Classical Music Reviews
Every week, our professional critics attend concerts throughout the Bay Area to let you know what went well...and occasionally what didn't. Let their insights enrich your musical experiences, and feel free to share your own views!
What a joy to experience Kate Royal in person! Looking for all the world like a Greek goddess, draped in a form-fitting, floor-length black dress secured over one shoulder, the elegant young soprano gracefully entered Hertz Hall to present her Cal Performances recital.More »
San Francisco Conservatory of Music's young artists went way back in time to present an opera three-and-a-half centuries old, last weekend in Fort Mason Center's Cowell Theater. Richard Harrell, director of the Conservatory's Opera Theater, has bravely (and judging by the results, wisely) selected Francesco Cavalli's 1643 L'Egisto, a sensation in its time, but virtually impossible to find performed today.
Harrell was also stage director of the production, which was visually defined by Dean Shibuya's occasionally jerky, at times confusing, projections.
Eighth blackbird's concert on Saturday defied elementary arithmetic. For example, the program featured two pieces, but four composers, which might seem twice as many composers as was required. Similarly, the first piece specified 12 musicians, but was performed by only six, which might seem twice too few.
Yet strange arithmetical — not to mention musical — feats can happen when the performing ensemble is a sextet with the ordinal "eighth" in its name: eighth blackbird, an accomplished new-music ensemble whose members play flute, clarinet, violin/viola, cello, piano, and percussion.
In newspaper ads touting his appearances with the Santa Rosa Symphony, Christopher O’Riley wore a black T-shirt, the better to show off a massive henna tattoo running the length of his arm, right down to the ends of his fingers. In his April 12 concert, the tattoo was no longer in evidence, but he did manage to tattoo the symphony’s resident Steinway with some of the richest sounds to emerge from that instrument in a long time.
Clad in a knee-length black coat, O’Riley got right to work on Bartók’s Piano Concerto No.
May 7 will be Brahms' 175th birthday. You may have noticed that many musicians have been jumping the gun a bit to celebrate the event. The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra got out on the track Friday by delivering a fine performance of Brahms' Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16.
The program in Herbst Theatre opened with a rare performance of Beethoven's Septet in E-flat Major, Op. 20, and the premiere of Belinda Reynolds' Bridges, a piece apparently designed to complement the Brahms Serenade.
The crack early-music ensemble Magnificat attempted the difficult challenge of performing a Baroque comic opera in concert over the weekend. The form is unlike serious opera or slighter genres such as intermezzos or serenatas, which readily lend themselves to unstaged presentation.More »
To play all 32 Beethoven sonatas in public over two years, or 20, is one of the greatest challenges facing the pianist. The technical difficulties they present pale before the range of experience they embody and demand for their full realization.More »
Oh, my virgin ears. Was that a portamento in Haydn? Did he just play that open string on purpose in the middle of that phrase? Haydn didn't ever mark sul ponticello, did he?
The Juilliard String Quartet, revered relics of a previous generation and a vanishing style, are still kickin' after all these years. Wednesday night at Dinkelspiel Auditorium, presented by Stanford Lively Arts, it played with a rough passion I've only heard on old recordings of the Budapest String Quartet.
Musical links, not literary ones, generally form the basis of orchestral programs, but last week at Davies Symphony Hall, the San Francisco Symphony took a novel approach. On the program were two works inspired by Cervantes' 17th-century masterpiece, Don Quixote — first, Manuel de Falla's 1923 one-act opera, Master Peter's Puppet Show, and, after intermission, Richard Strauss' 1897 tone poem, Don Quixote.
I could imagine this pairing being of particular interest to aficionados of Spanish literature. For music lovers, it proved less of an attraction.
A decade or so back, there was some talk of a planned, independent-label Beethoven symphony cycle from Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, all the recording to be done in concert. Since then, PBO has taken to issuing live recordings on its own label, and the Beethoven project appears to be taking slow shape. A disc coupling the "Eroica" and the Eighth Symphony appeared in 2005, and last year was joined by this Ninth.
Listen to the Music