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
  Selmer Saxharmonic: <em>Flying Saxophone Circus </em> Selmers Satisfy With Sax-Ranging Repertoire
July 6, 2010

What if you were confronted with a dozen spirited saxophonists, male and female, embracing a stunning range of pitch and a delightful variety of repertoire? That wouldn’t be too much sax, would it? Not in the case of the Selmer Saxharmonic.

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CD REVIEW
  Osvaldo Golijov<br><em>La Pasión Según San Marcos</em> Golijov's Sensational Passion
June 29, 2010

Boom! Wham! As the percussion of Orquesta La Pasión,led by Mikael Ringquist and Gonzalo Grau, pounds away, Argentinean-born composer Osvaldo Golijov wastes no time proclaiming that his St. Mark Passion will take a giant step away from the language of J.S. Bach’s monumental achievement.

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CD REVIEW
  Old World — New World Emerson Quartet Works Its Magic With Dvořák
June 29, 2010

Something like a quarter century ago, I bought a CD of Dvořák string quartets that had the words “American Quartet” prominently displayed on its front. Only later did I discover that the American Quartet was the ensemble; the Dvořák “American” quartet that I meant to buy wasn’t even on the menu. The two other quartets that were there, though, made me avid for more Dvořák chamber music, and I went on to discover an entire cache of marvelous music that I’d never heard of.The Emerson Quartet’s new three-CD Dvořák box might work the same magic on another set of listeners.

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CD REVIEW
  The Swedish Radio Choir Visions and Non Thoughts
June 22, 2010

Proof of our good fortune in having Ragnar Bohlin as director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, this tremendous CD demonstrates his overarching sense of line and purpose. In six contemporary works by Swedish and (in the case of Ned Rorem) American composers, Bohlin’s leadership of the 32-person Swedish Radio Choir produces mesmerizing dynamic gradations and shading.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 New Music Bay Area Garden of Memory Ear Exploration, Life Celebration
June 21, 2010

For a society of iPod shufflin’, Web surfin’, channel flippin’, Facebook friendin’ individuals, the annual Garden of Memory is an excellent idea. Every summer solstice since 1995, Sarah Cahill and New Music Bay Area present “a columbarium walk-through event at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.”

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Recital REVIEW
   Is Too Much Yuja a Good Thing?
June 20, 2010

There are recitals, there are great recitals, and then there’s Yuja Wang. In an extraordinary scene Sunday in Herbst Theatre, after hearing her play the audience appeared both exhausted and elated. My hands hurt not merely from applauding, but also from an apparent case of couvade syndrome (men’s sympathy pain at childbirth) on listening to two hours of devilishly difficult Scriabin and Prokofiev played with ease and astonishing clarity.

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CD REVIEW
  Jonas Kaufmann: Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Wagner German Arias With Passion
June 15, 2010

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann will likely be your tenor of the hour, if not the decade, after you hear his new Decca recording of German arias by Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, and Wagner. Supported and urged on by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, magnificently conducted by Claudio Abbado, the tenor lavishes as much care, love, and passion on his repertoire as you can ever expect to hear.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Grace Cathedral Concerts  Waters of New Life at Miriam’s Well
June 12, 2010

“Miriam’s Well,” billed as “an interfaith collaboration of sacred dance, music, and poetry,” begins and ends with a poem by Coleman Barks, popular scholar of the Sufi mystic poet Rumi:

What is praised is one, so the praise is one, too, Many jugs being poured into one huge basin. All religions, all this singing, one song.
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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Berkeley Festival and Exhibition  The Triumph of Monteverdi’s Madrigals
June 12, 2010

And the winner is ... Claudio Monteverdi! He was well-served Saturday night in a Berkeley Festival performance at that city’s First Congregational Church. ARTEK (from The Art of the Early Keyboard), a New York–based ensemble of six singers and seven players of plucked and bowed strings, gave magnificent voice to Monteverdi’s Fifth Book of Madrigals.

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Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  San Francisco Opera Delivers Greatness
June 10, 2010

Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), the second opera of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, opened at San Francisco Opera on Thursday night with a thrilling, deeply moving performance that bodes extremely well for the full Ring to be presented in June 2011.

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