Music Articles

Every week, our writers take an in‐depth look at an artist, program or topic of interest to us. Spend some time with this week's classical music feature, or scroll through the extensive SFCV archive for insights in many music topics.


Feature Article
June 19, 2007

The San Francisco Symphony's festival this month, "Russian Firebrand, Russian Virtuoso: The Music of Prokofiev," conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, features, quite appropriately, four pianists (Yefim Bronfman, Vladimir Feltsman, Mikhail Rudy, and Ilya Yakushev) who, like Prokofiev, grew up or received their musical training in Russia (or in two cases, the former republics of the Soviet Union).

More »
Feature Article
June 12, 2007

It's an ironic fact that these days, Handel's operas are being triumphantly presented around the world, while Christoph Gluck's are mostly ignored. Handel, for all his musical glories, was old-school opera seria — castrato singers in the primary roles, convoluted plots and subplots, and stand-and-deliver arias, one after another. Gluck, on the other hand, was the primary ignition switch on modern operatic ideology.

More »
Feature Article
June 5, 2007

It's an ironic fact that these days, Handel's operas are being triumphantly presented around the world, while Christoph Gluck's are mostly ignored. Handel, for all his musical glories, was old-school opera seria — castrato singers in the primary roles, convoluted plots and subplots, and stand-and-deliver arias, one after another. Gluck, on the other hand, was the primary ignition switch on modern operatic ideology. He streamlined plots, eliminated extraneous characters, and valued brisk staging and smart acting.

More »
Feature Article
May 29, 2007

Opera throughout its first three centuries has depended on private underwriting, aristocratic and otherwise. Where before has the composer himself been the patron? And why not?

More »
Feature Article
May 22, 2007

Opera throughout its first three centuries has depended on private underwriting, aristocratic and otherwise. Where before has the composer himself been the patron? And why not?

More »
Feature Article
May 15, 2007

When he decided to commission a modern Mass from a quintet of contemporary composers, Joseph Jennings, director of the men's chorus Chanticleer, faced some of life's biggest questions. Jennings wanted the new Mass, ultimately titled And on Earth, Peace, to represent different views of faith and people's experiences with faith. "Many people who don't go to church have faith," he says. "I wanted us to work outside of the traditional denominational religious box."

More »
Feature Article
May 8, 2007

Composer-performer Meredith Monk is a bit like a master chef who makes a career of combining seemingly outlandish ingredients, like veal and tuna, and coming up with a superb dish like vitello tonnato. Monk has been coming up with similarly inventive ideas in music, dance, acting, film, and staging since the 1960s. Outlandish combinations? Consider Monk's 1969 cantata Juice, an imposing composition for 85 solo voices, 85 Jew's harps, and two violins.

More »
Feature Article
May 1, 2007

In the last few decades, classical record bins have been increasingly filled with remastered "historical recordings" of long-past performances. Listen to some of them, particularly acoustic recordings from before 1925, and you will hear performances startlingly unlike any you would hear today: erratic tempo variations, notes played off the beat, significant slowing between sections, piano chords rolled instead of played together, strings played without vibrato but with the swooping glides known as portamento, and so on.

More »
Feature Article
April 24, 2007

There's an art to making an art song. Just ask Jake Heggie or Ricky Ian Gordon. Having each scored notable successes as opera composers, they'll share the bill on April 29, when Cal Performances presents "Theater in Song" at Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. Fabled mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and other guest singers will join them. Heggie and Gordon will preface the concert with a free talk, "The Composer's Way," at 7 p.m.

More »
Feature Article
April 17, 2007

Long before he became a world-class conductor, San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas was a devotee of the music of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. Hearing him changed Thomas' views on modern classicism. "The level of energy, the precision, the sense of time, the angularity — all gave the young conductor insight into the music he was performing," according to notes for The MTT Files, a joint production of the San Francisco Symphony and American Public Media.

More »

Pages