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by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Kevin Kenner’s April 8 recital at Dominican University’s Angelico Hall had been advertised as all-Chopin, but he added a detour into another seminal Polish composer-pianist, Paderewski. Several of Mr. Kenner’s teachers were Poles, he speaks Polish, and he navigated at the piano both composers’ deman...
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Organist Robert Huw Morgan’s artistry spun through the web of early variation form in a Mar. 18 recital on Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh organ. Mr. Morgan, Stanford University’s resident organist, performs a wide range of repertoire, but as he said in comments to the audience, he loves when h...
by Terry McNeill
Monday, March 12, 2018
Pianist Anastasia Dedik has been an occasional North Coast visitor, playing with her Trio in Ukiah, and in recitals in Sonoma and with the Spring Lake Village series. She returned March 12 to Spring Lake (a retirement community, with Impresario Robert Hayden) in an abbreviated recital before a pack...
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Pianist Nancy Lee Harper made an elegant North Coast debut Feb. 24 in the Concerts Grand House Recitals series in a private Santa Rosa home. Ms. Harper, for decades a performer and teacher in Portugal, has recently relocated to Northern California, played an all-Chopin recital that was comprehensiv...
by Nicki Bell
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sebastopol had is own musical salon Feb. 18 with visits to Paris of the 1830s, and side trips to Wales and Germany. Pianist Robyn Carmichael presented a concert of favorite romantic masters and their muses, loves and inspirations, with music of Chopin, Liszt Mendelssohn and Schumann. This was no c...
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 08, 2018
Ching-Yun Hu made a return Music at Oakmont appearance Feb. 8 in Berger Auditorium, reprising a recital she made in the same hall four years ago. Many of the recital’s trappings were the same, but the music Ms. Hu chose to play was decidedly different. All afternoon the pianist was in an aggressiv...
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 02, 2018
Weill hall has mounted several exceptional piano recitals, with Garrick Ohlsson’s titanic Liszt concert, and of course Lang Lang’s two insouciant but also compelling performances topping the list since 2013. But arguably the virtuoso violinists have on balance been more impressive, and thoughts g...
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
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.