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by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Conventional repertoire in uncommonly good performances highlighted the San Francisco Piano Trio’s Jan. 19 concert in the Occidental Center for the Arts. Haydn’s No. 44 Trio (Hob. XV:28) came from late in his long career, when he was in and out of London, and received a sparkling reading that featu...
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 12, 2020
The Sibelius violin concerto is one of several mountains that violin soloists need to ascend before they can lay claim to stardom. Hundreds make the attempt every year, but only a few reach the top. Simone Porter, who played the concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony on Sunday afternoon, got close bu...
Choral and Vocal
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, January 10, 2020
“All over the map.” Sonoma Bach, directed by Bob Worth, has taken its audiences this season on journeys through many centuries and many lands. The programming is fresh and intriguing and the performers varied and creators of beauty and interest. The January 10 program was centered on organ works by...
Choral and Vocal
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, December 15, 2019
“Cast off all sorrows…also dance in heavenly fashion.” A volume called Piae Cantiones was printed in 1582 in North Germany, lively songs going back to the 14th century, and this treasure trove provided material for numerous composers to arrange Christmas carols over following generations, from simp...
by Steve Osborn
Monday, December 09, 2019
The Mozart Requiem includes four intermittent vocal soloists, but the real star is the choir, which is featured in almost every movement. That stardom shone bright at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s memorable Requiem performance on Monday night. The soloists were good, but the choir was superb. Located wi...
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 08, 2019
Having a new resident conductor on the podium for the Ukiah Symphony was an attractive invitation for a long-delayed visit to Mendocino College’s Center Theater Dec. 8. The insouciant Les Pfutzenreuter recently retired after decades of conducting the ensemble, replaced by Phillip Lenberg who also j...
Choral and Vocal
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Sonoma Bach Choir, in collaboration with Barefoot All-Stars Viol Consort and The Whole Noyse Brass Ensemble, presented “Sing Glorious Praetorius!” November 16 to an almost full Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. The Soloists were soprano Dianna Morgan, Christopher Fritzsche, (countertenor), m...
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Beginning with a scintillating reading of Rossini’s Overture to the Opera “Semiramide,” the Sonoma County Philharmonic performed a splendid program Nov. 16 in the Jackson Theater, and featured two additional works, one showcasing the winner of the San Francisco Conservatory’s Young Artist Award. It...
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, called “unparalleled in its inexhaustibility” by critic Thomas May, is a daunting challenge. Orchestral in concept, filled with wit and charm, melancholy and fury, it almost overwhelms listeners. Playing the frenetic Scherzo, a viol...
by Terry McNeill
Monday, November 04, 2019
It was a concert full of surprises Nov. 4 as the Santa Rosa Symphony responded to the area’s wild fires and evacuations with challenging, songful and somewhat unique music in Weill Hall. The last of a three-concert series titled "Master of the Modern Banjo" is reviewed here. The evening began with...
Green Music Center / Sunday, April 30, 2017
Jonathan Dimmock, organ

Organist Jonathan Dimmock


by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, April 30, 2017

Organist Jonathan Dimmock presented an April 30 recital in homage to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, playing Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh instrument. Mr. Dimmock is the organist for the San Francisco Symphony, principal organist for the Palace of the Legion of Honor and teaches at Sonoma State University. He is co-founder of American Bach Soloists and founding President of Resonance, which uses music in international conflict resolution.

The artist designed the program around Lutheran Chorales, which exemplify the profound effects of the Reformation on music, and Bach’s music played a central role. But Mr. Dimmock also featured music from other eras, starting with Sweelinck and continuing to Mendelssohn, Brahms and two modern composers, Bert Matter and Guy Bovet. Mr. Dimmock gave informative commentary throughout the recital and a projection monitor showed him playing at the console, giving the audience a sense of closeness to the performer who is located high above the stage and obscured by a portion of the organ.

Sweelinck’s Psalm 51: Erbarme dich, o Herre Gott - 6 variations (Have mercy on me, O Lord God) was a wonderful way to open the program. The chorale tune was clear in each variation and Mr. Dimmock’s expert choice of different registrations (sound color) for each variation was captivating throughout the piece. There was hearing a trumpet, then a singing principal and finishing with the sparkling overtones of a sesquialtera. Articulation is critical in bringing this style of music to life and Mr. Dimmock’s was impeccable, whether in the virtuosic runs or the serene slow sections. This was a perfect match of performer, music and organ.

