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Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, January 28, 2017
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Roy Zajac, clarinet

Clarinetist Roy Zajac Receives Applause Jan. 28 in SRHS Hall

SUBLIME MOZART CLARINET CONCERTO TOPS SO CO PHIL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sonoma County Philharmonic’s long history of featuring soloists from the neighborhood struck gold again Jan. 28 with a ravishing Mozart Clarinet Concerto performance with soloist Roy Zajac.

Before an audience of 300 the Santa Rosa High School hall the A Major Concerto (K. 626) unfolded gracefully with Mr. Zajac’s virtuosity everywhere in evidence. He played the work with the Santa Rosa Symphony several years ago, and the piece was prominent during last summer’s ChamberFest in Weill, with David Shrifin the artist.

Initial orchestra entrances were not smooth and violin section pitch wavered, but all was swept away with Mr. Zajac’s juxtaposition of insistent notes and softly floating notes, always wrapped in patrician phrasing. His mid-range tone was lovely and he is a master at the end of long phrases in letting extended thematic notes fade to the quietest of Pianissimos. The carefully gauged three step up trills in the Allegro were delicately shaped, and the roulades interweaving with the orchestra were exquisite.

Under conductor Norman Gamboa’s direction the Adagio was a captivating lament, the plaintive clarinet’s themes answered by the orchestra, and Mr. Zajac played seamless connected phrases with perfectly-weighted legato and charm. This sublime movement was the concert’s highlight.

In the concluding Rondo the horn playing was uneven but again the soloist’s command conquered all and here he beguilingly made subtle changes in the repetitions, and played unison themes with the violins. There are no cadenzas is this 1791 work but in a way each movement had ample interior cadenzas of melting beauty.

Mr. Gamboa has a penchant for changing the stage arrangement of his orchestra, and this concert’s first work (Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite) began with the basses and cellos stage right (when have you see the bass section at the back stage right?) and the second violins stage left.

This short work in five sections spotlighted perhaps the SCP’s strongest section, the winds. As during the entire afternoon slow tempos were the norm, allowing compelling playing from Debra Scheuerman (flute), Chris Krive (oboe), Nick Xenelis (clarinet) and bassoonist Miranda Kincaid. Ravel’s Suite, in places similar to the more comprehensive and later Suite No. 2 from “Daphnis et Chloé”, was well played but elicited little audience response. The French composer’s classic orchestral sonority appeared most persuasively in the “Empress of the Pagodas” movement, and Mr. Gamboa drew rich color from his winds, as he did in the following “Conversations” movement’s slow waltz with a soaring high violin solo (Mary Cornet) and harpist Kristin Lloyd.

Mr. Gamboa was in no rush to finish in the nostalgic “Enchanted Garden” but drove to more sonority with violin and viola duos and the unique bass clarinet sound. The same composer’s 1922 orchestration of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” concluded the program, and Mr. Gamboa reseated the ensemble with cellos at stage right, violas in the middle and a large percussion section at the rear. The music proved a tough mountain for the all-volunteer orchestra to climb, with often-ragged entrances and releases, weak horns and string intonation uncertainty.

The slow tempos selected were perhaps needed to insure cohesive ensemble but tended to reduce the punch of the sonorous composition, though when faster music was played in the “Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks” there was sparkle and momentum. Often between movements Mr. Gamboa wanted long sonic delays that allowed some respite, but as in the transition from the “Promenade” to the downward bass/cello passage of “The Gnome” it lowered tension and effect.

David Lindgren's trumpet work was masterly throughout, especially so in Section 6 ("Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle"). Welcome was unique sound from saxophonist Megan Rice, especially when paired with the bassoon parts and Mr. Xenelis’ chirpy clarinet. Ensemble evened out in the last two movements, and the conductor’s control and slack pacing produced the aura of majesty (with strong timpani playing of Russell Hendon) in the final “Great Gate of Kiev.”

Audience applause will full with Mr. Gamboa taking two curtain calls and recognizing members of the orchestra.

The Orchestra’s next program will be April 8 and 9 in the same hall, featuring Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (“Titan”) and Rachmaninoff’s C Minor Piano Concerto.