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Recital
TRANSCRIPTIONS ABOUND IN GALBRAITH'S GUITAR RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Saturday, September 14, 2019
Master guitarist Paul Galbraith’s artistry was much in evidence Sept. 14 in his Sebastopol Community Church recital. Attendees in the Redwood Arts Council events were initially bothered by the afternoon’s heat in the church, but it was of small importance when the Cambridge, England-based artist be...
Recital
ECLECTIC DRAMATIC PROGRAMING IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Marin-based pianist Laura Magnani combined piquant remarks to an audience of 100 Sept. 11 with dramatic music making in a recital at Spring Lake Village’s Montgomery Center. Ms. Magnani’s eclectic programming in past SLV recitals continued, beginning with three sonatas by her Italian compatriot Sca...
Chamber
PERFORMER AS PROMOTER: CLARA SCHUMANN AND MUSICAL SALONS CLOSE VOM FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 28, 2019
The July 28 closing performance of the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival could have been subtitled "Friends", as it was devoted to works by both Clara and Robert Schumann, and those of their friends and protégés Brahms and virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim, with whom Clara toured extensively...
Chamber
ROMANTIC CHAMBER WORKS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 27, 2019
Now in its 5th season the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented July 27 a concert titled “My Brilliant Sister,” featuring Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s compositions for combinations of voice, fortepiano and strings. Fanny and her brother Felix were close, and Felix occasionally published ...
Symphony
ROMANTIC DREAMS AT THE MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kayleen Asbo
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Romanticism, contrary to many popular perceptions, wasn’t simply about diving into the habitat of the heart. Romanticism began as a literary movement that elevated the power of nature as a transcendent force and sought with keen nostalgia to rediscover the wisdom of the past. The Romantics in both l...
Chamber
CHAUSSON CONCERTO SHINES IN A VISIONARY'S SALON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Ernest Chausson’s four-movement Concerto in D Major for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet (1891) is neither concerto nor sonata nor symphony, but it somehow manages to be all three, especially when played with fire and conviction by an accomplished soloist. Those incendiary and emotional elements w...
Chamber
EUROPEAN SALON MUSIC CAPTIVATES AT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Two stunning programs of 19th and 20th century chamber music were presented on July 21 and 28 as part of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival at the Hanna Center in Sonoma. Festival founders and directors pianist Eric Zivian and cellist Tanya Tompkins were both on hand to contribute brilliantly at ...
Chamber
ECLECTIC INSTRUMENTAL COMBINATIONS IN VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 20, 2019
A Lovely summer afternoon in Sonoma Valley, an excellent small concert hall, enthusiastic audience, exciting musicians and creative programming with interesting story lines. All these were combined July 20 at a Valley of the Moon Festival concert titled “An Italian in Paris.” This is the fifth seaso...
Opera
'ELIXIR' A WELCOME TONIC IN SPRIGHTLY ANNUAL MMF OPERA
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 19, 2019
In most of the Mendocino Music Festival’s 33 seasons a single evening is given over to a staged opera, with bare bones sets, lighting, costumes, minimal cast and short length. No Wagner or Verdi here, no multiple acts and complicated production demands. Light and frothy are the usual, and so it wa...
Recital
PUNGENT WALTZES AND VIRTUOSITY IN LADEUR'S SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
San Francisco based pianist Jeffrey LaDeur has become one of the most sought-after North Bay virtuosi, and cemented that reputation July 17 in a short but eclectic recital in Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village Chamber Music Series. Before 140 in the Village’s auditorium Mr. LaDeur began with Schubert...
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.