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 Music REVIEW
 San Francisco Early Music Society  Passionate Tapestry From Musica Pacifica
October 30, 2010

At 20th-anniversary concerts of Musica Pacifica offered performers who reach far beyond merely creating beautiful sounds: They truly create music by infusing the composers’ notes with energy and passion, and with the elusive-but-essential breath of life.

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Opera REVIEW
 Urban Opera  The Urban Opera Witch Project
October 30, 2010

Henry Purcell never wrote an opera titled The Witch of Endor, so the question arose as to what, exactly, Urban Opera would be performing over Halloween weekend. The answer turned out to be something equal in musical brilliance and theatrical flair to the company’s inaugural production.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
   Santa Cruz Chamber Players Cast a Spell
October 30, 2010

What music do you expect to hear at a Halloween concert? The Santa Cruz Chamber Players lack the forces necessary for warhorses, so in their concert at Christ Lutheran they were forced to be creative. It made for a festive holiday occasion.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Kronos Quartet  Kronos Quartet Makes a Statement
October 29, 2010

Besides impeccable musicianship, Kronos offers up socially aware compositions.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
   Dresden Staatskapelle: Tradition, and Then Some
October 24, 2010

This symphony orchestra is so old, Franz Schubert is one of the first violinists. So what can be learned from experiencing the first visit from the Dresden Staatskapelle in Davies Symphony Hall on Sunday, an ensemble rated as one of the top five in Europe, with a 462-year-old pedigree, and it lays before you a Schuman-Beethoven-Brahms program right from their sweet spot in musical history?

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Music at Kohl  Lark Quartet Does an American Songbook
October 24, 2010

String quartet concerts customarily feature the old masters, or the medium-old masters, and apologetically stick small quantities of modern music in the corners of the program. At Sunday night’s concert at the Kohl Mansion in Burlingame, though, the opposite plan — feature the contemporary works, and stick the old masters in the corner — was enacted by the Lark Quartet.

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Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  Domingo’s Great Cyrano de Bergerac
October 24, 2010

Conventional buzz has it that Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac is a second-rate opera that has been revived solely as a vehicle for 69-year-old tenor Plácido Domingo. While it is doubtful that anyone is going to walk down the street whistling one of the 1936 opera’s extended love duets, the combination of Théâtre du Châtelet’s gorgeous production and an extremely strong cast have created the indisputable highlight of San Francisco Opera’s fall season thus far.

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Choral REVIEW
 California Bach Society  California Bach Society Brings on the Spring
October 24, 2010

On a drizzling Sunday, California Bach Society performed two gems of the English vocal repertory: Purcell’s ode Hail, Bright Cecilia and Handel’s Acis and Galatea, a masque. Or is it a pastoral? Or, as Handel once described it, a little opera? Whatever the genre, the Bach Society’s cheerful demeanor and an attentive audience belied the sullen weather.

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Recital REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Heaven or Hell With Jeremy Denk
October 24, 2010

If you wanted to come up with a pairing of diametric opposites on a piano recital, you might choose the complete Ligeti Études and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, two monumental works that at first glance seem psychologically light years apart. This was Jeremy Denk’s Bay Area solo debut program. It promised to be an auspicious one, and I couldn’t wait to see if he would pull it off.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Conlon, Bell, Rarities Rule
October 21, 2010

James Conlon is one of the finest conductors around, and he is also a maverick presenter of unusual programs. And so it was expected that he would bring something different to his current appearances with the San Francisco Symphony (which he first led 32 years ago), and he did not disappoint.

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