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!
"Are all choral concerts like this?" asked my extremely sensitive sister-in-law. Had she not continued her thought, I could have responded in many ways.
"No, they are not," I might have said. Of the thousands upon thousands of choral groups that grace the American landscape, precious few are as fine-tuned and impeccably voiced as San Francisco Choral Artists. Even close up, in the second row of Oakland's St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where the fine acoustic covers precious little, the voices blend smoothly.
As soon as soprano Elza van den Heever started to pour forth her large, stunning sound, a story about Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad came to mind. For Flagstad's first Metropolitan Opera audition, she was sent to a small rehearsal room whose proportions so cramped her vocal projection that no one sensed her ultimate potential.More »
Tastes in violin recitals have changed markedly over the years. At one time, the second half of a virtuoso's program generally consisted entirely of what we now think of as encore pieces. Nowadays, paradoxically, the only time you are likely to see a program like that is when the player is an "intellectual" musician making a historical point.More »
The first of two concerts by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Sunday in Davies Symphony Hall, required some program shuffling. The venerable Sir Neville Marriner was filling in for the indisposed pianist-conductor Murray Perahia. With the presence of 21-year-old pianist Yuja Wang, the combination of youth and experience made for a zesty evening of virtuosity.
Marriner opened and closed with the two symphonies originally programmed: Mozart's Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297, the "Paris" Symphony, and Haydn's Symphony No, 104, also in D major, the "London" Symphony.
The young ensemble Harmonie Universelle adopted the title of its San Francisco Early Music Society concert this weekend from a collection by Johann Pachelbel, "Musicalische Ergötzung," which translates into, roughly, "musical pleasures." Indeed, the program from the early German Baroque period offered a smorgasbord of delights, demonstrating how much variety can be discovered within a unified and closely knit repertoire.
All the composers on the concert hailed from the 17th century, a period in which famously fiery Italian soloists (such as Dario Castello and Marco Uccellini) exerted profound
Paul Galbraith, whose Sunday recital at the Florence Gould Theater was sponsored by Chamber Music San Francisco, is a unique figure in the classical guitar world. Winner of the Segovia International Guitar Competition and the BBC Young Musician of the Year Award in 1981 at age 17, he began giving concerts throughout Europe regularly.More »
If eclecticism is your thing, San Francisco's Mission Dance Theater was the place to be on Sunday for the first annual Switchboard Music Festival. Billed as "eight hours of nonstop, genre-defying music by the Bay Area's most innovative artists," it was founded to bring together people who are "creating new sounds that defy description."
The informality of Dance Theater's black box provided a suitable environment, as well as a familiar one for those of us who have performed on these types of adventurous "new music" forays.
It has been an exciting two weeks on the podium at the San Francisco Symphony. Two of the world's most talked-about young conductors — Gustavo Dudamel and Alan Gilbert — came to town back-to-back to guest conduct the orchestra. I had the pleasure of observing both Dudamel's Rachmaninov and Stravinsky last week (see review) and Gilbert's program of Stucky, Mozart, and Nielsen on Saturday.More »
The composer Ned Rorem once said that he didn't particularly enjoy going to organ recitals, because the live acoustics in churches prevented him from properly hearing the music. He thought that other organists, who are used to hearing through the acoustical fog, mostly made up the audiences for these recitals.More »