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Choral and Vocal
NOBLE BRAHMS REQUIEM PERFORMANCE CLOSES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach, conducted by Robert Worth, presented a truly grand finale to their 2018-19 "Light Out of Darkness" season in two sold out Schroeder Hall performances June 1 and 2. The program "A Human Requiem" was received rapturously with a well-deserved standing ovation for the main work, Brahms' ...
Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
CHAMBER REVIEW

Joan Dixon

THE ORGAN FROM SPILLVILLE TO NEW ORLEANS

by David Parsons
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Truly imaginative programming has always been a treat for me, and the October 19 recital at Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish featured a unique list of organ works, played splendidly by guest artist Joan DeVee Dixon. Although the program was not especially intended as one of recent music, the oldest music dated from 1878, and much of the rest was less than twenty years old.

The occasion for the concert was the celebration of the 2008-2009 International Year of the Organ, as designated by the American Guild of Organists. On October 19, hundreds of organ recitals were presented around the world, with the goal of entertaining, informing, and engaging new audiences for organ music, while giving seasoned listeners a fresh perspective on the organ’s expansive repertoire. For the event, two new works were commissioned, and these two were duly featured early in the Santa Rosa recital. Any new organ deserves to be put through its paces, and the Allen Quantum three-manual instrument at Resurrection was installed hardly more than a year ago, and its scores of voices/stops cry out for imaginative registrations. Dixon certainly realized this need and met it with a continual array of coloristic effects.

Dixon, Professor of Music at Frostburg State University in Maryland, opened her program with remarks about her love of all things Czech, and in particular, of the music of Antonín Dvoøák. Because Dvoøák was known to have played a particular Czech hymn tune during his sojourn in America, Dr. Dixon asked the audience to open the event with the singing of the hymn before settling down to the meat of her program. The first piece was a charming set of variations on “Three Blind Mice” by John Thompson, which appropriately employed the chimes of the organ for the chiming of the clock between the variations. This was followed by Emma Lou Diemer’s “Fantasy and Faith at Oxford”, interweaving themes from Parry’s “Jerusalem” and the Harry Potter film music. This was the most demanding music on the program, both technically and in terms of listener’s needs. Dixon is a protégé and frequent collaborator of Diemer, and has premiered many of Diemer’s works.

The two commissioned works were next, and Dixon was joined by oboist Daniel Celidore for Bernard Sanders’ serene “Ornament of Grace”. Fingers and feet certainly did have to stay true to the title of the Stephen Paulus piece, “Blithely Breezing Along”, which alternated furious toccata figuration with staccato chords in the manuals, while the pedals carried the angular melody.

Dixon next told of her annual tours to the Czech Republic, and she introduced three Czech works. Ilja Havlièek’s “Preludio Cromatico” (1995) started life as a dazzling accordion solo, and it continued to dazzle in Dixon’s organ transcription. Bedøich Wiedermann’s “Nocturne” (1942) was by turns dark, anxious, and airily rapturous. For me the whole recital’s point of repose was here at its midpoint, in the Nocturne’s middle section where distant, light flutes high on the keyboard were the most beautiful and uplifting moments of the day. Next, Jiøí Strejc’s “Concert Etude” revealed an overwhelming toccata, with pedal melody, and was described by Dixon as the Czech answer to the ubiquitous Widor “Toccata”. By the sound of it, it’s a good deal more difficult to play than the Widor

Audience participation is a good thing for raising enthusiasm, and before intermission we all got to our feet to stamp or clap out the regular beats for Scott Joplin’s “Stoptime Rag”, and then we opened the second half of the program by singing a polka-like “Congregational Psalm” from Dixon’s own “Mass for Spillville”. Spillville! Some of us had heard the name of this little Czech community in northeastern Iowa, but we were quickly reminded that this was where Antonín Dvoøák had come with his family to live in 1893, and it was from his American experiences that he drew inspiration for his “American” String Quartet in F, and his “From the New World” Symphony. We heard Dixon’s transcriptions of five Dvoøák works, including the Largo from the Symphony and the jolly Slavonic Dance No. 1. With her kaleidoscopic organ registrations through these pieces, the audience heard remarkable combinations of organ sounds, including more percussion voices.

A common criticism of organ music is that it lacks sufficient rhythmic drive. How many times have I heard intelligent listeners complain that organ playing has no rhythm! This judgment was far from the truth in the program’s final pieces, one of which was inspired by the memory of a jazzman’s funeral in New Orleans. Dixon composed sets of virtuosic organ variations on some of the melodies she heard played by the Dixieland bands, and were some of the most convincing jazz settings I have heard for the organ. “Down By the Riverside” and “I’ve Got Shoes” led to an astonishing pedal solo on “Over in the Glory Land”, and then more jazzy variations on “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and finally “When the Saints Go Marching In”, where the tune was combined with quotations from Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”. It was a suite of spirituals that were astonishing, invigorating, and certainly rhythmic.

Dixon played an extraordinary recital on an international day for the organ, and more of her art can be seen at http://www.joandeveedixon.com.