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
  Los Angeles Philharmonic<br>Gustavo Dudamel New Baton Whipping Up the Parade
October 11, 2009

As I stood in the deserted Civic Center station with only three others from the full house that had vociferously cheered the Saturday concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its 28-year-old new music-director, Gustavo Dudamel, I reflected on L.A.’s love for the automobile. Is Dudamel the city’s new Ferrari, or is he just the winning float in the Rose Bowl parade, bestowed with colorful petals and dancing girls who obscure the true vehicle underneath, be it Corvette, Scion, or Edsel?

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 St. Peter's Chamber Orchestra  Debut of a Bright New Chamber Orchestra
October 10, 2009

The Mid-Peninsula is home to a number of dedicated amateur orchestras. Some local patrons felt there was, nevertheless, room for a chamber orchestra made up of local professionals — and now there is one. The St. Peter’s Chamber Orchestra, named for its hall, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Redwood City, gave its first concert Saturday. Artistic Director Paul Schrage conducted the performance. On the program were two classical period symphonies: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.

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Choral REVIEW
 Artists Vocal Ensemble (AVE)  Virtue in Vespers
October 9, 2009

In another concert series geared toward social justice, the ArtisVocal Ensemble presented an evening of “Kirkenabendmusik” at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley on Friday. The program of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, and Mendelssohn aimed to invoke the solemnity of a Vespers liturgy in a 19th century Viennese church. 

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  A Few Zesty Surprises
October 7, 2009

Applause broke out at unexpected times Wednesday evening in Davies Symphony Hall as guest conductor David Robertson wowed the San Francisco Symphony audience. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he had virtuoso pianist Yefim Bronfman as his soloist for a terrific program.

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CD REVIEW
   Ah, Youth!
October 6, 2009

If you are looking for a gift for someone beginning their odyssey into classical music, you could do worse than send them the latest DGG sampler release of repertoire standards spiced with two dances by the Mexican composer Arturo Márquez.

Why? The conductor is Gustavo Dudamel, product of Venezuela’s world-famous El Sistema who has just taken over the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 San Francisco Contemporary Music Players  Having the Composer At Hand
October 5, 2009

Music sounds different when the composer’s in the room. It sounds even more different when he’s sitting near you and hands you a score. That was the predicament in which I found myself Sunday afternoon, at the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ “Contemporary Insights” lectures.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
   The Anatomy of Cultural Diversity, With Imani Winds and Stefon Harris
October 4, 2009

Imani Winds, a wind quintet whose stylish grace and charm match the high quality of sound produced from their instruments, hold a substantial pedigree among fellow artists, audiences, and critics alike. 

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Three Notes, And Worlds of Them
October 3, 2009

Would you rather focus on atoms, or planets? Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas chose both and overindulged a bit in one for Saturday’s San Francisco Symphony concert.

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Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Conservatory of Music  Bach, Stewed
October 2, 2009

The Japanese guitarist Kazuhito Yamashita performed an ambitious, all-Bach program Friday at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The recital, presented by the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts, featured arrangements of the First and Sixth Cello Suites as well as the Second Sonata for Solo Violin and had a decidedly mixed reception.

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Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Performances  Thomas Hampson Surveys American Song
September 30, 2009

Midway through his Song of America recital on Wednesday, presented by San Francisco Performances, Spokane-raised Thomas Hampson paused to address the adoring Herbst Theatre audience he had sung for on 10 previous occasions. “In many of the places where I’ve presented this project," the 54-year-old baritone declared, “people ask me if I’d please sing more songs like that one called Shenandoah. But here, on the 30th anniversary of this wonderful organization, I want to do a group of songs from our own century.”

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