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 Orchestra/Orchestra Review
October 17, 2010

Harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen, heard Sunday with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in Berkeley, is an interpretive genius. And, it was little surprise that pairing one of America’s great period orchestras with a harpsichordist of such dramatic flair would produce impressive results.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra Review
October 16, 2010

Symphony Silicon Valley’s showcase of Hungary came in an exploration in the obscure but worthy corners of the repertoire and a young and dazzling solo performer. Three works by modern Hungarian composers of the same generation, plus three by foreigners evoking the country, were saved from being too much of the same thing by liveliness and a riot of orchestral color.

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Chamber Music Review
October 13, 2010

The Kronos Quartet have taken program-planning to a new level, stitching together works by 12 different composers, played without pause and with carefully planned segues. In doing so, the group essentially created a new 90-minute masterpiece: Awakening, a “musical meditation on the anniversary of 9/11.” The program was first played on Sept. 11, 2006 and was repeated on Wednesday, as the opening concert of Stanford Lively Arts' season.

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CD Review
October 12, 2010

“Recorded Music of the African Diaspora” is the first release of what promises to be a series in a partnership between Albany Records and the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago. This series starter can be strongly recommended for the Wilson song cycle.

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Opera Review
October 12, 2010

Can Madama Butterfly fail? “Impossible,” say some 195 performances by the San Francisco Opera alone. Only La bohème is more often performed, and that by a whisker. Both present us with a transient happiness whose precious fragility can never survive the pathos — the inescapable sadness — that is the destiny of human life.

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Chamber Music Review
October 10, 2010

It seemed an exciting if daunting prospect: hearing all of Beethoven’s cello sonatas at one sitting. Chamber music has a way of enlivening performers and audiences, and of inspiring them in ways that the solo and concerto literature, with its focus on the individual artist, often can’t. Cal Performances gave us the chance to witness Beethoven’s development from kid-wonder to the visionary master he was to become.

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Chamber Music Review
October 10, 2010

On Sunday, the Czech Nonet opened the Morrison Artists Series’ 55th season, curated by a new artistic director, composer Ronald Caltabiano. It was heartening to see a large audience (including many students) turn out for Sunday’s well-balanced, relevant, and brilliantly executed program.

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Chamber Music Review
October 9, 2010

Never have I understood the term “Papa Haydn” more clearly than I did at the Takács Quartet concert Saturday at Herbst Theatre, presented by San Francisco Performances. To open a string quartet concert with Haydn is standard procedure, but the Takács brought a distinct connection to Haydn.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra Review
October 7, 2010

The San Francisco Symphony has been placing its musicians in the solo spotlight this fall, and the results have been good enough to make you wonder if we couldn’t do without high-priced imports more often.

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CD Review
October 5, 2010

The city of Utrecht, Netherlands, is gearing up for a huge celebration in 2013 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht. The city and province of Utrecht is investing in a party that will rival the pan-European celebrations that followed the actual Treaty’s signing. One of the first anticipatory fruits of all this excitement is the Netherlands Bach Society’s recording of music written by Handel and William Croft.

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