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!


Choral REVIEW
 San Francisco Girls Chorus  A Marvel to Behold
October 23, 2009

Apparently, no one has informed the San Francisco Girls Chorus that what they are doing is impossible, so they just do it — and very well, too. On Friday night their “Transcendent Voices” performance in Calvary Presbyterian Church — part of the ensemble’s 30th anniversary season — was a jaw dropper that made the heart soar in delight.

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CD REVIEW
   Pulling Out All the Stops, and Then Some
October 20, 2009

This new release of piano trios by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov features three virtuoso musicians delivering gushy music gushily. In a way, this likely was the way this music was played in its own day, minus emotive restraint. This can almost be considered to be a recording as a historical study, free of the sometimes exaggerated objectivity of contemporary performances.

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Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Conservatory of Music  Lieder Highs
October 20, 2009

It was a night of opposites. For the first half of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s semi-annual Lieder Alive concert series in SFCM’s Concert Hall, we had tenor Eleazar Rodriguez, a 2009 Merola Opera participant who is compact of voice and frame. The second half belonged to soprano Heidi Melton, a former Merolina and second year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow who is robust of voice and frame. 

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CD REVIEW
  <em>Neharót</em>, ECM New Series Pan-Cultural Beauty and Longing for Kim Kashkashian
October 20, 2009

Award-winning producer Manfred Eicher’s transcendent vision for his ECM New Series recordings defies simple categorization. A case in point is violist Kim Kashkashian's Neharót, a collection of unusual, oft-rarefied pieces that transcend national and genre boundaries, the recording touches the heart with its universal expressions of longing and prayer.

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Recital REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Schubert, and Nothing But
October 18, 2009

Michael Schade makes a strong case for singing nothing but Franz Schubert, as he did Sunday afternoon in Berkeley’s Hertz Hall, presented by Cal Performances. The German-born Canadian tenor combines his fluency in Schubert’s language with Mozart’s Italian sensibilities. His singing flows effortlessly from ringing, heroic declamation to exceedingly soft, intimate passages.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 San Francisco Performances  Nimble New Voice in the Juilliard Quartet
October 18, 2009

The introduction of a new player into a venerable chamber ensemble is always a touchy thing; you can never quite be sure what sort of entity will emerge at the end of the process, how much or how little it will resemble the group you once knew. That goes doubly for the leaders of string quartets. For better or worse, the first violinist has a disproportionately large role in forming a quartet’s collective character. 

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Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  The Demented and the Divine
October 18, 2009

“The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death,” sings Salome, the eponymous central character in Richard Strauss’ 1905 opera.

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Recital REVIEW
  Roland Dyens Inspired Guitar
October 16, 2009

Pixinguinha is a name revered in Brazil but relatively unknown elsewhere. Alfredo da Rocha Vianna Filho, better known as Pixinguinha, was the first and most influential musician in Brazilian popular music. A master of the musical genre known as chôro (Portuguese for cry or lament) at the beginning of the 20th century, he also influenced the development of the samba and bossa nova styles.

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Opera REVIEW
 West Bay Opera  An Intimate <em>Bohème </em> From West Bay Opera
October 16, 2009

Giacomo Puccini often chose settings that brought opera up close and personal, and he thus worked vital changes on the form and made it ready for the 20th century. There’s a consequent advantage in witnessing Puccini in a smaller venue, such as the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, where the West Bay Opera continues its well-sung production of La bohème next weekend. 

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Berkeley Symphony   Launching the <em>S.S. Berkeley</em>
October 15, 2009

Awesome was the recaptained ship, the Symphony Season Berkeley, as it slipped into the October-audience channel. The Symphony’s new skipper, Music Director Joana Carneiro, brought on board high hopes, boundless energy, charismatic facial expressions, and two newish pumping systems in the engine room: works by John Adams and Gabriela Lena Frank.

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