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
September 3, 2010

The Lucerne Music Festival, where Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony are heading, is an orchestral showcase, in addition to its many spectacular chamber-music events. The month-long festival opened with Claudio Abbado and his Festival Orchestra and will close on Sept. 18 with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.

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CD Review
August 31, 2010

The great long arc of the San Francisco Symphony’s Mahler Project comes to a gentle, soft landing with Songs With Orchestra, the final CD of an unprecedented undertaking.

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CD Review
August 24, 2010

A Crimson Grail was premiered at the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur, after a commission by the city of Paris. Rhys Chatham’s piece consciously makes use of the architecture’s 15-second reverberation time. The musicians surround the audience, creating a live, surround-sound experience. The Paris-based Chatham wrote the piece for a variable number of electric guitarists and bassists (astonishingly, up to 400), plus a single percussionist. The Nonesuch recording captures the work’s Lincoln Center performance.

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Opera Review
August 21, 2010

Among my umpteen Merola Program closing concerts — all memorable in various ways — Saturday’s was one of the most enjoyable. Programmed, directed, and performed with care and effectiveness, this was what opera doesn’t always manage to be: delightful entertainment.

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Chamber Music Review
August 19, 2010

A truly exciting new ensemble made its way to San Francisco Thursday for a local debut, and, hopefully, the first of many visits. The Estamos Ensemble, a collective of musicians from Mexico and the U.S., offered a potent program of chamber improvisation, with nine works, all of them premieres by Mexican and American composers.

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CD Review
August 17, 2010

Ancient and modern music techniques collide in Treasure State, a collaboration between So Percussion and Matmos. True collaborations can be tricky; new musical concepts can sometimes seem more like medicine than entertainment. But, these guys seem to be having fun entertaining each other, and the feeling is infectious.

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CD Review
August 17, 2010

Imani Winds has me confused. Its latest CD, Terra Incognita, reflects its preference for new music that pushes boundaries. But while the jazz composers it has commissioned — Jason Moran, Wayne Shorter, and one of its favorites, Paquito D’Rivera — most definitely write new music that crosses the line between jazz and classical, the Imanis for the most part play it straight.

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Festival Review
August 15, 2010

Ah! The Cabrillo Festival finale: “To hear infinity in the Mission San Juan Bautista and eternity in 97 minutes” — such was the hope implied by its “in aeternam” moniker.

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Choral Review
August 13, 2010

On Friday, Old First Concerts presented the premier concert by EUOUAE, a new chorus whose membership is drawn from many of the Bay Area’s professional and semiprofessional choirs. Formed and directed by Steven Sven Olbash, EUOUAE performed the rarely heard Messe de Tournai, a musical milestone in that the 14th-century Mass is the first-known complete polyphonic (multivoiced) Mass collected in a single manuscript.

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Opera Review
August 12, 2010

Were there the shadow of a doubt of the continuing and historic power of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to capture and move its audiences, this summer’s Seattle Opera production dispelled it, two major shortcomings notwithstanding. The leading strength in Thursday’s fourth of seven performances was appropriately the orchestra.

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