Jeff Dunn

Jeff Dunn is a freelance critic with a B.A. in music and a Ph.D. in geologic education. A composer of piano and vocal music, he is a member of the National Association of Composers, USA, a former president of Composers, Inc., and has served on the Board of New Music Bay Area. A photomontage enthusiast, he illustrates his own reviews.

Articles by this Author

Recital REVIEW
   Midori Does It All, and Well
February 6, 2010

Violinist Midori proved Saturday in Herbst Theatre, under the auspices of San Francisco Performances, that a healthy musical diet can consist almost solely of works written in the 1990s. Her superb musicianship and faultless programming instincts produced one of the best recent-music chamber concerts I have heard in some time.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Oakland East Bay Symphony  A Toast to Armenia
January 22, 2010

The Armenian proverb “We learn more from a clever rival than a stupid ally” was much in evidence in the second half of Friday’s Oakland East Bay Symphony concert. During that segment, the music of three little-known Armenian composers proved that derivative music can nevertheless be persuasive.

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Upcoming Concert
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    Feb. 3-6

    Will the “new” symphony by Charles Ives lift you to a higher plane, or send you running from Davies Symphony Hall covering your ears? New York critic Kyle Gann considers the Piano Sonata No. 2 by Charles Ives to be the “one perfect composition.” When he heard Henry Brant’s orchestral reconception of it a year after its Canadian premiere in 1996, he was “blown away,” calling it “The Greatest Symphony Ever (Re)Written.”

    More about San Francisco Symphony »

    Feature Article
    January 5, 2010

    Talk about shocking revelations — British composer/conductor George Benjamin, toast of the San Francisco Symphony in its Jan. 7-17 programs, gets bolts of inspiration literally, from lightning. As he related to me last month, "I’ve always been fascinated by thunderstorms; they’ve influenced many of my works. ... I remember lightning flashes I’ve seen."

    More "Into a Charged Atmosphere, George Benjamin Brings His Music" »
    Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
     San Francisco Conservatory of Music  Master Class of Wagnerian Intensity
    November 19, 2009

    It was time for students in the San Francisco Conservatory’s symphony orchestra to knuckle under. The world-famous, dandelion-headed conductor was taking time out of his busy schedule to run a master class workshop just for them. But — gasp — was he encouraging an anarchic free-for-all?

    More about San Francisco Conservatory of Music »
    Critics' Picks
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    • Critics Pick
    Sun November 15, 2009 2:00pm

    For some young musicians just learning to play together, the “infernal machine” can be the orchestra itself. Not, however, for those expert and passionate San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra players.

    More about San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra »

    CD REVIEW
      Brahms: The Symphonies Brahms, Marvelously Considered
    November 3, 2009

    Sometimes, I feel like I’ve heard the four Brahms symphonies more times than the Bay Area weather people notify me the next day will be sunny. But Simon Rattle is no ordinary weatherman in his new release of these concert-hall stalwarts. With Rattle, there's no boringly familiar, stupid smiling sun slapped up on the map, and calling it a day.

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    Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
       Only <em>Some</em> Clothes Fit
    October 23, 2009

    Wouldn’t it be nice if each composer on a program could have his own, ideal interpreter? Not so Friday night at the San Francisco Symphony concert, where hyperkinetic guest conductor Osmo Vänskä proved to be a godsend for John Adams, adequate in Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky, and too much of a whirlwind for Antonín Dvořák

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    Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
     Berkeley Symphony   Launching the <em>S.S. Berkeley</em>
    October 15, 2009

    Awesome was the recaptained ship, the Symphony Season Berkeley, as it slipped into the October-audience channel. The Symphony’s new skipper, Music Director Joana Carneiro, brought on board high hopes, boundless energy, charismatic facial expressions, and two newish pumping systems in the engine room: works by John Adams and Gabriela Lena Frank.

