Michelle Dulak Thomson
Michelle Dulak Thomson is a violinist and violist who has written about music for Strings, Stagebill, Early Music America, and The New York Times.
Articles by this Author
Four years have passed since ex–San Francisco Symphony Principal Violist Geraldine Walther became the newest member of the Takács Quartet, and by now the ensemble sounds as though it’s been together forever. In the first of this season’s two Cal Performances recitals (happily, the two-concert-a-year rhythm looks to be an established pattern), there were a few untidy moments. But the concert, given Sunday at Berkeley’s Hertz Hall, saw the quartet preserving and even intensifying that near-miraculous balance of unanimity and individuality that has been its hallmark since Walther joined it in 2005.More about Cal Performances »
With autumn upon us, the Bay Area's classical music groups are tuning up for hundreds of intriguing events. San Francisco Classical Voice asked several of our critics and editors to comb through the performance announcements available to date and pick their favorite choices for September through December. We've put the season in chronological order for the convenience of music-lovers organizing their datebooks. More "The Season Ahead: A Preview of Fall Concerts" »
Michael Tilson Thomas
The San Francisco Symphony’s “Dawn to Twilight” festival ended last week with a devastating double bill. Pairing Schubert and Berg might look like the sort of juxtaposition apt to work better on paper than in the event. In Wednesday’s first concert of the festival’s final program, though, two late masterpieces (one for each composer) came together in odd synergy.More about San Francisco Symphony »
It’s a strange sensation, finally hearing in the flesh an ensemble you’ve wanted to hear in concert for a couple of decades. Judging by the friends I met and talked to at the Quatuor Mosaïques’ Bay Area debut Wednesday at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church, I’m not alone in having followed the quartet for decades without having had an opportunity to hear them live.More about Cal Performances »
For those who know the quartet through its recordings — more than 20 years’ worth, spanning Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven, and stretching forward to Schubert and Mendelssohn — this first Bay Area visit by the Quatuor Mosaïques needs no recommending. But those who haven’t heard the ensemble yet are in for an uncommon pleasure.More about Cal Performances »
When violinist and co-concertmaster Elizabeth Blumenstock takes over the reins of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, as she generally does once a season, the orchestra assumes a slightly different cast, a more intimate one. Part of that comes from the exigencies of leading from the violin rather than the podium.More about Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra »
The American String Quartet, longtime quartet-in-residence at the Manhattan School of Music, has made relatively few recordings (and those mostly for small labels), and it's likely that most Bay Area chamber music lovers are unfamiliar with it. Those who have heard the ensemble, though, will remember the sinew in the sound, the acuity of the articulation, and especially the warmth and individuality of the group's inner players, second violinist Laurie Carney and violist Daniel Avshalomov.More »
The seventh season of the San Francisco Conservatory's BluePrint Project had a deliberate political cast to it. The last several months were, as Artistic Director Nicole Paiement's season-introductory note put it, “a time of economic uncertainty, war, environmental destruction, and a highly consequential presidential election.” And the last program of the BluePrint season, performed Saturday night in the Conservatory's Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall, hewed to the theme, featuring a newly commissioned work (David Garner's Shards) on the subject of war.More about BluePrint New Music Series »
We Bay Area concertgoers see a fair number of visiting soloists, but they tend to come playing with either our orchestras or their own accompanists. Violinist Julia Fischer has been here several times before — twice with the San Francisco Symphony, once with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, once in recital, and always as the star attraction.More about UC Berkeley Music Department »
The Bay Area is blessed with enough music-lovers and enough enterprising concert presenters that few musicians spend long at the top rank without swinging through here on some tour or other. Still, I suppose I’m not alone among SFCV readers in anticipating the appearance of musicians I’ve read about (or heard on record), but who’ve not yet performed here.More about San Francisco Performances »
It's not all that easy to maintain an artistic partnership if your primary job is "star." Violinist Christian Tetzlaff, stopping in at Herbst Theatre last Tuesday night under the auspices of San Francisco Performances, had just come from a grueling run of performances of the violin concertos of Beethoven (in Philadelphia, Jan. 8-11), Brahms (Rome, Jan. 17-20), and Berg (Madrid, Jan. 23-25).
Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, meanwhile, was racking up Rachmaninov Thirds in the eastern part of the country — an occupation he returns to as soon as this short duo tour is over.More about San Francisco Performances »
As a theme for a recital, "the spread of an infectious Italian Baroque style" has maybe a little too much going for it to be genuinely helpful. As an anchor for Ensemble Mirable's recent program (titled "Influenza Italiana"), under the auspices of the San Francisco Early Music Society, it did some useful work, setting a couple of fetching ground basses in the program's earlier Germanic music alongside Marco Uccellini's famous Bergamasca, and later pairing Handel with his London operatic rival Giovanni Bononcini.More about San Francisco Early Music Society »
Admirers of the Takács Quartet have had it good these past several years, due to the ensemble's two-concerts-a-season relationship with Cal Performances. The quartet's first Bay Area visit in 2009, though, wasn't to Berkeley's Hertz Hall but to Mill Valley's Mount Tamalpais United Methodist Church.More »
It's not often that anyone gets to salute a major composer's centenary while he's still there to appreciate it. That Elliott Carter's 100th birthday this week didn't get so much as a nod from any of the Bay Area's many orchestras is understandable, if disappointing.More »
It was a grand design for a concert: two string quartets, one relatively young and the other making its farewell tour, playing three new works (one quartet for each, an octet for the two together), with Mendelssohn's beloved Octet to close.
But owing to the death of Johannes Quartet violist Choo-Jin Chang's brother early last week, the ensemble's double bill at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre with the Guarneri Quartet underwent hasty rearrangement.
Music Director Nicholas McGegan began Sunday night's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra concert at Berkeley's First Congregational Church with a theatricality that, for longtime PBO fans, now seems paradoxically "homey." He crept to the podium and put his finger to his lips, urging silence.
He didn't quite get it, but went ahead anyway with the opening of Beethoven's Op. 56 Concerto for piano, violin, cello, and orchestra (the "Triple Concerto"): just cellos and basses, whisper-soft but perfectly unanimous.
Someone at San Francisco Performances is keen on completeness. After last season's three big Brahms recitals, the all-Stravinsky program that violinist Anthony Marwood and pianist Thomas Adès presented at Herbst Theatre Saturday night seemed almost an intermezzo, particularly with Pacifica Quartet's three solid hours of Elliott Carter just over the horizon next month.
Stravinsky's violin-and-piano music may occupy a similar-sized chunk of time to, say, Brahms' string quartets. But there's a difference.
There are times when it seems to me that you could drop a pail anywhere in the 17th century and find when you brought it back up that it contained enough first-rate (and, for the most part, completely unfamiliar) music for a season's worth of concerts. Needless to say, it's not quite so simple as that. Still, a couple of decades' worth of trolling those waters by Bay Area early music ensembles seems scarcely to have made a dent in the supply.More »