Press Reviews: John Dornenburg, Viola da gamba

“(Dornenburg)…masters his instrument brilliantly. Nothing appears contrived, and it all seems to flow, forming a unified whole.  Everything stays alive. In a unique way, Dornenburg enjoys the vocal possibilities of his instrument to the fullest.  He tells a story with his gamba. Powerful passages with warm tone color dialogue with immaculately played double stops, and sensitive, almost tender sounds in the higher registers. A ‘must have’ for all fans of the viola da gamba.” Crescendo Magazine (Germany)

“John Dornenburg proves absolutely worthy of company with Savall, with his consistently articulate and elegant performances, enlivened by a tone quality and expressive range that’s as close to the human voice as a viol can achieve…a highly skilled, musically mature player…Dornenburg does all the right things here, letting his instrument sing and speak with a certain tasteful flair that both respects and indulges the viol’s full range.  This is a superbly performed and artfully recorded recital.” Classics Today
“(The C.F. Abel) Prelude is melting, luscious and emotional stuff. Behind the eccentricities of the much earlier Simpson work is an inquisitive and experimental musical mind, and Dornenburg actualizes this aspect of Simpson’s rare music with aplomb…A Chaconne by Marin Marais rounds off this gamba recital with a virtuosic wallop.”

“All of these are played with a natural flair by Dornenburg… He plays with great poise and a lovely feeling for phrasing.” American Record Guide

“Dornenburg takes the measure of this resourceful and evocative music (Marais:  Pièces de Violes IIIe Livre).  The shows of virtuosity are dazzling, and the eloquence of the slow, oratorical movements no less rewarding.”  San Francisco Chronicle

“He seems to me ideally equipped to play Marais, employing bold contrasts of tonal color that encompass the widely varied emotional content of the music in addition to the supreme synthesis of cantabile and chordal harmony employed by the composer.  There can be nothing but praise for the performances that find real eloquence in the deeply felt long lines of the Plaint...The magnificent Grand Ballet is another highlight, its dignified opening gavotte rhythm evolving to an increasingly unbuttoned display of ebullient virtuosity thrown off with considerable panache by Dornenburg... faultless ...exceptionally distinguished performances.” Fanfare

“Of the nine suites in the Troisième Livre we are given four in this recording.  They consist almost entirely of danses nobles and are played here by John Dornenburg with a glorious tone and considerable agility.  This excellent recording can be recommended without reservation.”  International Record Review

“Dornenburg is an outgoing player:  his faster dance movements tend to be extroverted, and even his allemandes have a rhythmic lilt.  Dornenburg makes some marvelous sonic points in his slow movements, employing the rich sonority of the gamba to great effect.  A clear choice (compared to Jordi Savall) is not possible:  both discs have such distinct character.” American Record Guide

“The playing is straight to the point, free of mannerism, rhythmic, lyrical and deft, with the loveliest phrasing in the slow plaintive movements which pour from Marais’ imagination.” Early Music Review

“John Dornenburg draws a deliciously characterful sound from his bass viol.” Gramophone Magazine

“John Dornenburg...played substantial parts of Marais's Folies d'Espagne variations a day after Mr. (Jordi) Savall played the work magnificently;  Mr. Dornenburg's effort, too, was creditable.”  The New York Times

“The full, ripe tone produced by John Dornenburg of Music's Re-creation is a clear winner.”  Fanfare

“John Dornenburg was superb on viola da gamba.” San Jose Mercury News

“The laurel must go however to John Dornenburg, the viola da gamba player.  His continuo playing was a model for all to follow:  alert, expert and vivacious.  His enterprising choice of solo items by K.F. Abel were carried off with great artistry.  This music is horribly demanding of the player, but Mr. Dornenburg left us all marveling at the end.”   Early Music Forum, England

Marin Marais: Pieces de Violes IIIe Livre (CRC 2429...John Dornenburg defies description with his sweeping notes and lush interpretation of Marais’ “Suite in G Minor.”   Planet Hifi

