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Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
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...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
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...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
RECITAL REVIEW
Redwood Empire AGO / Sunday, June 25, 2017
Robert Young, organ

Organist Robert Young

STYLUS AND PLAYING FANTASTICUS IN YOUNG'S ORGAN RECITAL

by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, June 25, 2017

Organist Robert Young gave a wonderful tour through the stylus fantasticus (fantastic style) organ literature June 25 playing a recital on the Casavant organ at Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Young recently became the organist at the Church and previously served for 20 years as Music Director at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Kenwood.

The artist designed the program around two of the giants of the stylus fantasticus, Buxtehude and Georg Böhm, both of whom had a profound influence on the development of Bach’s music that was featured in the third part of the program. Mr. Young gave informative commentary throughout the recital explaining how each piece exhibited the fantastic style as well as the relationship between the three featured composers. History now shows that Bach likely studied with Böhm and it’s known that the young Bach walked more than 250 miles to hear Buxtehude play.

Buxtehude’s Praeludium in G minor (BuxWV 149) is one of the best-known works of this style and was the perfect way to open the program. It is a text book example, starting with a free improvisatory section of technical brilliance for the hands and feet, which is followed by a quieter fugal section, then a quick ritornello bridge to a grand fugue and improvisatory ending. Mr. Young brought the piece to life with his spirited playing and expert choice of different registrations (sound color) for each section.

He finished the Buxtehude section of the program with one of his most beautiful chorale preludes, “Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist,” BuxWV 208 (We now beg the Holy Spirit), which has the chorale melody as an ornamented solo in the right hand with imitative accompaniment in the left hand and pedal. It was the perfect antidote to the opening piece as Mr. Young used the quieter stops of the organ with a nice mutation and tremulant to give the melody an otherworldly feel.

Next came the first piece by Böhm, his chorale variations on “Auf meinen lieben Gott” (In my beloved God I trust). Böhm is credited with developing the Chorale Partita form and this set of four manuals-only variations was a perfect little example of his craft. While less free than some of the wild Praeludia of the time, it definitely exhibited elements of the fantastic style with the first variation opening with a flourish of running sixteenth notes and an ornamented melody followed by a fugal variation, which Mr. Young nicely contrasted with a spikey articulation on the first and a stately elegance for the fugue as well as with his choice of registration, choosing overtone laden mutations for the first and clean, clear principals for the fugue. The third variation was a bicinium (two-part piece) with an interesting basso continuo voice, highlighted nicely with a cornet stop, which accompanied a mostly unadorned melody in the right hand. The set finished with a grand trio that devolves back into a few measures of technical bravado showing that even when trying to be more restrained, the fantastic style still comes through!

The Böhm section finished with one of his non-partita chorale preludes, “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ” (Praise be to you, Jesus Christ) which provided a welcome moment of rest after the energetic partita. Mr. Young played on the quiet bourdon stops of the organ with a lovely legato touch for the accompaniment and a pleasantly nasal reed for the plaintive character of the melody.

Then it was time for Bach, but youthful pieces that still clearly exhibit the influences of the stylus fantasticus masters, Buxtehude and Böhm.

Bach’s “O Gott, du frommer Gott,” BWV 767 (O God, you righteous God) is one of his chorale partitas with many of the same figurations and textures of the Böhm example earlier in the program, but Bach is always extending things, including the chorale and eight variations! It opens with a simple statement of the choral which Mr. Young played on the organ’s singing principal sounds and continues through eight wonderfully different manuals-only settings of the chorale from two-part to trios to a grand finale which some have conjectured was influenced by the French dialogue organ style with contrasting forte and piano phrases. Mr. Young kept the listener’s attention with a wide array of registrations giving us a nice tour of the Casavant’s tonal palette.

The Bach section closed with his two settings of “Jesus Christus, unser Heiland,” BWV 665 & 666 (Jesus Christ, our Savior) from the Leipzig Chorales. Mr. Young’s interpretation of BWV 665 was very dramatic with near full organ in the manuals for the running sixteenth notes and a resounding reed highlighting the quarter note melody in the pedal. It was everything people expect when they think of organ music and Mr. Young did not disappoint. BWV 666 is more introspective with a lilting 12/8 meter and the melody unadorned in the soprano. The artist’s choice of a simple quiet flute stop allowed the listener to focus on the beauty of the figuration which moves from tranquil eighth notes in the beginning to flowing sixteenths in the last half of the piece.

The concert closed with Böhm’s most enigmatic piece, his “Präludium, fuge und postludium” in G Minor, which is equally effective on the organ or harpsichord. It is a wild piece and Mr. Young even commented that it looks crazy on the page and it took him a while to get his head around the work. The Präludium throws you off from the beginning as it starts on beat two of a triple meter and continues building up a relentless series of half-note chords from a single bass note up to six voices. The fugal section doesn’t provide any rest as the spritely subject keeps the energy going right into the postludium, which provides a mirror to the präludium with a series of downward sixteenth note arpeggios that drive to a chordal full-organ adagio. Mr. Young warned us not to clap too early as once we think the piece is over, there will still be the postludium to come.

It was a great end to the concert and the large audience showed their appreciation with enthusiastic applause. A member of the Vestry at Incarnation thanked Robert and said it was wonderful to have someone who can make their organ sing so beautifully each Sunday. There was no encore, which was welcome given the heat of the afternoon.