Next came the first piece by Bach, the allegro (last movement) of his Concerto C Major, BWV 594, which is a transcription of Vivaldi’s Concerto D Major for violin. As you would expect from Vivaldi, it was very galant with Mr. Dimmock overlaying nice phrasing and agogic accents at the cadences. He also made good use of the organ’s two different keyboard divisions to contrast the tutti-ritornello and soli sections of the concerto.

Von Gott will ich nicht lassen (I shall not abandon God) by Dutch composer Bert Matter was a real treat. It starts with a simple statement of the chorale, which Mr. Dimmock played quietly, and then moved into a minimalist style, repeating short fragments of the chorale. It was absolutely mesmerizing. Mr. Dimmock’s control over the fast repeated notes never wavered, which allowed a listener to enter a trance-like state. He executed a convincing crescendo (with the help of organ stop-pullers) to a dissonant, fortissimo chord followed by an arrestingly stark silence. This was eventually broken by a short burst of minimalist figuration and a return to the chorale, which ended the piece with a soft, lush texture. It was a wonderful journey and definitely refutes the claim that “historically-informed” organs like the Brombaugh can only play music before 1750.

Bach’s Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her, BWV 676 (All glory be to God on High) from his Clavierübung III was the perfect piece to pair with the Matter, as it has a similar perpetual motion texture of running sixteenths throughout the piece. Its strict trio form can be registered to contrast the two upper voices, but Mr. Dimmock chose equal, but similar sounds for the voices, which created a fluid and transparent background from which the chorale melody would subtly emerge and recede. His playing was elegant and accurate for this tricky piece.

The first half closed with a monster by Bach, his Toccata and Fugue in D minor (“Dorian”), BWV 538. The Toccata bolted out of the gate on full organ and continued its relentless sixteenth note perpetual motion to the end. It is unique among Bach’s organ works in that it has authentic indications of where to change keyboard divisions for an echo effect, and Mr. Dimmock handled the many echo transitions seamlessly. According to the artist, the way we hear a Prelude (toccata) and Fugue played together today would be totally foreign to Bach, as they were rarely played together in his day. Therefore, the modern organist has a choice, do they continue the intensity of sound and energy into the fugue or do they create a contrast? Mr. Dimmock chose the latter, starting the fugue on the clean sound of the organ’s principal ranks, which allowed the counterpoint to shine through at the beginning, and then slowly adding stops to crescendo to fortissimo by the end.

The second half of the program explored the Romantic and modern eras with pieces by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Swiss organist Guy Bovet.

Mr. Dimmock paired the prelude from Brahms’ Prelude and Fugue in G minor and with his emotionally wrenching chorale prelude, Herzliebster Jesu, Op. 122, No. 2 (Ah, Holy Jesus). Brahms wrote very few pieces for organ and this combination provided a nice bookend of Brahms’ organ works, as the prelude was one of his early works and the chorale was one of his last. Mr. Dimmock did a fine job with the virtuosic arpeggios in the prelude and bringing out the rich harmonies of the chorale.

Mendelssohn’s Sonata VI for organ is based on Luther’s chorale, Vater unser im Himmelreich, which is his German paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father, who art in heaven). Mendelssohn was an important figure in bringing Bach’s music back from obscurity and one could sense his reverence for Bach’s art in the format of this sonata. It begins with a set of chorale variations, followed by a fugue, and interestingly, ends with a quiet andante movement. The artist played the first few variations with softer, more delicate registrations, giving the audience a feeling of the quiet before the storm that erupted on full organ in the last two toccata variations. The fugue followed on the clean sound of the principal pipes which allowed the interplay between the subject and countersubject to be heard clearly. The andante used the softest stop on the organ paired with the beautifully undulating tremulant, that gave it a serene, vocal quality.

The concert closed with a fun piece, Salamanca, by the Swiss organist Guy Bovet. Mr. Dimmock explained that Mr. Bovet would improvise a piece each year on his recital at the cathedral in Salamanca, Spain. One year the cathedral’s custodian asked him why he never improvised on a Spanish melody. So, the next year the custodian sang Bovet this melody and now it is played around the world. It begins by using a rhythmic tone cluster at the bottom of the keyboard to imitate a tambour (small drum) with the lively folk melody played on a high, fife-like sound. The organist did a great job of bringing the whimsy of this improvisatory piece to life at the beginning and then slowly turning that whimsy into the feeling of a wild dance through a crescendo to full organ and accelerando. It was a great end to the concert and fit the organ perfectly. The audience showed their appreciation with enthusiastic applause.

As an encore, Mr. Dimmock treated the Schroeder crowd to a lush, jazzy version of Erroll Garner’s iconic song Misty.