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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by 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.