John Lutterman is a cellist and musicologist. He holds a D.M.A. from SUNY Stony Brook and a Ph.D. in historical musicology from UC Davis.
Articles by this Author
Last Tuesday’s performance by Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax at Davies Symphony Hall was designed to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of two of the most iconic Romantic era musicians, Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann. Piano works are the foundation of both composers’ oeuvre, but while Schumann’s lieder, chamber, and symphonic works form an essential part of the canon, Chopin’s published works consist almost entirely of music for solo piano.
Best known in recent years for his willingness to explore a broad variety of postmodern musical styles and cultures, on Thursday night Yo-Yo Ma graced the stage of the Mondavi Center at UC Davis with a program of J.S. Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites, a return to the repertoire that he cut his teeth on.
Perhaps my expectations have been colored by the approaching inauguration, but Sunday night's performance by cellist David Requiro with the Marin Symphony, now in its seventh year under the able stewardship of Music Director Alasdair Neale, left me with unanticipated though unmistakable feelings of hope for the future of symphonic music-making in the Bay Area. Unanticipated, because the last time I heard the Symphony, in 2002, with a program that featured the same solo showpiece, Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33, the performances were quite disappointing.
There was a last-minute alteration to the program that the Tokyo String Quartet, under the auspices of San Francisco Performances, presented at Herbst Theatre on Thursday, and for the saddest of reasons: Violist Kazuhide Isomura, the single remaining founding member of the group, had been diagnosed with a detached retina earlier in the day. With surgery scheduled for the following morning, it was decided that a performance of Bartók's demanding Fifth String Quartet would create too much strain on his eye. As a result, one of Haydn's most witty and masterful late quartets, Op. 76, No.
Judging from its performance at the Crowden Music Center in Berkeley on Sunday afternoon, the Afiara String Quartet faces a future both promising and challenging. This young ensemble of Canadian musicians, now in residence at San Francisco State University (as assistants to the more established Alexander Quartet), had just returned from a successful trip to the prestigious ARD chamber music competition in Munich, where it was awarded second prize.
Friday night’s performance by Europa Galante offered a long-awaited opportunity to hear some of the most colorful performers on today’s early-music scene. The orchestra’s appealing program, played on Baroque period instruments, made it easy to see why director-violinist Fabio Biondi’s exploration of unfamiliar repertoire and his imaginative rethinking of venerable warhorses like Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons have drawn such a popular following.
The Takács Quartet returned to Hertz Hall Sunday for another installment in its all-Beethoven cycle, under the auspices of Cal Performances. It was great to see that the Quartet has developed an enthusiastic Bay Area audience, one willing to forgo a gorgeous afternoon to delve into the intricacies of two of Beethoven's most challenging quartets.
Yo-Yo Ma is certainly one of the most genial and gifted soloists to grace international concert stages in recent memory. The ambitious range of his concert programming is an appealing reflection of postmodern aesthetics. He has also demonstrated an admirable commitment to bringing wider public awareness to a diverse spectrum of important musical subcultures.
A number of fine Czech string quartets have graced Bay Area concert venues in recent years, but Sunday night marked the first appearance of one of the most venerable, the Talich Quartet, established in Prague in 1964. Its current American tour has been long awaited; in fact, the group had been scheduled to perform at UC Santa Cruz in 2005, but was forced to cancel when the Department of Homeland Security was unable to process its visas in time.
Friday evening’s concert by the Russian National Orchestra at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville was filled with pleasant surprises. Programming at summer festivals tends to be conservative, seldom straying from reliably popular, crowd-pleasing repertoire.
Although Steven Isserlis had decided on his program long before hearing the sad news of Mstislav Rostropovich's death on April 27, his recital at Herbst Theatre on Thursday, which consisted entirely of Russian music for cello and piano, turned out to be a poignant and fitting homage to the great cellist and humanitarian. Isserlis had last been in town four years ago for performances with the San Francisco Symphony of Benjamin Britten's Cello Symphony, one of the many important 20th-century works written for and dedicated to Rostropovich.