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Michelle Dulak Thomson

Michelle Dulak Thomson is a violinist and violist who has written about music for Strings, Stagebill, Early Music America, and The New York Times.

Articles by this Author

CD Review
November 30, 2010

A new CD from the New Century Chamber Orchestra is designed around Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen, and bracketed with Barber, Mahler, and live recordings. Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and her orchestra have every right to be proud of it.

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CD Review
October 19, 2010

It’s a rare Pulitzer Prize winner in music who can boast a major-label recording of the winning work issued the same year as the award. Indeed, Jennifer Higdon (who won the 2010 Music Pulitzer for her Violin Concerto) would seem to be the first in a long time. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have been writing for Hilary Hahn.

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CD Review
September 14, 2010

Not that long ago it would have been rare to find any small label issuing all 12 of Haydn’s last symphonies at one go, and borderline impossible to find them so well-played as they are on Marc Minkowski’s new set of Haydn’s “London” Symphonies, with Les Musiciens du Louvre.

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Feature Article
September 7, 2010

Chamber music is everything from traditional string quartets to So Percussion to small orchestras. You would need an entire iPhone app linked to the Classical Voice calendar to keep track of all the chamber music events in the Bay Area. Instead of an app, we have an op: Michelle Dulak Thomson, SFCV’s longtime string quartet maven, who gives you the inside scoop on five hot small ensembles playing here this fall.

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CD Review
August 3, 2010

One of the persistent pleasures in listening to whatever comes your way is that any random find may lead you to treasure. You pick up a stray gem, track its source, and suddenly uncover an entire vein of music as good. It was like that for me with Georg Philipp Telemann’s orchestral suites.

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CD Review
July 27, 2010

It’s a tried-and-true strategy for constructing programs, concerts, and CDs alike: Make certain there’s a surefire favorite in there somewhere, then pack around it as much unfamiliar music as you dare. Not often, though, have I seen it deployed as baldly as it is on the new Mozart recording by the Cleveland-based period-instrument orchestra Apollo’s Fire.

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CD Review
June 29, 2010

Something like a quarter century ago, I bought a CD of Dvořák string quartets that had the words “American Quartet” prominently displayed on its front. Only later did I discover that the American Quartet was the ensemble; the Dvořák “American” quartet that I meant to buy wasn’t even on the menu. The two other quartets that were there, though, made me avid for more Dvořák chamber music, and I went on to discover an entire cache of marvelous music that I’d never heard of.The Emerson Quartet’s new three-CD Dvořák box might work the same magic on another set of listeners.

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CD Review
May 25, 2010

It’s not as rare as one might think, from the constant reports of the demise of the classical recording industry, to encounter great new recordings of unfamiliar music. All the same, this recent release by the Göttingen Festival Orchestra, the NDR Choir, and a stellar cast of soloists under the direction of Nicholas McGegan is rather astonishing.

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Chamber Music Review
May 4, 2010

It would not be impossible to construct a program of three piano trios more taxing than the one the Skride/Vogler Trio played last Tuesday at Herbst Theatre. It might, though, be difficult to find anyone willing to play it.

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Chamber Music Review
April 15, 2010

Word of the Kuss Quartett preceded its actual appearance here. That’s pretty much how things do happen in the Bay Area with string quartets that haven’t actually been born here, but in the case of the Berlin-based Kuss Quartett it wasn’t “word” so much as whispers.

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CD Review
March 3, 2010

As an accomplished violinist and pianist, the young Felix Mendelssohn took to piano-and-strings chamber music almost immediately. It’s not an accident that his first three published works are all quartets for piano and string trio.

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Recital Review
March 9, 2010
Unaccompanied violin recitals are sufficiently rare that the image and bio of Jennifer Koh’s longtime recital partner, pianist Reiko Uchida, made it into the printed program of last Tuesday’s Herbst Theatre recital before San Francisco Performances staff realized their mistake. It would be misleading to say that Uchida (a very fine pianist) was not missed. But Koh by herself was amply capable of holding anyone’s attention.
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CD Review
March 9, 2010

The Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider has a taste for challenges. Two years ago, in his San Francisco Performances debut recital, he gave a stunning performance of Arnold Schoenberg's late Phantasy. The Schoenberg Concerto, a monumentally tough nut, is in his repertoire; so is Carl Nielsen's notoriously difficult one.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra Review
February 11, 2010

The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra hasn't been just a Baroque orchestra for a very long time; Haydn, Mozart, and the early Romantics are bread and butter to its seasons now. Still ... Brahms? From a self-described Baroque orchestra? The Philharmonia launched their Brahms foray on Thursday night at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre, a double bill of the composer's First Serenade for full orchestra (in D major, Op. 11) and his Violin Concerto (Op. 77, also D Major), with Viktoria Mullova as soloist.

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Chamber Music Review
January 31, 2010

There is a rough protocol for establishing a name as a newish chamber ensemble. It involves, among other things, programming carefully so as to interest the people whose opinions might make your name, while not frightening the horses. That means, in general, picking up and prominently featuring a work by a currently favored composer (or, better yet, commissioning it yourself, if you can afford to do so). Meanwhile, you keep the remainder of the repertoire as mainstream as it can be without actually generating comment on the fact. This is a tricky balance.

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Recital Review
January 24, 2010

A number of the audience members at David Aaron Carpenter’s Sunday afternoon recital at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (under the auspices of San Francisco Performances) didn’t seem entirely sure what they were getting into. Viola? All 20th-century? Is it all going to be atonal?

Yes, viola; yes, all 20th-century; no, hardly at all atonal.

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CD Review
January 19, 2010

The Cypress Quartet is probably best known for an enterprising commissioning program that by now has added a dozen or so substantial works to the string-quartet literature. It is heartening, then, to see the ensemble stake its claim to the heart of the literature that it didn’t engender itself.

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Chamber Music Review
January 16, 2010

Voices of Music is one of those rare ensembles built from the bottom up: Founders and Codirectors David Tayler (lutes) and Hanneke van Proosdij (harpsichord) make up the bones of a continuo team that supports anything from solo singers or instrumentalists to a small orchestra. On Saturday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco, Tayler, van Proosdij, and cellist/gambist William Skeen were the backup band, as it were, to oboist Gonzalo Ruiz.

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CD Review
December 22, 2009

Eric Zivian and Tanya Tomkins have been playing together as a period-instrument cello/keyboard duo for some time, but the first that many Bay Area listeners likely heard of their partnership was as two thirds of the solo contingent in Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra’s performances of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto last fall. The only prior recording of the duo that I’ve happened upon was also of Beethoven: the sonatas Opp. 5/2 and 102/2, the “Bei Männern” Variations (WoO46), and the Op. 119 Bagatelles, downloadable from magnatune.com

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Chamber Music Review
December 10, 2009

The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s practice of commissioning companion pieces to established repertoire is such a marvelous idea that it’s strange not to see it emulated everywhere. Judging by composers’ program notes, the general concept is all over the place; composers are always, it seems, being asked to write companion works to this or that.

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