together, we had no idea it would be so apropos!” Continuing with the ...
Recital
RUSSIAN PIANIST, RUSSIAN MUSIC, RUSSIAN DRAMA
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 13, 2014
In the season’s penultimate Sonoma Classical Music Society concert on Sunday afternoon, April 13, Russian pianist Anastasia Dedik played an all-Russian program that was heavy on drama with just a modicum of lyricism. Two Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux opened the program, the E-Flat Minor from Op. 33 ...
Chamber
THEMATIC OPULENCE FROM THE TRIO NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 06, 2014
Northern California’s Trio Navarro presented just two works in an April 6 Weill Hall concert, an event with consummate playing, inspired drama and ample thematic richness. Schubert’s B-Flat Major Trio, D. 898, was the evening’s highlight and was familiar fare for the estimable Navarro. The wonderfu...
Chamber
LUSH ZEMLINSKY AND A PREMIERE IN ARIADNE'S WEILL CONCERT
by Nicki Bell
Friday, April 04, 2014
Trio Ariadne played a riveting concert April 4 in Weill Hall as part of Sonoma State’s Music Department Spring Series. This concert had something juicy for all musical tastes. The program spanned centuries and moods with a Beethoven pot pourri, a world premiere from an Icelandic composer, and a lus...
Recital
WARM SPRING MUSIC AND ART IN CAS ORGAN RECITAL
by Jim Harrod
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Spring brought flowers and the virtuoso organist Faythe Freese to play a joyful recital on March 23 at Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish. Both the artist and the beautiful spring weather were most welcome, and the event was part of the Creative Arts Series. Ms. Freese, Professor of Organ at The Un...
Symphony
A TOUR DE FORCE OF SONIC SPLENDOR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 23, 2014
On paper the Santa Rosa Symphony's March 23 concert in Weill Hall looked promising and even provocative, with a world-premiere concerto, a famous solo violist and two flashy Russian orchestral works. But as often is the case, in unexpected ways the whole was not equal to the sum of the parts. Behza...
Chamber
GLASS TOWER SHINES IN CATALYST QUARTET CONCERT
by Linda McLaughlin
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
A concert produced by Brave New Music and featuring the Catalyst Quartet March 18 in Healdsburg’s SHED Grange Hall was a delight from almost any standpoint, or sitting point. Unlike the first Brave New Music concert last November, this time there were no visual accompaniments (film) behind the perfo...
Symphony
NEW-WORLD ORCHESTRAL MASTERY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Orchestral splendor and dynamic contrast were the hallmarks of the American Philharmonic's (APSC) third concert of the 2014 season March 15 before an enthusiastic audience of 400 in the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Center. With the concert titled "From the New World," the music needed to d...
Symphony
AMPLE EVIDENCE OF A BRIGHT FUTURE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 14, 2014
An inaugural concert for a new area orchestra is a special deal, and the fledgling North Bay Sinfonietta’s March 14 concert in Santa Rosa’s First Presbyterian Church gave ample evidence of a bright future. Organized and conducted by Cynthia Weichel, the Sinfonietta’s 30-plus members filled the cram...
Chamber
GHOSTS AND GYPSIES USHER IN THE SPRING
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 13, 2014
As a harbinger of spring, the Boston Trio brought sprightly piano trios of Haydn and Beethoven to their Music at Oakmont concert March 13 in Berger Auditorium. Happily the long and weighty Dvorak F Minor Trio, Op. 65, didn't manage to dampen the warm afternoon's ambiance. The Dvorak performance was...
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.