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!


Archive Review
April 3, 2007

Pocket Opera's concert-version of Handel's Flavio, presented on Saturday at the Florence Gould Theater in the Legion of Honor, combined humor, drama, and musicianship, all signatures of Donald Pippin's company. The occasional uneven moments didn't significantly hamper the enjoyable performance.

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Archive Review
April 3, 2007

In the 40 or so years that I've been attending Richard Goode's concerts, none has failed to challenge me to hear music with fresh ears. His solo recital Monday night at Davies Symphony Hall, presented by San Francisco Performances, was no exception. In an unusual program featuring shorter works from Mozart to Debussy, Goode revealed that the intimate can be as provocative and compelling as the lengthy sonatas that form the basis of his repertoire.

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Archive Review
April 3, 2007

Having people over for the first time can be a trial. You don't know whether to say a convivial "pleased to meet you," or sit on your hands. Last week, the San Francisco Symphony's first-time guest, 54-year-old Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, did not get the full red carpet treatment from his hosting band, but he did seem to get their undivided, professional attention.

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Archive Review
April 3, 2007

The historic love-hate relationship between England and France found a musical solution Friday in Old First Church, when artists affiliated with the San Francisco Opera presented a mixed program of almost entirely 20th-century vocal works as their "Basically British X" program. Among the four composers, two are giants (Ravel and Britten), another is a venerable master (Elgar), and one is an also-ran: Gerald Finzi, who is really not in their company.

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Archive Review
March 27, 2007

Trio Mediæval returned in triumph to San Francisco on Sunday night. The Trio continues to produce hit recordings, and we are lucky that San Francisco Performances has had the wisdom to present them two years ago and again this year. In Herbst Theatre its program of religious music, grounded in 12th- and 13th-century Roman Catholic music, was expanded to include early nonliturgical music and new settings of ancient texts, as well as traditional Norwegian hymns.

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Archive Review
March 27, 2007

Everything came together beautifully in the finale of Thursday’s concert by the New Century Chamber Orchestra at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, and it was Paul Hindemith’s strikingly original concerto for piano and strings, The Four Temperaments, that was the catalyst. Composed in 1940 as a dance score for George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet, it became a signature work for the company in Balanchine’s distinctive choreography, and remains in their repertory to this day.

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Archive Review
March 27, 2007

Ah, a Takács Quartet recital. Another few months gone (the violist-groupie in me thinks), another rare chance to hear Geraldine Walther play. Only I find that I'm not really thinking about the Takács' visits like that anymore. Walther is a great violist, but the Takács with her in it is something more interesting — a great quartet, and one that seems to become greater by the minute. Sunday's all-Beethoven recital, presented by Cal Performances at UC Berkeley's Hertz Hall, the last we'll hear from this quartet for some time locally, found the players working at a fearsomely high level.

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Archive Review
March 27, 2007

Ah, a Takács Quartet recital. Another few months gone (the violist-groupie in me thinks), another rare chance to hear Geraldine Walther play. Only I find that I'm not really thinking about the Takács' visits like that anymore. Walther is a great violist, but the Takács with her in it is something more interesting — a great quartet, and one that seems to become greater by the minute. Sunday's all-Beethoven recital, presented by Cal Performances at UC Berkeley's Hertz Hall, the last we'll hear from this quartet for some time locally, found the players working at a fearsomely high level.

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Archive Review
March 27, 2007

When you think of imagery and text painting in Baroque music, you are likely to think first of the era’s early Italian composers and the madrigal tradition. The American Bach Soloists, however, remind us that despite his reputation as a composer of highly technical and complex music, J.S. Bach also turned out incredibly vivid and colorful works.

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Archive Review
March 27, 2007

Rarely do audiences anywhere get the chance to hear any full-scale choral-orchestral works other than the Messiah, which tyrannically monopolizes the Christmas season. So last Thursday’s performance of Mendelssohn’s masterful oratorio Elijah, with the inestimable strengths of conductor Herbert Blomstedt, formed the high point of at least my season. Blomstedt’s musicality and concern for details had the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus in flawless style. With him came an elegant roster of fully engaged soloists — especially baritone Alan Opie in the title role.

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