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

Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 California Symphony  Spaced-Out Mussorgsky
May 5, 2009

Another milestone in the history of American showmanship hit Walnut Creek’s Hofmann Theater last Sunday and Tuesday: California Symphony's claim to the world’s first presentation of a 3-D video to accompany — or rather, subordinate — a live performance of a symphonic work. The plea for more funding that followed was justified by the quality of the previous numbers on the program.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Laurel Ensemble  Passion and Absence
April 27, 2009

The interaction of passion and absence at Monday's Laurel Ensemble concert made for a memorable and at times frustrating evening at Temple Emanu-El's Martin Meyer Sanctuary.

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Critics' Picks
Sonnenberg
  • Critics Pick
April 28, 2009

The pleasures and horrors of night follow upon one another when the New Century Chamber Orchestra opens its program with Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and follows it immediately with music from Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho.

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Critics' Picks
Yan Pascal Tortelier
  • Critics Pick
April 14, 2009

The British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams is beloved for his evocation of pastoral, folk-song-infused landscapes in works like The Lark Ascending. But also on the program is a totally different “VW,” the violent, take-no-prisoners maniac of the Symphony No. 4, a piece that grabs listeners by the throat and never lets go.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Marin Symphony  Musical Menageries
April 7, 2009

Noisy music with imaginary animals from both sides of the program threatened to cage the central Mozart concerto at Tuesday's Marin Symphony concert. But the songbird in the Mozart wound up soaring above the surrounding beasts, thanks to fine playing by principals Dan Levitan on harp and Monica Daniel-Barker on flute.

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CD REVIEW
   Ekta Eclectic
April 7, 2009
Ekta means "unity" in several South Asian languages, or, as more spiritually defined in composer Brent Heisinger's album by that name, "oneness." "Eclecta," however, might have been a better title for the wide mixture of styles and influences reflected in Heisinger's music on this CD. It ventures all over the map, excluding severe modernist territory, and is very pleasant to listen to, despite the lack of an individual voice behind it. More »
Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Into the Abyss, Via Violin
April 3, 2009

"We're part of a bigger thing," declared British composer Thomas Adès in a surprise visit to the stage of Davies Symphony Hall on Friday night. His 2005 violin concerto Concentric Paths, painstakingly and passionately interpreted by soloist Leila Josefowicz and San Francisco Symphony Associate Conductor James Gaffigan, proved just that.

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Critics' Picks
Bruno Ferrandis
  • Critics Pick
March 31, 2009

Live performances of the vast catalog of symphonic music by Russian composer Nicolai Myaskovsky (1881-1950) occur with near-hen’s-tooth frequency (only two in the last eight seasons anywhere in the U.S. or Canada).

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Upcoming Concert
James Gaffigan
    March 17, 2009

    You think things are worse now than in the days of Franz Joseph Haydn?

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    Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
     San Francisco Symphony  The Best and the Beast
    March 14, 2009

    It has been said that passion arouses the best and the beast in man. On Saturday, visiting conductor James Conlon’s passion for the music to Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District unchained the beast in the music, and let it terrorize listeners in Davies Symphony Hall.

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    Festival REVIEW
     Other Minds  Ideas Many, Meals Few
    March 7, 2009

    The Other Minds Festival of New Music should rightly be proud of its track record of bringing many "other" ideas of composers from all corners of the globe to the musical table. However, an interesting idea for an ingredient is one thing; a decent musical meal, another. Although there were some distinguished exceptions, too few of the 14th festival's dishes I tasted offered enough calories, and some were overcooked.

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    CD REVIEW
       A Significant Find
    March 10, 2009

    Valentine's day is past, and the bloom is off the rose. Thirty years past my first deep acquaintance with Brahms and Dvořák, after repeatedly relishing in their many sublime creations, and enjoying flings with even the least of their compositions, my Don Juan for them is waning.

    Until now.

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    Modern Classical REVIEW
     San Francisco Contemporary Music Players  Out of the Blue
    March 3, 2009

    “Things Fall From the Sky” was the theme of Monday’s concert, yet nary a clunker of a composition felled the good spirits of San Francisco Contemporary Music Players attendees. A refreshing eclecticism replaced SFCMP’s usual emphasis on neomodernist and spectralist genres. Instead, four of the five numbers displayed neotonal, jazz-inflected, or indescribably admixed styles to keep Herbst Theatre patrons entertained.

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    Upcoming Concert
    Jeremy Constant
      February 28, 2009

      The upcoming performance of two works by British composer Ralph (pronounced "Rafe") Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) has Marin Symphony musicians lavishing superlatives as if they were CEO bankers planning year-end parties during the housing boom.

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      Critics' Picks
      Charles Amirkhanian
      • Critics Pick
      February 25, 2009

      If there is any man who wants you to participate in Thomas Jefferson's "true secret, the grand recipe for felicity," it must be Charles Amirkhanian, the executive and artistic director of the Other Minds Festival. That secret is "A mind always employed is always happy," and Amirkhanin keeps his noggin-occupier very busy in planning and inspiring his festival, and hopes many will partake of the grand recipe themselves by experiencing the program first-hand at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center March 5-7.

      More »

      Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
       San Francisco Symphony  Turnabout’s Unfair Play
      February 17, 2009

      Two works on last Wednesday’s San Francisco Symphony program; two different conductors with the same name. Kurt Masur 1 nicely portrayed the manifold strengths of Sofia Gubaidulina’s composition The Light of the End, which he premiered with the Boston Symphony in 2003. Then Kurt Masur 2 came out after intermission and cruelly exposed all the flaws of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, yet few of the virtues.

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      Archive REVIEW
       San Francisco Conservatory of Music  CMASH Shows Promise
      January 27, 2009

      You know a new group is serious about what it does when its concert program includes a mission statement, a vision statement, and five "beliefs." The "new-music repertory group" and acronym called CMASH (Chamber Music Art-Song Hybrid, pronounced "smash") hit the boards of the San Francisco Conservatory's recital hall Saturday with five song cycles and an Ave Maria by six composers, including Jake Heggie, the late John Thow, and four CMASH composers.

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      Archive REVIEW
         Pictures at a Concert
      January 13, 2009

      Images filled my head, thanks to the provocative content and sterling performances that characterized Friday's San Francisco Symphony concert. It began with Aaron Copland's extract of music for the 1940 film Our Town, based on Thornton Wilder's famous play about the timeless verities of small-town life in "Grover's Corners" (actually, Peterborough), New Hampshire. Writing in a spare, consonant, understated, and simplistic style more in the manner of Virgil Thomson than any of his other works, Copland crafted a score perfectly suited to the film's images.

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      Archive REVIEW
         No Double Whammy
      December 16, 2008

      Even in opera, where plots deal with the structure of destiny, it’s music, not words, that provides power.
      — Marcel Marceau, 1987
      A composer may write fabulous music, but a weak libretto can kill it as an opera.
      — Jake Heggie, 2008
      Every composer dreams of writing fabulous music to the perfect, dramatic libretto. Yet few, if any, operas written in the last 50 years have achieved the double whammy of having both great music and great theater.

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      Archive REVIEW
         Labor of Love
      December 9, 2008

      Many times people have asked me, shaking their heads: “How can anyone like that [dissonant, earsplitting, academic, boring, pointless, random — pick your adjective] modern music?” But the fact is, incredible as it may seem to some traditional classical music fans, many people do, as evidenced by the crowd filling the risers to near capacity in the Yerba Center for the Arts Forum Monday evening.
      The draw was a milestone of Modernism, Pierre Boulez' Le Marteau sans maître (The hammer without a master, 1955), which took up the second half of the program.

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