Tired of the usual run of jolly Christmas choral music? A nearly full house on Friday in Stanford’s spacious Memorial Church welcomed in their holiday season with a Requiem. And not just any Requiem. What the Stanford Symphonic Chorus and Peninsula Symphony Orchestra had gathered to perform under the baton of Stephen M. Sano, the Chorus’ director, was a new performing edition of the Missa pro defunctis by Antonín (alias Anton, alias Antoine) Reicha.
On Friday, the remarkable duo of clarinetist Jon Manasse and pianist Jon Nakamatsu gave a sensational recital of works that covered the period from the first half of the 19th century to a celebratory composition written for the centennial of Benny Goodman’s birth, which occurs this year.
The bill was all-Brahms on Friday at Davies Symphony Hall, for the first of two reverently anticipated performances by the Berlin Philharmonic. Right away, as if to signal this would be no orthodox Germanic worship service, Music Director Simon Rattle opened with a thorough, consciousness-altering makeover of the composer.Arnold Schoenberg’s 1938 orchestration of the Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op.
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?
“Don’t do anything correct,” he insisted. His next command was the order of business for last Thursday evening.
“Play Wagner!” exhorted Sir Simon Rattle, principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.
I have no greater joy than basking in the artistry of a great singer at the top of her form. Such was my feeling as mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, perfectly accompanied by pianist John Churchwell, began her San Francisco Performances recital Monday at Herbst Theatre. Singing to an eager audience that included many supporters and fans who have followed her ever since her 1997 San Francisco summer in the Merola Opera Program, DiDonato looked every inch the star in the baby-blue, Grecian-style dress and gold-patterned cinch that perfectly complemented her shining blonde hair.
Lou Harrison called him “the central switchboard for two or three generations of American composers.” John Cage said he was the “open sesame” of American music. Yet Henry Cowell’s significance to American music remains unappreciated, even by most classical music fans. In his home state, Bay Area residents who recognize his name are unlikely to think that the Santa Cruz redwood forest is named for him, rather than, as it happens, for an unrelated lime/logging/land baron.
Some ensembles offering contemporary choral music specialize in the extreme “listener-friendly” end of the spectrum. Not so the San Francisco chamber chorus called Volti, which is interested in something more challenging, both to perform and to listen to. Sunday in Palo Alto’s All Saints’ Episcopal Church, a small, round, concrete bunker of modernist architecture that was extra dark (the fluorescent lights were off, because they buzz), Volti performed a well-rounded program of small, dark, concretely modern works of music.
The normally high standards of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra were only dimly in evidence Sunday afternoon in Davies Symphony Hall. Their recently appointed new conductor, Donato Cabrera, seemed only partly in control of himself, as well as the orchestra, through one modern standard and two major classics.
Soprano Nuccia Focile, singing Verdi and Puccini in her native tongue for an adoring crowd Sunday afternoon in Berkeley’s Hertz Hall, shared the performance with tenor David Lomelí. Focile has sung in most of the world’s famous opera houses, and Lomelí, a recent Adler Fellow in San Francisco, is at the beginning of what promises to be a brilliant opera career. Together, they brought scenes from La bohème and La traviata vividly to life.