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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
RARE MAHLER QUARTET AT MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Piano quartets are relatively rare in the classical literature, and there are only about 40 compositions for the combination of piano, violin, viola and cello, mostly from the Romantic period of the mid to late 1800s. It therefore was special March 24 to hear three great works of this medium, perfor...
Symphony
AMERICAN CLASSICS SPARKLE UNDER KAHANE’S BATON
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Jeffrey Kahane, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s former conductor, returned to the Weill Hall podium on Saturday night, and the results were expectedly wonderful. The concert of American classics was by turns playful (Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”), emotional (Barber’s violin concerto) and triumphant (...
Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
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.