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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
RECITAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, April 30, 2017
Jonathan Dimmock, organ

Organist Jonathan Dimmock

ELEGANT ORGAN SALUTE TO THE REFORMATION

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.