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. 

Articles by this Author

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?

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Critics' Picks
  • Critics Pick
November 11, 2009

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.

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  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.

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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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   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.

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Upcoming Concert
    September 29, 2009

    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 »
       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 »
      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 »
    Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
     San Francisco Symphony Yuja Wang Advancing the Field
    May 22, 2009

    Michael Tilson Thomas treated San Francisco Symphony patrons Friday to an extraordinary concert of works that advanced the field of classical music — each pushing the envelope in its own direction.

    More about San Francisco Symphony »
    Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
      Berkeley Akademie About the Size of It
    May 17, 2009

    Small fit all at Sunday’s Berkeley Akadamie concert, but medium and large were another story. The opening number, Mozart’s Divertimento in D Major, K. 136, was played by only a string quintet. It was so well done, and the First Congregational Church acoustics were so beneficial, that the five sounded like a full string orchestra.

    More »
    Chamber Music REVIEW
     Left Coast Chamber Ensemble  Saved From Drowning, by <em>The Trout</em>
    May 11, 2009

    Radical contrast was the name of the game at Monday’s Left Coast Chamber Ensemble concert. A pair of impressive but gloomy premieres weighed listeners down during the first half. Then the sun came out for the second half: Franz Schubert’s “Trout” quintet restored faith in the future, from deep in the past.

    More about Left Coast Chamber Ensemble »