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!


Choral REVIEW
 Artists Vocal Ensemble (AVE)  Back to the Land
February 21, 2010

Wander through the meandering roads of San Francisco's Presidio National Park, pass the George Lucas Pavilion, cross the huge parade grounds where cute vehicles parry in jerky zigzags as San Franciscans learn to operate manual transmissions, and veer off on a smaller path before the main road and you will discover an antique, white barrack newly renovated as an open, two-story gallery space for the Walt Disney Family Museum. On Sunday, I had the good fortune to discover that the gallery is an ideal place to hear a chamber music or choral concert.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony Gewandhaus Orchestra Stunner From Leipzig
February 21, 2010

Even in a standard-repertoire program, there was something cheeky about the world’s oldest civic orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (est. 1743), putting Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony on Sunday’s opening bill of a two-night stand at Davies Symphony Hall. But by then, after a transportingly good performance of the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1, with Louis Lortie at the keyboard, Riccardo Chailly (the orchestra’s 19th music director) and his ensemble had already conquered the California crowd. It was a captivating night of music-making all around.

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Opera REVIEW
 West Edge Opera  Cads Get Their Comeuppance
February 20, 2010

Berkeley Opera, undergoing some significant changes, is assuring its audience that all is well, by presenting an engaging production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Saturday’s performance in its new venue, the El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, under the direction of new Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky, was a resounding success.

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Choral REVIEW
 St. John's Concert Series  Striking Music From the Convent
February 20, 2010

Being a nun in 17th-century Italy had its fair share of challenges. While life in the convent offered an existence of some comfort and stability for the pious, nuns were governed by strict codes regulating their mobility, their visibility to the outside world, and visits from their families. Still, as recounted by Candace Smith, who directs the Italian ensemble Capella Artemisia (based in Bologna), a rich flowering of music stirred within these rigid confines, even in the face of pressure to restrict nuns’ music-making.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 San Francisco Conservatory of Music  Music and Movement Converge
February 20, 2010

Shadows are necessarily murky entities. They create spaces in which edges soften and distinctions blur. The program title “Flowing Shadows,” therefore, suited a concert emphasizing convergence between multiple artistic disciplines. This concert, given Saturday in the San Francisco Conservatory’s Hume Concert Hall, was the fourth of five performances in this year’s BluePrint series, a new-music program under the direction of Nicole Paiement. The overriding theme of BluePrint’s current season is “Crosscurrents ... where arts converge.”

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Recital REVIEW
 First Congregational Church of Berkeley  Ranking French Mastery
February 19, 2010

The Parisian titular organist holds a special — some would say even exalted — place in the hearts and minds of organ fans. Indeed, few musicians are subjected to the depth of training, not to mention the crucible of exams and competitions, which such a musician endures to attain the post of, say, Organiste Titulaire at the historic church of Saint-Séverin, where Christophe Mantoux presides.

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Opera REVIEW
 West Bay Opera  Shooting Freely, and Mostly Hitting the Mark
February 19, 2010

An infrequently mounted masterpiece, bounteous with beautiful and dramatic passages, and delivered by a cast headed by fine principal voices, forms a strong foundation for edifying opera. That’s reason enough to catch one of West Bay Opera’s performances of Carl Maria von Weber’s fascinating Der Freischütz (The freeshooter) while you still can.

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Choral REVIEW
   Bewitching Singing From Across the Pond
February 17, 2010

There wasn’t any doubt which piece on their San Francisco Performances program that the King’s Singers had really come to Herbst Theatre to perform on Wednesday. It was the premiere of Tres mitos de mi tierra (Three myths of my land), by Berkeley-native composer Gabriela Lena Frank.

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CD REVIEW
  Spokane Symphony: <em>Letters From Lincoln</em> Music For Presidents' Day
February 16, 2010

To honor the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), our 16th president, the Spokane Symphony under Music Director Eckart Preu commissioned Michael Daugherty to write a Lincoln-themed work for baritone and orchestra. The piece, which was recorded live by E1 Entertainment (formerly Koch) a year ago, was conceived as a vehicle for Thomas Hampson, a Spokane native who, according to the liner notes, “began his career with the Spokane Symphony.”

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Le Petit Trianon Theatre Takács Quartet Plumbing Beethoven’s Depths
February 13, 2010

Music-lovers in the South Bay had their calendars marked. The Takács Quartet came to San José’s Le Petit Trianon on Saturday, as part of the concert series of the San José Chamber Music Society. It was, I believe, the first time this distinguished ensemble had performed down here in eight years, since before violist Geraldine Walther joined the group.

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