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!
Every year the music department of Mills College in Oakland presents a concert prominently featuring the music of Darius Milhaud, in celebration of the long and fruitful association between the college and the composer, who was in residence there for many years. On Friday, violinist Graeme Jennings and pianist Christopher Jones performed two early sonatas by Milhaud, concluding their program with pieces by Stravinsky and Carter, both of whom were among Milhaud's friends and admirers.
Milhaud's Sonata for Violin and Piano Op.1, No.3. was composed in 1911, when he was 19.
An all-Vivaldi program is a tricky proposition. The Four Seasons notwithstanding, the listening public is apt to regard an evening of Vivaldi concertos with a certain skepticism, as half-remembered jibes about "the same concerto written 500 times" float to the mental surface.
As it happens, concocting a Vivaldi program bristling with variety and excitement is dead easy, as long as you avail yourself of the wildly scored ensemble concertos clustered toward the end of the Ryom (RV) Catalog.
Oakland Opera Theater’s The Turn of the Screw is both a triumph of spirit and a stumbling of conception. The triumph, as Michael Zwiebach recounts in this week's feature, involved moving the entire company and adapting a production intended for one venue to another twice as large, all within the span of a few too-short weeks.
As for the stumble, I admit that my previous acquaintance with this opera was via the acclaimed New York City Opera production starring Lauren Flanigan.
For the past year-plus, the New Century Chamber Orchestra has been auditioning prospective artistic directors to replace the departed Krista Bennion Feeney, the orchestra's leader from 1999 through 2006. The search is nearing its end — the winner is to be announced at the orchestra's "Evening Serenade" benefit performance Nov. 29 — and the orchestra's admirers are watching with some anticipation to see what direction the ensemble will take.More »
I thought I knew Olga Borodina’s voice pretty well. But then I discovered myself seated in second row center of Zellerbach Hall. Sitting that close to the Russian mezzo, the glories of her instrument were nigh overwhelming.
Even as she was on the mend from the audible and visible affects of bronchitis, Borodina’s voice radiated magnificence. In the low- and midranges, it has an all-encompassing Earth Mother fullness and warmth that’s hard to resist.
Ensembles generally slumber through the Haydn quartets, which are often relegated to opening-number status and overshadowed by those giant works from Beethoven that so often follow them. Not so with the New Esterházy Quartet, a young ensemble devoted, as its name implies, to the works of Haydn.More »
Recent CD Reviews
Gardiner: Bach Cantatas
John Wilson Orchestra: Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies
Gordon Getty: Piano Pieces
Emanuel Ax: Variations