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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
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.