Classical Music Reviews
Every week, our professional critics attend concerts throughout the Bay Area to let you know what went well...and occasionally what didn't. Let their insights enrich your musical experiences, and feel free to share your own views!
Is there anyone in the Bay Area consistently putting together cooler programs than Nicole Paiement? Saturday's season-opening BluePrint concert, by the San Francisco Conservatory's New Music Ensemble and various guest artists under Paiement's direction, was typical of her programming since BluePrint was launched six years ago. That is to say, its design was ingenious and thought-provoking in a way that we are in danger of coming to regard as routine from her.More »
You haven't lived fully until hearing opera in a small Italian town — the smaller the better. Forget the niceties of production values and flawless performances; instead, you can revel in the most essential component of the genre: passion.
The good news is that there is no need for long-distance travel. You get unbridled, sweeping, rousing operatic passion right in the heart of Silicon Valley. West Bay Opera, 52, the West Coast's second-oldest company (after San Francisco, 84), is presenting some new and young talent in two of opera's most heated potboilers.
You would think that Dennis Russell Davies has his hands full this October, conducting Philip Glass' Appomattox at the San Francisco Opera. But Thursday night, he headed down the street to the Herbst Theatre and lent his versatility and musicianship to a piano duo performance with his keyboard partner Maki Namekawa, in a benefit for the Other Minds Festival. Each of these formidable players is a deeply musical, probing explorer at the keyboard. The duo, formed in 2003 and based in Germany, apparently does most of its concertizing there.More »
Those inclined to universalize have often pointed to the nearly uninterrupted performance tradition and seemingly unending appeal of Bach as evidence of his greatness. As part of her three-day Bach Festival, Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt was joined at Berkeley's First Congregational Church last Thursday by German cellist Daniel Müller-Schott. The concert included all three of Bach's Gamba Sonatas, plus one of the solo suites for cello and a keyboard partita.More »
One great performance, one disappointment, and one bore were offered on last week’s San Francisco Symphony program. At least, that’s how it came across on Thursday’s matinee opening in Davies Symphony Hall. Still in all, that made for a .500 batting average for the afternoon.
Guest conductor Roberto Abbado, nephew of Claudio Abbado, proved his usual able self in a program consisting of Luca Francesconi’s Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colors of Dawn (2000), Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto in F Minor, Op. 21, and Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op.78 ("Organ").
Many observers, myself included, tend to put Philip Glass in an uncomfortable box: He writes repetitive drones, he's been writing the same thing over and over for more than 35 years, he can't compose a melody worth a hill of beans, what was revolutionary in his earlier music now seems dated, and so on.More »
From the evidence of the inaugural concerts of its 80th season, conductor Bruno Ferrandis has found a secure home with the Santa Rosa Symphony. Now the third-oldest in the state, this orchestra is playing better than ever for the French maestro, clearly finding his incisive section control and sonic balance to their liking, which was something not always present under predecessor Jeffrey Kahane.More »
Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium is not a large hall, but the St. Lawrence String Quartet played there on Sunday afternoon with a sense of intimacy worthy of a far smaller venue. Not that it couldn't be heard, or anything like that. The nearly full audience hung on every note. But the quartet proved that there are other ways to provide an exciting and moving chamber music concert than by letting all the stops out.
More about St. Lawrence String Quartet »
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