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
  For David and Wu Han New Music, Old Values
March 2, 2010
I’ve covered so many scrape-a-thon concerts of new music featuring the cello that I’ve almost forgotten what a gorgeous, melodious instrument it is. With cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han’s release (on the ArtistLed label) of four duos they commissioned, the lyrical cello returns with welcome suffusion. More »
Recital REVIEW
  KDFC@Yoshi's Gyan Riley's Guitar Night at the Club
March 1, 2010

How to widen the circle, to bring more music lovers, both young and old, into the classical fold? In a time of shrinking budgets, that question constantly haunts concert producers, record company executives, musicians, and, yes, even critics in the U.S. (not China, Korea, or parts of Europe) who find themselves communicating with a shrinking pool of graying, mainly white-skinned, classical music aficionados.

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Choral REVIEW
 American Bach Soloists  Sublime “Passion”
February 28, 2010

The American Bach Soloists’ presentation of the 1725 version of Bach’s St. John Passion brought to mind the 18th-century concept of the “sublime.” British essayist Joseph Addison defined this philosophical term as “an agreeable kind of horror.” I can do no better to describe the effect of such brilliant music, so lovingly performed by ABS on Sunday, gracing a story of such brutal violence.

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Choral REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Swedes Take the Gold
February 28, 2010

For mastery of dynamics, unity of utterance, and sheer tonal beauty, aficionados would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished a cappella ensemble than the Swedish Radio Choir. Under guest conductor Ragnar Bohlin, the 32-member group appeared in Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus Sunday afternoon, and the music-making was as wide-ranging as it was sonically pristine.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts  Guitarmen Always Ring Twice
February 27, 2010

A well-known guitar legend quotes Chopin as saying, “Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two.” Mark Eden and Christopher Stell, the Eden Stell Guitar Duo, gave evidence on Saturday at the Veterans Building Green Room with their magnificent sound, vivid interpretations, and telepathic ensemble. They jokingly asked the Omni Foundation presenters to lock the exit doors so no one could leave during their performance of Leo Brouwer’s astringently modern Per Suonare a Due, but the audience responded with wild cheering and insisted on encores after the concert.

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Choral REVIEW
 Volti  Choral Dancing on a High Wire
February 27, 2010

What can you expect from a chorus whose motto is “singing without a net”? Certainly not sea chanteys or singers standing solemnly on risers. Instead, audiences attending Volti’s memorable concert Saturday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco found themselves Shoveling Snow With Buddha; encountering Gossiping Women; listening to freely tonal, microtonal, and atonal music; and performing some music themselves.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Oakland East Bay Symphony  Monumental Question, Partly Answered
February 26, 2010

What does it mean to be an American? This question — provoked by the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s concert Friday — people have been asking in this country from jump, and we have in our collective memory a wide array of answers. Of course, to qualify the question we must understand what an American is in the first place, and here’s where things always become tricky.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Magik*Magik Orchestra  When Classical Met Indie Rock
February 26, 2010

It’s hard to know what to make of Thursday's concert at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. Was it a classical music event that featured The Dodos? Was it an indie rock concert with the Magik*Magik Orchestra? It was just this ambiguity, this realm that falls somewhere between modern classical and indie rock that was probably the goal of the Magik*Magik Orchestra, and their director, Minna Choi. These boundaries don't always mean as much as we think they do.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Perfection Meets Awe
February 25, 2010

At the February 25 San Francisco Symphony matinee, Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt led the orchestra in two polar opposite symphonic masterpieces. Both works received the high-polish performances you expect from a world-class orchestra and their juxtaposition turned out to be brilliant programming.

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CD REVIEW
  Florilegium: Bolivian Baroque, Vol. 3 Unexpected Delights
February 23, 2010

If you’re looking for music to restore your faith in what’s good in life, look no farther. Florilegium’s pioneering Bolivian Baroque series — three superbly recorded volumes by that period instrument ensemble — contains some of the most delightful music I’ve heard in many a year.

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