    More about Berkeley Symphony »
    Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
      Los Angeles Philharmonic<br>Gustavo Dudamel New Baton Whipping Up the Parade
    October 11, 2009

    As I stood in the deserted Civic Center station with only three others from the full house that had vociferously cheered the Saturday concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its 28-year-old new music-director, Gustavo Dudamel, I reflected on L.A.’s love for the automobile. Is Dudamel the city’s new Ferrari, or is he just the winning float in the Rose Bowl parade, bestowed with colorful petals and dancing girls who obscure the true vehicle underneath, be it Corvette, Scion, or Edsel?

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    CD REVIEW
       Ah, Youth!
    October 6, 2009

    If you are looking for a gift for someone beginning their odyssey into classical music, you could do worse than send them the latest DGG sampler release of repertoire standards spiced with two dances by the Mexican composer Arturo Márquez.

    Why? The conductor is Gustavo Dudamel, product of Venezuela’s world-famous El Sistema who has just taken over the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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    Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
     San Francisco Symphony  Three Notes, And Worlds of Them
    October 3, 2009

    Would you rather focus on atoms, or planets? Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas chose both and overindulged a bit in one for Saturday’s San Francisco Symphony concert.

    More about San Francisco Symphony »
    Upcoming Concert
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      Thu October 15, 2009 7:00pm

      You’re stuffed into a car trunk with three people for so many hours that, when you’re let out into the dark night, your eyes don’t work at first. To your horror, you discover you’ve been dumped off in a cemetery in a foreign country. To the sound of ghostly church bells, bizarre yellow dots flash before your eyes. As you sway from cramped limbs, you fear that your eyesight is forever damaged.  More about Berkeley Symphony »

      Feature Article
      September 6, 2009

      With autumn upon us, the Bay Area's classical music groups are tuning up for hundreds of intriguing events. San Francisco Classical Voice asked several of our critics and editors to comb through the performance announcements available to date and pick their favorite choices for September through December. We've put the season in chronological order for the convenience of music-lovers organizing their datebooks. More "The Season Ahead: A Preview of Fall Concerts" »

      Festival REVIEW
       Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music  Sublime Sounds Strike Cabrillo
      August 7, 2009

      How do you tell a hack orchestrator from a master? One composes a new sequence of sounds, the other a sequence of new sounds. And if the sequence itself has a certain cohesive inevitability about it, you have a ground-breaking masterpiece. Two of these were served up to an enthusiastic audience Friday night at the opening of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, thanks to invitations from Music Director Marin Alsop.

      More about Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music »
      Feature Article
      July 28, 2009

      Last year on the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra blog, Eddie Silva sagely observed, “Anything that’s been pronounced dead as often as classical music needs to move on to another subject. Classical music is not like a dying race track, or an old sports arena, or a typewriter. It is real estate open to reinvention.”

      More "Classical Music Personified" »
      Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
       San Francisco Symphony  San Frantastic Symphony
      July 18, 2009

      “What have you been smoking?” you say. But I saw the following with my own eyes at last Saturday’s San Francisco Symphony concert:

      More about San Francisco Symphony »
      CD REVIEW
         Donald Berman Shakes Off Some Roman Dust
      June 30, 2009
      In 1997, the American pianist Donald Berman forced open three old file cabinets in a musty attic above the Janiculum, the highest hill within walled Rome, and found enough years of work for each of his 10 fingers. Music-history buffs acquainted with the trials and tribulations of composers such as Berlioz and Ravel and their experiences with the French Prix de Rome may not be aware that a similar American institution was established in Rome in 1894 and began awarding music stipends for study in 1921. More »
      CD REVIEW
        Mahler/ Symphony No.4 in G Major Heaven Only for Engineers
      June 30, 2009
      Channel has released another in its series of Mahler symphonies under Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Symphony No. 4 in G Major. The engineering is by far the most impressive thing about it: This SACD sounded terrific, even on my non-SACD player, displaying impressive depth and clarity of tone. More »
      Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
       San Francisco Symphony  One Love in Common
      June 5, 2009

      Friday's episode of the San Francisco Symphony's Franz Schubert/Alban Berg festival showed that Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas' abundant love for the two Viennese composers' music, despite commentators' attempts to argue the contrary, was the strongest element they had in common.

      More about San Francisco Symphony »