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
 Sanford Dole Ensemble  Sanford Dole Ensemble Doles Out Memories
March 28, 2010

The male and female voices of the Sanford Dole Ensemble chorus, 24 strong, had already made a distinct impression in a Palm Sunday concert at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church. Over a groundswell of somber strings in the first section of James MacMillan’s 1993 Seven Last Words From the Cross, the men burst forth with an urgent “Rex Israel.”

More about Sanford Dole Ensemble »
Chamber Music REVIEW
   LIBER Lights Love’s Flame
March 27, 2010

Modern listeners can find 14th-century secular music tough to grasp. Working within highly restrictive formal structures, this era’s composers and poets created elaborate ruminations on wide-ranging themes — love, loss, justice, virtue — in a sound world quite distinct from earlier chant or later imitative polyphony.

More »
 Pocket Opera  Pocket Opera Premieres a New 'Halka'
March 27, 2010

As someone coming from that neck of the woods, I will walk the plank with this about Eastern Europe: Notwithstanding the many splendid composers of the region, it has not done well as a source of great operas.

More about Pocket Opera »
Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Star-Spangled Playing From The S.F. Symphony
March 24, 2010

(Washington, D.C.) — Lately, here in the nation’s capital, we’ve being seeing much of a certain leader from San Francisco. She’s usually pictured at a podium, ominously wielding a piece of carved wood, aiming for radical change, and threatening to whack anyone who doesn’t stay in step.

More about San Francisco Symphony »
  Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 Trpčeski and Petrenko Play Rachmaninov, Uncut
March 23, 2010
Two major young stars of the music world, pianist Simon Trpčeski and conductor Vasily Petrenko, have begun a new CD cycle of all of Sergei Rachmaninov’s piano-orchestral works, for Avie Records. More »
Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony Mariinsky Orchestra Mariinsky, Minus the Chemistry
March 22, 2010

On a clear spring night that tempted concertgoers to linger outside Davies Symphony Hall until the last moment on Monday, the musical weather that followed inside was prevailingly murky.

More about San Francisco Symphony »
Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Dreamy Recital of Romantics
March 20, 2010

In a year that marks the bicentenaries of Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann, it can’t be easy to decide which composer to celebrate. On Saturday evening at Davies Symphony Hall, soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Emanuel Ax split the difference and presented an enjoyable duo recital that gave each composer equal time.

More about San Francisco Symphony »
Recital REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Stellar Singing by Ian Bostridge
March 20, 2010

Ian Bostridge is a master singer of German lieder, and he brought Schubert’s Winterreise to UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall Sunday afternoon, splendidly partnered by pianist Julius Drake. Experiencing Schubert’s intimate, searing song cycle would be more satisfying in the intimacy of Hertz Hall, where we last heard Bostridge. But, being smaller, Hertz holds fewer people, so what is Cal Performances to do?

More about Cal Performances »
Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Santa Rosa Symphony  Where Comes the Sun?
March 20, 2010

Did the Santa Rosa Symphony on Saturday night live up to part of a public-school student poem, by “Cristobal,” posted in its concert-hall lobby?

Sounds frightful, amazing, destructive.
Beethoven, great composer —
Music as powerful as the sun.

More about Santa Rosa Symphony »
 San Francisco Bach Choir  Zesty Little Masterpieces From S.F. Bach Choir
March 20, 2010

For its 74th season, Director Corey Jamason and the San Francisco Bach Choir and Baroque Orchestra programmed five highly unusual Bach compositions for their Sunday program in Calvary Presbyterian Church. The sizable audience ate it all up with gusto.

More about San Francisco Bach Choir »