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Chamber
FROTHY CHAMBER WORKS CONCLUDE VALLEY OF THE MOON FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 02, 2015
A closing concert for a summer music festival, even a new series such as the Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VMMF), should be a capstone for the series. The recent Chamberfest Concerts at the Green Music Center, with all six Bach Brandenburgs as the finale, are an example. Artists at the Festiv...
Recital
MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL SPOTLIGHTS MOZART TO BALCOM
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Completing the Mendocino Music Festival’s piano series July 22 was an energetic recital by returning Festival artist Spencer Myer. The nearly full Preston Hall audience was treated to a program, announced from the piano, that had broad musical appeal and panache. Exploring the Festival’s Mozart t...
Symphony
MOZART'S GENIUS UPSTAGES DIVA, YOUTH AND CONDUCTOR IN STERLING MMF CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Mendocino’s eclectic Music Festival gave a strong imprimatur to the Mozart theme July 22 with a radiant orchestral and vocal concert in the big white tent on the Mendocino headlands. The Overture from “The Abduction from the Seraglio” (K. 384) opened the concert in an adroit reading that was...
Chamber
CLARINET MUSIC LAUNCHES NEW FESTIVAL IN SONOMA VALLEY
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Among the several North Coast summer festivals in 2015 is a new one, the Valley of the Moon Music Festival, directed by San Francisco-area artists Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian. It’s unique in presenting seven concerts of the Classical and Romantic eras with instruments designed and mostly built wh...
Opera
OPERA BUFFA HI JINX IN ROSSINI'S BARBER AT MENDO FESTIVAL
by Ken Bullock
Friday, July 17, 2015
During his July 17 lecture before the sole Mendocino Music Festival performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, stage director Eugene Brancoveanu spoke of Commedia Dell’Arte. Mr. Brancoveanu, who sang the baritone title role of Figaro, alluded to the stylized clowning that is sometimes p...
Recital
ELEGANT SCRIABIN, CHOPIN AND GRANADOS IN MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Taiwanese pianist Ching-Yun Hu made a formidable Mendocino Music Festival debut recital July 16 in Mendocino’s Preston Hall. A full house warmly greeted the diminutive artist, and she responded with a pensive and then dramatic performance of Scriabin’s Sonata Fantasy, Op. 19. Writers refer to thi...
Symphony
SPLASHY RUSSIAN MUSIC IN MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL OPENER
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Summer music festivals season tend to be launched each season with a sparkling audience-pleasing program, and the 29th Mendocino Music Festival opening concert was no exception July 11 with an all-Russian program in the big white tent concert hall on Mendocino’s breezy bluff. Conducted by Artistic ...
Recital
FRENCH ROMANTIC ORGAN MUSIC IN NUMINA RECITAL
by James Harrod
Friday, July 10, 2015
Etienne Walhain played a magical recital July 10 of organ music of Bach, Scarlatti and Franck. Displaying total command of the Church of the Incarnation’s Casavant instrument under his hands and feet, Mr. Walhain performed his program from memory with breath taking speed, accuracy, and clean articul...
Symphony
BRANDENBURGS A SPIRITUAL GIFT IN FINAL CHAMBERFEST CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 28, 2015
“Well, you should have been there.” A trite saying used too often by concertgoers? Sure. But surely it was the appropriate adage for the final Chamberfest concert June 28 in Sonoma State’s Weill Hall. Capping a nine-event series mostly in Schroeder Hall, Jeffrey Kahane led ensembles of up to 20 ...
Recital
TWO EXEMPLARY ORGAN RECITALS HIGHLIGHT CHAMBERFEST
by James Harrod
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Baroque music aficionados and organists were glued to their seats at Chamberfest’s June 27 and 28 when Malcolm Matthews performed two amazingly perfect recitals of Baroque organ music from North Europe of the 16th and 17th centuries. The two prodigious concerts included no less than 17 selections,...
RECITAL REVIEW
Creative Arts Series / Sunday, November 01, 2009
"For The Hallows, Saints and Souls"
Leon W. Couch III, Organist

Creative Arts Series' Beth Zucchino with Organist Leon W. Couch III (photo by Roy Crockett)

COLORFUL VIRTUOSITY IN COUCH ORGAN RECITAL

by Jim Harrod
Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sonoma County hosted a magnificent exposition of the art of organ playing and interpretation on November 1 by Leon W. Couch III. Performing at the organ console of Resurrection Catholic Church in Santa Rosa and sponsored by the Creative Arts Series, Mr. Couch performed a selection of organ classics with remarkable virtuoso expertise.

The eclectic program included Buxtehude’s Praeludium in F-sharp Minor, (Bux WV 146, c 1690), Pachelbel’s Variations on Aria Sebaldina (Hexachordum Apollinis, 1699), Bach’s famous Toccata in F Major (BWV 540/1, 1707), Janet Linker’s Theme and Variations on “O Waly, Waly” (1999) and the Aria and Finale from Vierne’s Organ Symphony No. 6 in B, Op. 59 (1930).

Mr. Couch’s sensitive registration of organ stops for each of the selections was clearly the result of extensive scholarship in the selected music. The Buxtehude and the Pachelbel were performed with a large variety of flute and mutation stops typical of the north German Baroque instruments still existent today, and the Buxtehude was played with a restrained registration not often conceptualized by non-professional organists. The popular Bach Toccata was “candy-on-a-stick” with an electrically rapid pedal technique.

The only contemporary composition on the program, Janet Linker’s hymn variations “O Waly, Waly,” not only wAS beautiful but demonstrative of the organ’s flexibility in multiple musical genres. Selections from the Vierne symphony concluded the program with yet another display of outstanding pedal technique finger wizardry.

The Allen digital electronic instrument at Resurrection Parish and its excellent installation was well suited for this program. The organ has two sets of digitally sampled sounds of organ stops, one north European Baroque and one French, providing appropriate authentic voices for each of the pieces played. Mr. Couch’s program came to the audience complete with copious and scholarly program notes and spoken explanations and anecdotes by the artist before each selection. It was evident by this why he was named the Montague Teaching Excellence Scholar at Texas A & M in 2006. A most satisfying recital by a master colorist.

Redwood Empire AGO Chapter Dean Carolyn Wiester attend the recital:

This program was yet another of emotional magnitude for me, as the perfection of organ technique and interpretation by Mr. Couch was stunning. The beauty of thy stained glass windows in the church as the sun was receding was reflected in the pieces chosen by the organist, from melodic tones of minor keys in the Buxtehude and Pachelbel, to the glorious Bach Toccata.

After the European flavor of the first works, I was pleased by the contemporary American selection that included theater organ style, gospel, smaltzy jazz and sounds of Gershwin. And then finally to Paris, the seat of 19th-Century French organ music, with Vierne’s characteristic chromatic style. I could envision myself moving from the grandeur of Notre Dame’s huge cathedral to the more earthy show of spirited girls and Gallic fanfare. It was a magical organ experience.