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!


CD REVIEW
  Rhys Chatham: A Crimson Grail Literally Surrounded by Sound
August 24, 2010

A Crimson Grail was premiered at the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur, after a commission by the city of Paris. Rhys Chatham’s piece consciously makes use of the architecture’s 15-second reverberation time. The musicians surround the audience, creating a live, surround-sound experience. The Paris-based Chatham wrote the piece for a variable number of electric guitarists and bassists (astonishingly, up to 400), plus a single percussionist. The Nonesuch recording captures the work’s Lincoln Center performance.

More »
Opera REVIEW
 Merola Opera Program  Merola Finale: ‘Tonight We Sing’
August 21, 2010

Among my umpteen Merola Program closing concerts — all memorable in various ways — Saturday’s was one of the most enjoyable. Programmed, directed, and performed with care and effectiveness, this was what opera doesn’t always manage to be: delightful entertainment.

More about Merola Opera Program »
Chamber Music REVIEW
 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts  Estamos Ensemble: Improvise. Enjoy. Repeat.
August 19, 2010

A truly exciting new ensemble made its way to San Francisco Thursday for a local debut, and, hopefully, the first of many visits. The Estamos Ensemble, a collective of musicians from Mexico and the U.S., offered a potent program of chamber improvisation, with nine works, all of them premieres by Mexican and American composers.

More about Yerba Buena Center for the Arts »
CD REVIEW
  So Percussion, Matmos: <em>Treasure State</em> Let the Sonic Games Begin
August 17, 2010

Ancient and modern music techniques collide in Treasure State, a collaboration between So Percussion and Matmos. True collaborations can be tricky; new musical concepts can sometimes seem more like medicine than entertainment. But, these guys seem to be having fun entertaining each other, and the feeling is infectious.

More »
CD REVIEW
  Imani Winds: Terra Incognita Imani Winds: Straight Across Borders
August 17, 2010

Imani Winds has me confused. Its latest CD, Terra Incognita, reflects its preference for new music that pushes boundaries. But while the jazz composers it has commissioned — Jason Moran, Wayne Shorter, and one of its favorites, Paquito D’Rivera — most definitely write new music that crosses the line between jazz and classical, the Imanis for the most part play it straight.

More »
Festival REVIEW
 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music  Cabrillo Does Eternity at the Mission
August 15, 2010

Ah! The Cabrillo Festival finale: “To hear infinity in the Mission San Juan Bautista and eternity in 97 minutes” — such was the hope implied by its “in aeternam” moniker.

More about Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music »
Choral REVIEW
 Old First Concerts  Superb Choral Debut by EUOUAE
August 13, 2010

On Friday, Old First Concerts presented the premier concert by EUOUAE, a new chorus whose membership is drawn from many of the Bay Area’s professional and semiprofessional choirs. Formed and directed by Steven Sven Olbash, EUOUAE performed the rarely heard Messe de Tournai, a musical milestone in that the 14th-century Mass is the first-known complete polyphonic (multivoiced) Mass collected in a single manuscript.

More about Old First Concerts »
Opera REVIEW
  Seattle Opera <em>Tristan und Isolde</em> Seattle Opera's Winning <em>Tristan und Isolde</em>
August 12, 2010

Were there the shadow of a doubt of the continuing and historic power of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to capture and move its audiences, this summer’s Seattle Opera production dispelled it, two major shortcomings notwithstanding. The leading strength in Thursday’s fourth of seven performances was appropriately the orchestra.

More »
CD REVIEW
  Sondra Radvanovsky: <em>Verdi Arias</em> Radvanovsky Scales the Verdian Heights
August 10, 2010

Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky’s first solo recital helps clarify her position in the pantheon of great Verdi sopranos. In this recording by Delos in a Moscow studio, backed by San Francisco–born Constantine Orbelian and his Philharmonia of Russia, Radvanovsky holds forth in 10 drama-filled arias that showcase her innately dramatic voice that seems tailor-made for Verdi.

More »
Festival REVIEW
   Music@Menlo Illuminates City of Light Composers
August 7, 2010

Music@Menlo opened a broad umbrella for “La Ville Lumiere: Paris, 1920–28,” with composers as various as Milhaud, Prokofiev, Fauré, Copland, Antheil, Ravel, and Gershwin all gathered underneath. Variety, in both style and delivery, proved to be the prevailing spirit of Saturday’s musically sprawling program.

More »