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 Performances Salons at the Rex Exciting Young Singers Need Polish
November 4, 2009

It’s no wonder that San Francisco Performances’ intimate Italian salon at San Francisco’s Hotel Rex sold out two weeks in advance.

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CD REVIEW
  Brahms: The Symphonies Brahms, Marvelously Considered
November 3, 2009

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve heard the four Brahms symphonies more times than the Bay Area weather people notify me the next day will be sunny. But Simon Rattle is no ordinary weatherman in his new release of these concert-hall stalwarts. With Rattle, there's no boringly familiar, stupid smiling sun slapped up on the map, and calling it a day.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 San Francisco Contemporary Music Players  Serving Up Tall Orders
November 2, 2009

Monday’s concert by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players was titled “Made to Order,” an allusion to the highly inventive and original sonic landscape of every piece on the program. Or, it could just be an acknowledgment that three of the four pieces were commissioned for performance by the SFCMP. In any case, individuality and experimentation pervaded the program, which was given at Herbst Theatre.

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Recital REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Louis Lortie’s Dance With Devils
November 1, 2009

Maybe it was the Halloween season, or the full moon, or just because he could. Presented by Cal Performances, pianist Louis Lortie’s recital Sunday at Hertz Hall was composed of works having something to do with diabolical virtuosity. Among the spooky stuff covered, there were two corpses, a fantastic imp, things that go bump in the night, and, to top it off, Chopin’s “Funeral March” Sonata.

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Early Music/Baroque REVIEW
   Out of the Germanic Closet
October 31, 2009

Even decades of piecemeal exploration by curious historical performers have not made German music of the generation or two before Bach exactly familiar ground for most listeners. The chamber ensemble La Monica’s most recent San Francisco Early Music Society program, titled “Out of the Depths,” assembled a varied but consistently interesting clutch of vocal and instrumental works.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Vänskä Victory
October 28, 2009

Osmo Vänskä saved the best for last in his most recent guest appearance with the San Francisco Symphony. Wednesday night at Davies Symphony Hall, the Finnish conductor introduced his second program in two weeks, achieving his most dynamic and cohesive results with this orchestra to date.

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CD REVIEW
  Scarborough Fair: Songs from the British Isles Bryn Terfel Sinks the British Isles
October 27, 2009

As powerful as bass-baritone Bryn Terfel’s voice is, it’s not strong enough to sink the British Isles by itself. But were you to play the great Bryn’s latest CD, Scarborough Fair: Songs from the British Isles (Deutsches Grammophon B0012642-02), loud enough, the combined force of Terfel’s magnificent instrument and Chris Hazel’s insufferable arrangements for the London Voices and London Symphony Orchestra, unsparingly conducted by Barry Wordsworth, just might do the once-mighty empire in.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
  San Francisco Chamber Music Series Dohnányi to the Fore
October 25, 2009

The San Francisco Symphony’s Chamber Music Series, offered most Sunday afternoons, is a dependable bet. There, members of the Symphony emerge as individuals from orchestral submersion and can be heard doing what they most like to do, as best they can. The players, not the Symphony, program it, so there is little or no Russian music, no Mahler, but rather music of fresh interest — as was the case last Sunday in Davies Symphony Hall.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Cadenza (Formerly Santa Cruz Chamber Orchestra)  A New, Virtuosic Cadenza
October 24, 2009

Cadenza is a well-known term in classical music, and now it’s also the name of a local orchestra. The 14-member string ensemble formerly known as the Santa Cruz Chamber Orchestra has changed its name in hopes of establishing a more distinctive moniker, and gave its first concert Saturday under the new name at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz.

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Choral REVIEW
 San Francisco Girls Chorus  A Marvel to Behold
October 23, 2009

Apparently, no one has informed the San Francisco Girls Chorus that what they are doing is impossible, so they just do it — and very well, too. On Friday night their “Transcendent Voices” performance in Calvary Presbyterian Church — part of the ensemble’s 30th anniversary season — was a jaw dropper that made the heart soar in delight.

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