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Recital
DYNAMIC PIANISM IN YAKUSHEV MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev arrived Jan. 23 at his Mill Valley Chamber Music Society recital with the repute of playing loud and fast and delivering charming introductory musical remarks to his audience. He was true to form in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church, preceding Haydn’s sple
Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, September 26, 2015
Norman Gamboa, conductor

So Co Phil Conductor Norman Gamboa

PROVOCATIVE LATIN WORKS OPEN SO CO PHIL'S NEW SEASON

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 26, 2015

Symphonic concerts with Latin programs usually have Copland’s El Salon Mexico, a suite from Chavez, and perhaps some Lecuana or Nazareth. Leave it to the Sonoma County Philharmonic and conductor Norman Gamboa to go in a different direction in their season-opening Latin Fiesta event Sept. 26 in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium.

The afternoon’s major work, Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilieras No. 7, is not as well known as numbers 1 and 5, and it the longest and darkest of the set of 8. But it’s a mesmerizing piece, and the SoCoPhil played with panache if not the last word in polish. Mr. Gamboa chose a slower tempo in the opening Prelúdio than one often hears, but all to the better to underscore the work’s tinge of sadness, thick sonority and intriguing harmonies.

Throughout the 1942 composition the conductor’s secure and gracious baton technique brought out the needed contrasts, especially in the more translucent Gigue that has clearer contrapuntal lines. And long lines they were, with standout horn and tuba (Floyd Reinhart) playing. In the following Toccata a surprising strain of movie music (Andrew Lloyd Webber?) appeared, the often blaring phrases and faster tempos accentuated by Tom Hyde’s trumpet, pizzicato playing from the bass section and fascinating percussion sounds that including xylophone and sporadically marimba. All through this Bachiana the percussionists were busy with wood blocks, tiny drums and a brass gong, often in concert with the piccolo (Emily Reynolds) and bassoonist Miranda Kincaid.

The concluding Fuga reflects Bach’s “Art of Fugue” and was a captivating capstone to the performance. It opens with the theme in cellos, then violas, then second violins and bass, and finally the first violins lead the orchestra to solos of flute (Debra Scheurman), oboe (Chris Krive) and finally three pungent trombones. Mr. Gamboa deftly let some phrases overlap, perhaps deciding that at least in this orchestral fugue unclouded sonority was not the goal.

Carlos Guzmán’s Symphony of the Volcanoes comprised the second half, a splashy four-movement suite written by the Costa Rican composer to depict the landscape and ambiance of active Central American volcanoes. In three of the movements scenes of mountains, flora and fauna were projected on the wall behind the 45-person orchestra (the section Rincon de la Vieja was omitted). The colorful display was alternatively engaging and distracting.

Much of the finest playing came in the rhapsodic sections of Poás (Spring Landscape) with piquant chimes, Nick Xenelis’ clarinet and the formidable trumpets of Mr. Hyde, Karl Johnston and Phil Beard.

An atmospheric and slightly bizarre Biribas’ Circus opened the program, part of Brazilian Lucas Galon’s five-part Circus Cycle. Short but not small bursts of orchestral color jump out of an initial soporific sound that is meant to depict a rainy day near a neighborhood circus ring in Brazil. Unique sounds from indigenous instruments abound, including the alto flute and a metal cylindrical instrument held between the hands that emits a muffled cry when a coated stick is rapidly inserted. One either likes these effects or doesn’t, and I am in the former category. A provocative sonic delight.

The conductor spoke entertainingly to the audience about the unfamiliar music in a pre-concert talk, and as in past SoCoPhil concerts a member of the all-volunteer orchestra did the housekeeping announcements. Mr. Hyde was insouciant in this role.

A small but vociferous audience was in the hall for the first of the two Latin Fiesta concerts, with more familiar fare (Barber, Copland, Gershwin) expected Nov. 14 and 15 to attract larger houses. The Orchestra played parts of the Latin-inspired works to students in the same hall the afternoon of the concert, in a bi-lingual presentation to considerable acclaim.