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!


Chamber Music Review
October 29, 2010

Besides impeccable musicianship, Kronos offers up socially aware compositions.

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Chamber Music Review
October 24, 2010

String quartet concerts customarily feature the old masters, or the medium-old masters, and apologetically stick small quantities of modern music in the corners of the program. At Sunday night’s concert at the Kohl Mansion in Burlingame, though, the opposite plan — feature the contemporary works, and stick the old masters in the corner — was enacted by the Lark Quartet.

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Opera Review
October 24, 2010

Conventional buzz has it that Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac is a second-rate opera that has been revived solely as a vehicle for 69-year-old tenor Plácido Domingo. While it is doubtful that anyone is going to walk down the street whistling one of the 1936 opera’s extended love duets, the combination of Théâtre du Châtelet’s gorgeous production and an extremely strong cast have created the indisputable highlight of San Francisco Opera’s fall season thus far.

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Choral Review
October 24, 2010

On a drizzling Sunday, California Bach Society performed two gems of the English vocal repertory: Purcell’s ode Hail, Bright Cecilia and Handel’s Acis and Galatea, a masque. Or is it a pastoral? Or, as Handel once described it, a little opera? Whatever the genre, the Bach Society’s cheerful demeanor and an attentive audience belied the sullen weather.

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Recital Review
October 24, 2010

If you wanted to come up with a pairing of diametric opposites on a piano recital, you might choose the complete Ligeti Études and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, two monumental works that at first glance seem psychologically light years apart. This was Jeremy Denk’s Bay Area solo debut program. It promised to be an auspicious one, and I couldn’t wait to see if he would pull it off.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra Review
October 24, 2010

This symphony orchestra is so old, Franz Schubert is one of the first violinists. So what can be learned from experiencing the first visit from the Dresden Staatskapelle in Davies Symphony Hall on Sunday, an ensemble rated as one of the top five in Europe, with a 462-year-old pedigree, and it lays before you a Schuman-Beethoven-Brahms program right from their sweet spot in musical history?

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra Review
October 21, 2010

James Conlon is one of the finest conductors around, and he is also a maverick presenter of unusual programs. And so it was expected that he would bring something different to his current appearances with the San Francisco Symphony (which he first led 32 years ago), and he did not disappoint.

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CD Review
October 19, 2010

It’s a rare Pulitzer Prize winner in music who can boast a major-label recording of the winning work issued the same year as the award. Indeed, Jennifer Higdon (who won the 2010 Music Pulitzer for her Violin Concerto) would seem to be the first in a long time. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have been writing for Hilary Hahn.

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Recital Review
October 17, 2010

Classical music advocates often take a Eurocentric view of music history that leads them to question the importance of the guitar and its repertoire. John Williams deftly reverses the logic, maintaining that a global 20th- and 21st-century perspective the guitar makes a more vital contribution than any other instrument. Williams made his case on Sunday in a recital received by a packed audience.

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Opera Review
October 17, 2010

If no weapons are involved, next time I am facing a gang in a dark alley, I want Gabriel Manro on my side. Making his debut here, in the West Bay Opera’s sensational production of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, Manro is a new kind of baritone: not lyric, not helden, not Kavalier, not Bariton-Martin — none of those. Rather, he’s a knock-down baritone.

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