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 Symphony   Delayed Gratification, and Immensely Gratifying
May 27, 2010

It only took the better part of two decades, but Thursday evening at Davies Symphony Hall, Robin Holloway’s Clarissa Sequence finally received its first San Francisco Symphony performance. Holloway’s original Clarissa Sequence, that is, the one for soprano and orchestra.

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  Handel: Dettinger Te Deum Stormy and Stately Weather
May 25, 2010

It’s not as rare as one might think, from the constant reports of the demise of the classical recording industry, to encounter great new recordings of unfamiliar music. All the same, this recent release by the Göttingen Festival Orchestra, the NDR Choir, and a stellar cast of soloists under the direction of Nicholas McGegan is rather astonishing.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Gold Coast Chamber Players  Gold Coast Chamber Players Pursue Four Fantasies
May 22, 2010

How in the world could the San Francisco Library lead the violist Pamela Freund-Striplen to a pool, “full of old fish, blind-stricken long ago … revealed only by the croaking of consumptive frogs”? Like the best adventures, the path was circuitous, but the result was a highly imaginative program for her Gold Coast Chamber Players that absorbed lucky listeners at the Lafayette Library Community Hall Saturday night.

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 West Bay Opera  West Bay Opera Turns on the Glam
May 21, 2010

Fixed on the playlist of eternally popular operas, Verdi’s La traviata is easily adapted to community opera houses. It is full of all the elements that people find most appealing to opera: glamour, effusive melodies and, best of all, great love with an unusual love triangle. This past weekend West Bay Opera opened La traviata as the final production of its 54th season.

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  Rhapsody in Blue Alsop Hot, Thibaudet Cool
May 18, 2010

“What?!” you say, “another recording of Rhapsody in Blue?” Amazon lists 632 recordings of this music co-opted by United Airlines ads and 71 MP3 downloads. What’s so special about this rendition?

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Youth Ensembles/Student Performances REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra  Emotional Maturity in the S.F. Symphony Youth Orchestra
May 16, 2010

Performance standards were of their usual high order Sunday afternoon as Donato Cabrera conducted a concert of the San Francisco Symphony’s Youth Orchestra at Davies Symphony Hall. Even so, there were problems, notably with the programming, as well as with Cabrera’s concept of a classic warhorse.

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Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Performances  Vocal Splendor From Eugene Brancoveanu
May 16, 2010

How could I not lose myself completely in the wondrous beauty of baritone Eugene Brancoveanu’s voice during the first set of his Sunday afternoon, San Francisco Performances-sponsored recital?

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Symphony Silicon Valley  The Lyrical Cello at Symphony Silicon Valley
May 15, 2010

Cello concertos are where you find them. Visiting soloist Gary Hoffman found two excellent short pieces that work well in that role, though they aren’t called concertos, to play with Symphony Silicon Valley, under guest conductor Gregory Vajda, at San José’s California Theatre on Saturday.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  San Francisco Symphony Plays Revelatory Debussy
May 15, 2010

The San Francisco Symphony program was a bit of an odd one. It was not bad, certainly, but was strangely bifurcated, veering from some rather fluffy 19th-century French music, by Litolff and Adam, to major works by Chopin and Debussy. Under Michael Tilson Thomas’ direction, the orchestra sounded grand in less than grand music, as well as in works of substance; and piano soloist Garrick Ohlsson was magnificent in everything he touched.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Oakland Symphony  Oakland East Bay Symphony Aspires and Desires
May 14, 2010

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony trumps everything. What else can hold its own on a program with this searching quest that leads to the most fervent final movement in music history? The Oakland East Bay Symphony, under Music Director Michael Morgan’s baton, offered a proposal at once modest and moving.

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