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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 / Sunday, April 10, 2016
Norman Gamboa, conductor. Marilyn Thompson, piano

Pianist Marilyn Thompson April 9 Acknowledging Applause

SPANISH SPLENDOR IN SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 10, 2016

Two program staples for the Sonoma County Philharmonic have been works of a Latin flavor, and spotlighting local soloists. Conductor Norman Gamboa has mounted intriguing Central American, Mexican and Spanish works for years, and flutist Kathleen Lane Reynolds, pianists Alice Zhu Lauren Xie, and trombonist Bruce Chrisp have recently been featured.

So it was no surprise at the April 9 concert in Santa Rosa High School that these worthwhile trends continued, with pianist Marilyn Thompson playing virtuoso parts in Falla’s “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” and as an orchestra member in the same composer’s Suite from the revised 1924 edition of the ballet El Amor Brujo.

In the “nights” performance Mr. Gamboa gave the shimmering score a mostly relaxed tempo character, the acoustics of the bright hall favoring orchestra power over the piano part. Ms. Thompson had fetching short duos with violist David Hill but all through the 25-minute work the piano sound, save for the top treble, lacked brilliance against the often too loud orchestra.

In the concluding “En los jardines de la Sierra Córdoba” there were extended orchestral solo parts, eerie tremolos and explosive sforzandos for both piano and orchestra, and the soloist’s most convincing playing. This music evokes fragrant Spanish colors, and Mr. Gamboa fashioned slight hesitations in the beat that accented the rhythms. The long slow coda was played luminously.

Falla’s brilliance as an orchestrator can be spoken of in the same breath as Ravel and Shostakovich, and his 1917 Suite from the ballet El Amor Brujo was a riot of pungent sound in twelve parts, with three short vocal solos. The composer chose interesting duos to expand the sonic fabric, including oboe and trumpet (Chris Krive and Tom Hyde), Valerie White and Debra Scheuerman’s flutes and clarinetist Nick Xenelis. All evening Mr. Krive played elegant solo parts, often stating main themes. A honeyed sound from the middle of the orchestra.

In this sonic feast there were lush lyrical sections (En la Cueva, A Media noche) that Puccini would have appreciated, the piano sounding like chimes, cellist Margaret Moores’ solos and a one-time solo by concertmaster Pam Otsuka. As in the Santa Rosa Symphony’s April 4 concert that featured Falla’s “El Sombrero de Tres Picos,” the short parts here for a singer don’t seem to add much to the mix. Soprano Carmen Mitchell’s expressive voice wove in and out of the orchestral fabric, catching the dry and sporadically piercing pitches of Falla’s Andalusia inflection.

Mr. Gamboa has a penchant for these colors and rhythms, which carried over to two short works with definite Spanish flavor that contrasted well with the big Falla works: Turina’s La Procesión del Rocio, Op. 9, and Gerónimo Giménez’ Intermezzo from La Boda de Luis Alonso (The wedding…). Both are often included as openers to programs of Spanish music, and both received glowing and theatrical readings under Mr. Gamboa’s command.

The Turina was perhaps the least Iberian work of the concert, but no less sassy and brassy for it. An opening long flute solo over snare drum obbligato was taken by the conductor at a leisurely pace, capturing the “procession” of the music in a gallant way.

Gerónimo Giméniz specialized in the Spanish zarzuela dance style, and the “Boda” was a barnburner piece that hints of his contemporary Francisco Tárrega’s Castilan compositions, with rapid changes in tempos and snazzy castanet sounds. This music quickly grabs your attention and elicits some bodily “swing” in a short ten minutes. It’s hard to remain motionless when each delicious repetition returns with greater flair.

In remarks to the audience of 300 the conductor mentioned that earlier in the day parts of the concert’s pieces were played before a packed hall of Santa Rosa school children in outreach, with a large portion of them Spanish speaking and enthusiastically cheering. In the more formal evening performance the playing delightfully brought similar responses.