“Dornenburg's pieces for viol by Marais provided the best playing of the evening.  The muse was definitely present - his tone was rich, timing impeccable and intonation eye opener as to the virtuosic possibilities on the rare seven-stringed instrument, and was performed with relish.”
Nelson Evening Mail, New Zealand

“These works (Marais, Pieces de violes ) were perhaps the most musically interesting in the programme and certainly stunningly performed.  I hope Dornenburg returns to this country at some point and treats us to a lot more Marin Marais.”  Music in New Zealand

“It was John Dornenburg who provided the concert's highlight with a stunning example of viola da gamba playing in two of Marais' Pieces de viole .  I wish he had played more of them.”  The Dominion, New Zealand

“Impeccably stylish playing.”  The Evening Post, New Zealand

“Dornenburg played (C.P.E. Bach's) C Major Gamba Sonata with audible and visible good humor and abundant virtuosity.”  Seattle Weekly

“John Dornenburg plays the captivating Sonata in E minor for viola da gamba from Telemann's Essercizii Musici is a sensitive performance which discovers many nuances in the composer's most beguiling expressive manner.” Gramophone

“(Telemann's Sonata in E Minor) enables gamba player John Dornenburg to show that he can play with style and elegance.”  Early Music

“I do not use the term virtuoso lightly, for these performances of late 16th and early 17th-century pieces were characterized by a real sense of style and assurance.  Mr. Dornenburg plays with attack and achieves a remarkable degree of colour and variation from his controlled bowing.”  Yorkshire Evening Press, England

“Viola da gamba soloist John Dornenburg...a Bay Area treasure.” Oakland Tribune

“One is used to hearing cellists play the rapid passages and the elaborate ornamentations that Dornenburg used on his instrument, but it was quite miraculous to hear these figures being flawlessly executed on a gamba.  His interpretations have that rare musical sensitivity that blossoms only after technical mastery.”  La Jolla Light

“The gamba consort was in good hands under the direction of John Dornenburg, whereby the particularly intricate character of these pieces was presented with expertise and musicality.” Salzburger Nachrichten, Austria

“The chamber lovely.  John Dornenburg's viola da gamba soars alongside the two singers.”   CD Review

“The virtuosity of John Dornenburg is electrifying.” The British Flute Society Journal

“A highpoint of the concert was the sonata for gamba and harpsichord by Bach.  John Dornenburg's playing was thoroughly fluent and remarkably inventive.” Deventer Courant, The Netherlands

“Bach's Sonata in D for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord provided a summary of the artistic authority of the whole recital.” The Birmingham Post, England

“Ortiz's three Ricercada gave Dornenburg a fine opportunity to show his mastery of the gamba, which was further exploited in the best sense of the word by Marais' Couplets de Folies...superbly played by Dornenburg.” The Blade, Toledo

“His playing is solid on all counts.  He has a technique to toss off difficult passages without effort.”   WQED-FM Arts Magazine, Pittsburgh

“Dornenburg's solo was full of such a variety of attacks and colors that it sounded like several different instruments at once.” East Bay Express, Berkeley

“Violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch and viola da gambist John Dornenburg each performed brilliantly.” The Carmel Sun

“Among the soloists of note were Stanford's John Dornenburg, on a fiendishly difficult viola da gamba aria.”  (Bach St. Matthew PassionSan Jose Mercury News

“Viola da gambist John Dornenburg dispatched his obbligato assignments with eloquence.”  (Bach St. Matthew PassionSan Francisco Examiner

“The uniformly excellent instrumental soloists, providing thrilling contrapuntal discourse with vocalists, included John Dornenburg, viola da gamba.”  (St. John PassionSan Francisco Chronicle

“The elaborate obbligato solos (of Bach's St. Matthew Passion ) were finely played by gambist John Dornenburg.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Dornenburg's performance on the viola da gamba was outstanding.  One cannot imagine a performance finer than this.”  Coast Observer

“I particularly enjoyed the strongly positive and imaginative continuo playing of gambist John Dornenburg.” Fanfare

“Dornenburg plays the traditional dance meters so as to evoke the gestures and steps of the dancers, the character pieces with some twists that capture personality, and the virtuoso displays with brio...wonderful to hear.” Viola da Gamba Society of America News