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!


Archive REVIEW
   Inner Demons Unleashed
April 29, 2008

When the Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto in D Minor appears on a piano recital, and it is performed by a local 16-year-old high schooler, it is truly a cause of interest and celebration. Chloe Pang, a supertalented student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, ended her Saturday recital at the Conservatory with a powerful performance (with faculty Miles Graber on second piano) of the Rachmaninov, whose technical and dramatic challenges can evoke fear and trepidation even in the most seasoned of pianists.

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Archive REVIEW
   Dynamically Constrained
April 29, 2008

An entire program's worth of Haydn is not something the San Francisco Symphony is apt to serve up every year, so thanks are due up front to guest conductor Bernard Labadie for Friday night's generous helping. The program, which also featured the Symphony Chorus and an excellent quartet of vocal soloists, had a martial theme, bringing together the Missa in tempore belli (Mass in time of war) of 1796 and the “Military” Symphony (No.

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Archive REVIEW
   Moseying Down China's Silk Road
April 29, 2008

Yo-Yo Ma’s and his Silk Road Project have come up with a new CD featuring a host of young performers supported by the Chicago Symphony. Titled Traditions and Transformations, the disc includes two standard works, Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo and Prokofiev rambunctious Scythian Suite, Op. 20, plus two first recordings, Byambasuren Sharav’s Legend of Herlen (2000), and Lou Harrison’s final work, his Pipa Concerto (1997).

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Archive REVIEW
   Mystic Rapport
April 29, 2008

The audience quickly found itself in the dark last Wednesday at Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium. Percussionist Evelyn Glennie and guitarist Fred Frith walked on stage moments after the house descended into pitch-black, leaving only the sharp geometry of Glennie’s percussion instruments — which took up two thirds of the stage — and Frith’s two guitars and amplifiers to dance motionlessly against the effervescence of the backdrop. The music began without a word from either performer, despite the assurance in the program that everything would be announced from the stage.

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Archive REVIEW
   No Winning Combination
April 29, 2008

Three performances that ranged from superb to problematic, three pieces that ranged from problematic to superb — match up the combinations and you come up with Saturday's concert by the University Chorus and the University Chamber Chorus at Hertz Hall at UC Berkeley.
The concert began with a terrific rendition of Steve Reich's 1986 version (reduced strings, no brass) of Desert Music, with the University Chamber Chorus and Worn Ensemble, impressively conducted by David Milnes.

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Archive REVIEW
   Souvenirs of Spirituality
April 29, 2008

On Sunday afternoon, as part of the Noe Valley Chamber Music series, a small gathering in San Francisco was treated to "Traveling Polyhymnia," a program of chamber music assembled by the Adorno Ensemble.

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Archive REVIEW
   Music to Evoke Hope
April 29, 2008

It's not every day that you get an Israeli pianist, a Palestinian oud player, and an Egyptian conductor together on the same stage.
But this is exactly what the Sacramento Philharmonic did during its "Songs of Hope" concert at Sacramento's Community Center Theater on Saturday evening. And in doing so, this orchestra made the elegant argument that music can destroy all borders and make friends of perceived enemies.

That music has this potential, however, has never been in question.

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Archive REVIEW
   Experience Counts
April 29, 2008

A wide burst of music from three centuries in Slovenian pianist Dubravka Tomsic’s recital in Herbst Theatre engendered wide bursts of approval from her audience. With one exception, Saturday night’s full program, under the auspices of San Francisco Performances, stood as a model of sincerity and technical proficiency. That, plus her elegant stage deportment, again demonstrated why she’s considered today’s grand dame of the piano world.
The program opened with Mozart’s somber Adagio in B Minor, K. 540, followed by four Scarlatti Sonatas: K. 159 in C Major, K. 11 in C Minor, K.

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Archive REVIEW
   Fantastic Journey
April 22, 2008

Peyote rituals, Chinese lullabies, Indian ragas, children’s toys, sacred bonds, and secular madness all dance and swirl in ritualistic fashion in Terry Riley’s extraordinary The Cusp of Magic. Commissioned by the Kronos Quartet — with whom Riley has collaborated ever since he met its founder, David Harrington, while Riley was teaching at Mills College in the '70s — the work celebrates the composer's 70th birthday.

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Archive REVIEW
   Truly Historic
April 22, 2008

A full and appreciative audience greeted the local farewell program of the Beaux Arts Trio Sunday evening in Herbst Theatre, presented by Chamber Music San Francisco, as the ensemble is about to bring down the curtain on its glory-filled concert career.
To mark the occasion, Mayor Gavin Newsom even issued a keys-to-the-city proclamation that declared April 20 to be "Beaux Arts Trio Day in San Francisco." I don't know about the day, but it was surely the Trio's night, for it played an exceptionally subtle program, even by its traditionally high standards.

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