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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 it seems to be on almost every...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
Chamber
TRIO NAVARRO'S POPULAR FARE IN SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Long time Classical Sonoma readers may recall many Trio Navarro concert reviews that lauded their virtuosity and interest in rarely played repertoire. The April 8 concert in Schroeder Hall before 85 chamber music fans featured sterling performances but had a mostly conservative menu of popular trio...
Recital
KENNER'S ALL POLISH RECITAL HAS PADEREWSKI RARITY
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
Symphony
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE VOICE AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, April 08, 2018
In an April 8 Santa Rosa Symphony concert filled to the brim with instruments--electric violin, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard samplers, harps, piano and myriad drums, gongs and bells, to say nothing of winds, brass and strings--the instrument that came out on top was the hum...
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL TRIO CHARMS WITH CHAMBER MIX, AND HUMMEL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 31, 2018
At the core of the group of Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VOM) musicians is an ensemble of trios and duos, and as a trio March 31 Festival founders cellist Tanya Tomkins and pianist Eric Zivian joined British violinist Monica Huggett for a chamber music concert in the Green Music Center’s Schro...
Choral and Vocal
GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018
Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Youn...
Symphony
HAMELIN'S HUSKY MOOD IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Convention in piano recitals has the artist coming on stage and playing. Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin walked on Schroeder Hall’s stage March 25 and didn’t play for six minutes, chatting with the audience. A risk for some artists. Then most programs include a contemporary or rarely play...
Recital
VIRTUOSIC VARIATIONS IN MORGAN'S SCHROEDER ORGAN RECITAL
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, March 17, 2018
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Ivalah Allen soprano; Mark Kratz, tenor; Igor Vieira, baritone

Sonoma Co Philharmonic and Singers March 17 Following Carmina Burana (JCM Photo)

ORFF AND HINDEMITH SONIC SPLENDOR AT FINAL SO CO PHIL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts are continually artistically successful but on the Santa Rosa High School’s stage the orchestra rarely numbers above 40, and in the 900-seat hall audiences can be scant. Violinists can be in short supply.

An opposite scene occurred at the March 17/18 concert set where the stage was crammed with the full orchestra and two choirs, the Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus and the California Redwood Chorale (Robert Hazelrigg, director). It looked like nearly 60 singers filled the risers. The auditorium was packed with regular So Co Phil concert attendees and groups of family members, and Carl Orff’s theatrical Carmina Burana cantata from 1937 was surely the draw for the increased numbers.

It’s a complex work that has the most sections and sub sections in a performance that lasted just over an hour. With all these forces in the mix, including three vocal soloists and the Santa Rosa Children’s Choral Academy (all seated in the first row, and directed by Carol Menke from the sixth row) conductor Norman Gamboa had his hands full. In a work of these proportions a conductor usually has “the score in his head, or his head in the score,” and Mr. Gamboa deftly paid little attention to the sheet music in front of him. He clearly has given the knotty music long and dedicated scrutiny.

Sung mostly in Latin with some middle high German, old French and some Provençal, the 25 main sections unfolded with sonic power and a bevy of fine instrumental playing: long held notes from the three trombones and three trumpets: clarinet and flute solos (Nick Xenelis and Debra Scheuerman/Emily Reynolds); and an exceptional variety of percussion effects, some opposite at stage left/stage right. Dramatic sounds came from the small xylophone, three electric pianos, chimes, bells, castanets, gourds and cymbals. Certainly more were in the percussion blend that I missed.

The composer splashed many musical references about, from oddly the Flower Duet from Delibes’ “Lakmé” to late Renaissance composers (Josquin, Monteverdi), and with some neo-Baroque rhythms from composers in the 1920s. It’s a powerful stew, the sections frequently exploding without a break.

Three soloists seemed an adjunct to Carmina’s instrumental frenzy, with baritone Igor Vierira and soprano Ivalah Allen having the most extended singing, and tenor Mark Kratz was limited to one aria sung in raw falsetto. None of the arias were congenial for the respective voices, especially for Miss Allen at the top of her range in melisma over flutes and piccolo. However, she could spin a beguiling song, as in the lovely dulcissime (Sweetest boy) section, and Mr. Vieira had snazzy hand and face movements in the “All things are tempered by the sun” movement.

An extravaganza of vivid sound, Carmina ended with fortissimo punch and Erik Ohlson’s blows on the Philharmonic’s biggest bass drum. Instant audience cheers followed, and Mr. Gamboa seemed elated at his ensemble’s accomplishment, and motioned for several instrumental soloists to stand.

Hindemith is not a composer heard much in the North Bay, but the Symphonic Metamorphosis (on themes from Weber) is arguably his most popular composition for orchestra. The four-movement work from 1943 was played wonderfully, and in no way was it a modest lead in to the demands of Carmina.

The music at turns is sassy and is full of surprising accents, particularly in the fugue. Uncovering familiar Weber themes was out of reach, given the masterly orchestra details, many slight accelerandos in the scherzo, frequent dissonant chords that jarred the ear, and as usual persuasive wind solos from Ms. Scheuerman, Mr. Xenelis and bassoonist Steven Peterson. The final marsch with timpani and chimes closed a brilliant interpretation.

With such large forces at this concert praise was needed to anoint many, but the evening’s true hero was Mr. Gamboa. Thinking of just the manifold number of attacks and cutoffs that he managed so conclusively, it was an artful demonstration of control of intricate orchestral architecture and sonic texture.

This set was the final one for the Philharmonic’s 2017-2018 season, but one more “gift” to their loyal public comes in the same Hall June 15. The Orchestra, again under Mr. Gamboa’s direction, will showcase the works they are performing on the musical tour of Costa Rica, set to be June 17-25. It will be their second international tour, as Gabriel Sakakeeny (now Conductor Emeritus) led an arduous but wildly successful China tour in 2010.