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!


Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Ballet The Little Mermaid San Francisco Ballet Star Shines Under the Sea
March 20, 2010
“This is for her,” another critic said to me Saturday during the rapturous standing ovation that greeted the U.S. premiere of John Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid at the San Francisco Ballet. More about San Francisco Ballet »
Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Dreamy Recital of Romantics
March 20, 2010

In a year that marks the bicentenaries of Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann, it can’t be easy to decide which composer to celebrate. On Saturday evening at Davies Symphony Hall, soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Emanuel Ax split the difference and presented an enjoyable duo recital that gave each composer equal time.

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Recital REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Stellar Singing by Ian Bostridge
March 20, 2010

Ian Bostridge is a master singer of German lieder, and he brought Schubert’s Winterreise to UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall Sunday afternoon, splendidly partnered by pianist Julius Drake. Experiencing Schubert’s intimate, searing song cycle would be more satisfying in the intimacy of Hertz Hall, where we last heard Bostridge. But, being smaller, Hertz holds fewer people, so what is Cal Performances to do?

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Santa Rosa Symphony  Where Comes the Sun?
March 20, 2010

Did the Santa Rosa Symphony on Saturday night live up to part of a public-school student poem, by “Cristobal,” posted in its concert-hall lobby?

Sounds frightful, amazing, destructive.
Beethoven, great composer —
Music as powerful as the sun.

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Choral REVIEW
 San Francisco Bach Choir  Zesty Little Masterpieces From S.F. Bach Choir
March 20, 2010

For its 74th season, Director Corey Jamason and the San Francisco Bach Choir and Baroque Orchestra programmed five highly unusual Bach compositions for their Sunday program in Calvary Presbyterian Church. The sizable audience ate it all up with gusto.

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Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Performances Thomas Adès To Paraphrase, Encore
March 16, 2010

The British composer Thomas Adès has been writing intricately structured and colorfully orchestrated music for nearly two decades now. Before he became a composer, though, he trained for a career as pianist, and he has the formidable technique and deep musicianship of a great player.

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CD REVIEW
  Till Fellner:<br>Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5 Strength and Grandeur
March 16, 2010

Like the footsteps of a life partner, Beethoven’s music is heard so frequently that it’s easy to take it for granted. But listen to Austrian pianist Till Fellner’s ECM New Series CD of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos No. 4 and 5, performed with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal under Kent Nagano, and the love affair is renewed.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Ives Quartet  Repeat Counts as Pleasure
March 14, 2010

One of my favorite composition teachers once said, “Any buffoon can get a premiere. A real achievement is a repeat performance.”

Last May, I reviewed the Ives Quartet’s premiere of Dan Becker’s work Time Rising. At the time, I was intrigued by its unusual macro structure: three tiny movements — or “ingredients” — followed by a much longer movement: the final product. Hearing the Ives play the work again on Sunday, I knew what to expect, and this time I was struck by its rhythmic complexity and the slowly moving harmony — each first presented as ingredients, then folded into the final piece.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Music at the Mission  Of Time and Turmoil
March 13, 2010

Saturday’s Music at the Mission chamber music concert, at Old Mission San Jose in Fremont, bore the title “Music in the Time of Turmoil: From Conflict to Redemption.” It featured a quartet for the end of time, and another quartet from after the end of time. It was a solid, meaty chamber music concert: not heavy or overlong, just full of provocative 20th-century compositions related to war or inspired by it.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  'Primal Light' Trumps Gigantism
March 12, 2010

Every time I hear what Gustav Mahler did not call his “Resurrection Symphony” — but others did — I think about what the work must have sounded like to the first listeners 115 years ago. Sure, they had heard “big sounds” from Beethoven and Wagner, though without Stravinsky, Bartók, and others in their ears, what could they have made of Mahler’s dizzying complexity?

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