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TWIN PEAKS AND TWIN PIANOS AT THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, May 6, 2023
Symphony
ALASDAIR NEALE’S JUBILANT FAREWELL TO MARIN SYMPHONY
by Abby Wasserman
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Opera
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Choral and Vocal
SPLENDID GOOD FRIDAY RUTTER REQUIEM AT CHURCH OF THE ROSES
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
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by Abby Wasserman
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Symphony
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by Terry McNeill
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Symphony
FROM THE DANUBE TO PUERTO RICO
by Steve Osborn
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Chamber
SAKURA AND THE MUSICAL ART OF ARRANGEMENT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 12, 2023
Chamber
WEIGHTY RUSSIAN SONATAS IN MALOFEEV'S 222 GALLERY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2023
Chamber
ARRON-PARK DUO IN CAPTIVATING OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 9, 2023
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Sonoma Bach / Saturday, January 21, 2023
C. 1600; Anne Laver, organ

A. Laver (top left) and B. Worth (bottom right) Jan. 21

ORGAN-CHOIR COMBO IN BACH CELEBRATION

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 21, 2023

Arriving early Jan. 21 for the 3 p.m. organ recital in Schroeder Hall, this reviewer found an already engaged large audience with no organ sounding. It was Sonoma Bach’s popular “Bachgrounder” that precedes each concert, and long-time Music Director Bob Worth was describing from the stage the majesty of Bach’s Orgelbüchlein that constituted the event.

The ”Little Organ Book” comprises 45 settings of Lutheran chorales, and Syracuse-based organist Anne Laver selected 12 of the chorales that Bach composed, playing them with at least two additional chorales transcribed from contemporary composers, and had each previewed in short vocal segments by Mr. Worth’s splendid Bach Choir of seven men and seven women. This combination seems first to have been done in concert by the venerable Albert Schweitzer.

From the Hall’s organ loft Ms. Laver played four notes for pitch before the mostly short chorales from Bach cantatas and oratorios, and then fleshed out the miniatures at the organ, with a video screen showing her hands and feet at the two-manual instrument.

The artist’s command of these Bachs works was virtuosic, the tempos mostly judicious even in the early Weimar period G Major Prelude and Fugue (BWV 541) that exuded infectious charm. Sporadically the organ line covered the singers, and the three quarters of a second reverberation gave each selection a lovely Schroeder resonance. Mr. Worth’s conducted from score with wide sweeping arm motions and minimal fermatas. Additional singers would have enhanced the volume of sound, though Ms. Laver’s amplified comments from the loft rail were distinct and educational.

Nun ruhen alle Wälder, the setting from the St. Matthew Passion by Jacques van Oortmersssen of the Conservatory of Amsterdam, was especially well performed. The choral singing here was in a heavenly high register and the organ line was delicately supportive, never covering. Effective interpretative flourishes abounded in Ms. Laver’s playing – low pedal board rumbles, soft tremolos, registrations with blaring horn blasts, piccolo stops, lacy right-hand arpeggios and careful sonic balances. Her speedy descending right-hand scales in “Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar” playing was impressive. Cantata 197 (“Gott ist unsre Zuversicht”, Leipzig, 1736) combined measured choir singing with an elegant organ improvisation from Ms. Laver.

Response at the end from the audience of 180 was loud, and Mr. Worth’s singers gave an encore, the four stanzas of Bach’s “Jesus Bleibet Meine Freude” from Cantata 147.

The concert was arguably the best organ event in Schroeder since Stanford’s Robert Huw Morgan’s 2015 recital.