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.
Articles by this Author
Sure, the Cabrillo Festival showcased a trio of distinctive, lauded — and breathing — composers on its opening night program. And yes, Music Director Marin Alsop and her band played their hearts out, as they usually do. But perhaps more impressive was the most neglected portion of the classical music communication channel: the audience.More about Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music »
If you head to iTunes, you can check out a great new recording of American compositions in the live DG Concerts series, for which John Adams conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in his own work. It used to be that new classical pieces, if they got recorded at all, took years to get on a CD. But things aren’t the way they used to be, thanks to the advent of the download.More »
Which variety of love do you prefer to listen to — hapless, or timeless? The first half of the final concert of this year’s Festival del Sole in Napa Valley, on July 25, will immerse itself in both, and will require deep breaths.More »
How in the world could the San Francisco Library lead the violist Pamela Freund-Striplen to a pool, “full of old fish, blind-stricken long ago … revealed only by the croaking of consumptive frogs”? Like the best adventures, the path was circuitous, but the result was a highly imaginative program for her Gold Coast Chamber Players that absorbed lucky listeners at the Lafayette Library Community Hall Saturday night.More about Gold Coast Chamber Players »
Gustavo Dudamel brings a cheering crowd to their feet with a predictable, but audience-effective rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique symphony, while Jean-Yves Thibaudet entertains with Leonard Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety.More »
Guest conductor Christoph Eschenbach lit flames in two symphonies with the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Hall on Saturday evening. Whether he was conducting a familiar warhorse or a rarity Eschenbach made them sear.More »
For Music Director David Robertson, it’s his rubber-man upper torso and windmill arm gestures. For violin soloist Gil Shaham, it’s a puckish crouch that enables instant flitting between positions within an inch of the conductor, the first-chair violinist, or the front edge of the stage.More »
“Courageous and psychedelic” wowed one patron. “It wasn’t the Four Last Songs” (of Richard Strauss), belittled another. Such reflects the mixed reaction of audience members to the music and the vocal challenges faced by soprano Christine Brewer in David Carlson’s work The Promise of Time, the premiere of which formed the centerpiece to Sunday’s final concert of the Marin Symphony’s season.More about Marin Symphony »
“It was somewhat excessive,” recalled Lera Auerbach onstage, understating the compulsion she felt in 1999 to keep composing preludes. Not satisfied after creating 24 of them for piano, one for every possible key signature (C major, A minor, and so on), she produced a second set of 24 for piano and violin. Far from exhausting her, this only whetted her appetite, so she wrote a third 24 for cello and piano.More about San Francisco Performances »
Did the Santa Rosa Symphony on Saturday night live up to part of a public-school student poem, by “Cristobal,” posted in its concert-hall lobby?
Sounds frightful, amazing, destructive.
Beethoven, great composer —
Music as powerful as the sun.
If you plan to drive up I-80 to the next concert of the Vallejo Symphony to hear virtuoso Meredith Brown, you must be prepared to play her second-most-important instrument. No, not the French horn, but the one in which “Freeway Philharmonic’” members are extremely practiced: the steering wheel. More about Vallejo Symphony Orchestra »
Patrons flipped over the first half of Saturday’s San Francisco Symphony concert. A premiere by Victor Kissine pleased all listeners I chatted with, from the conservative to the avant-garde. And soloist Christian Tetzlaff’s subjugation of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto so electrified the audience that he received a prolonged standing ovation, convention be damned, between its first and second movements.More about San Francisco Symphony »
If search-engine hits are the Web election determining America’s most popular poet, then Emily Dickinson is currently in second or third place (along with Henry Longfellow), behind Walt Whitman. But unlike Whitman, her intensely personal poetry seeks a sympathetic reader, not a vast public sphere. And perhaps that is what drew the composer Gordon Getty to her. His song cycle on Dickinson's poetry, The White Election, will be performed, appropriately, on a Tuesday, Feb. 23.More about Cal Performances »
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.More »
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.More about Oakland East Bay Symphony »
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 »
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" »
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 »