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Chamber
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 08, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
Choral and Vocal
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
Chamber
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
Chamber
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
Chamber
BEETHOVEN'S VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT IN RAC SEBASTOPOL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, February 14, 2020
Continuing a season of Redwood Arts Council successes, the Kouzov Duo performed an eclectic Valentine’s Day concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church before an audience of 125. Beethoven’s charming Op. 66 Variations on Mozart’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from the opera the Magic Flute was a bouncy ...
LUSH BACH PERFORMANCE IN DENK'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Memorable artistic interpretations of musical masterpieces are often at extremes, and with the Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC - Book I) that Jeremy Denk played in Weill Hall Feb. 13, the pianist was only sporadically at unique or ebullient musical ends. But his playing wasn’t exactly at opposite...
BROWNE, PAREMSKI HEAD STELLAR CAST AT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 09, 2020
The Feb. 9 performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a healthy dose of 21st century music firmly bound to the 19th. Matt Browne’s first symphony, “The Course of Empire”—based on a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, who founded the Hudson River School of American painting in the 1820s—emp...
FRENCH ORCHESTRAL MUSIC A FIRST FOR THE SO CO PHILHARMONIC
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Over many years the Sonoma County Philharmonic has played little French music, but perhaps this oversight was corrected Feb. 2 in a splendid all-Gallic program Feb. 1 and 2 in the Jackson Theater. Classical Sonoma reviewed the Sunday afternoon concert. In his eighth conducting season with the So C...
Symphony
POLISH MUSICAL WORLDS GLOW BRIGHT IN NFM WROCLAW WEILL PERFORMANCE
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, February 01, 2020
The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic, with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, gave a concert of enormous energy and emotional impact on Feb.1 to a small audience in Weill Hall. This orchestra has been a major cultural force in Poland since 1949, playing under many renowned conductors and has been committed to pr...
Opera
EXTRAVAGANT ARIAS IN NEXT GENERATION TENORS GALA VALLEJO CONCERT
by Mark Kratz
Saturday, February 01, 2020
“Beautiful, strange, and unnatural…” said orchestra conductor Thomas Conlin when speaking of the tenor voice. One of the coveted voice types of the opera world, the tenor voice is known for it’s piercing tones and soaring, unnatural high notes. The iconic image of the Pagliacci clown (in the famed...
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.