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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
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.