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 Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  Pot of Gold at the S.F. Opera
June 9, 2010

Audience members who may feel tempted to bail out early on San Francisco Opera’s The Girl of the Golden West should be advised that the best — and briefest — act of this often wayward and wearisome production comes last. 

More about San Francisco Opera »
DVD REVIEW
  Claudio Monteverdi: <em>Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria</em> Christie and Pizzi Bring Monteverdi to Life
June 8, 2010

This 2-disc DVD gives the lie to the notion that opera can remain relevant only if the setting is updated to contemporary times. Pier Luigi Pizzi’s historically based, thoroughly modern sets, costumes, and direction for this 2009 production of Claudio Monteverdi ’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Teatro Real, Madrid, are so compelling, and the authentic instrument performance by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants is so alive and colorful, that an opera first performed 369 years ago resounds with life and feeling.

More »
Chamber Music REVIEW
 Magnificat  Magnificat Goes Clubbing
June 7, 2010

There seemed something prescient in one of the 17th-century motets presented by Magnificat on Monday night at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in San Francisco.

More about Magnificat »
Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  At Long Last <em>Faust</em>
June 5, 2010

For the San Francisco Opera to stage Charles Gounod’s Faust now, 10 years into the 21st century, shows an odd kind of daring. Yet this traditional-looking production from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, directed by Jose Maria Condemi, with sets and costumes by Robert Perdziola, brings a museum piece to genuine new life.

More about San Francisco Opera »
Chamber Music REVIEW
 Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble  Depeche Mode Lost in Translation
June 3, 2010

The Jack Dubowsky Ensemble had its work cut out for it last Thursday at San Francisco's Eagle Tavern. The plan: Play through Depeche Mode’s classic 1990 album Violator with a small chamber group, and score it for (mostly) acoustic instruments — a reinterpretation that has the potential to delight.

More about Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble »
CD REVIEW
   Leaping Into the Magical Pool of Thomas Adès
June 1, 2010

Listeners unacquainted with Thomas Adès can embark on a powerful, short-course introduction to the magnificently gifted young British composer with this EMI disc. The emotional pull, drama, expressive complexity, wit, and allusive richness of Adès’ music are all in evidence.

More »
Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Cadenza (Formerly Santa Cruz Chamber Orchestra)  Small Feast From Cadenza
May 29, 2010

A concert by Cadenza, the former Santa Cruz Chamber Orchestra, is like taking a drink from a mountain spring: cool, clear, and refreshing — though more refreshing, in truth, than thirst-quenching. Saturday’s concert at Holy Cross Church lasted just over an hour, intermission included. When it ended, soon after 9 p.m., twilight had not quite finished fading.

More about Cadenza (Formerly Santa Cruz Chamber Orchestra) »
Opera REVIEW
 Cinnabar Theater  Picker Mills a Mighty Opera
May 28, 2010

We’re blessed here in the Bay Area with a bounty of good, small companies that get us up close and personal with opera in good, small venues. How much better the blessing is, then, when the operatic material is as powerfully and finely wrought as Tobias Picker’s Emmeline, now enjoying a three-week West Coast premiere run at Petaluma’s intimate Cinnabar Theater.

More about Cinnabar Theater »
Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony   Delayed Gratification, and Immensely Gratifying
May 27, 2010

It only took the better part of two decades, but Thursday evening at Davies Symphony Hall, Robin Holloway’s Clarissa Sequence finally received its first San Francisco Symphony performance. Holloway’s original Clarissa Sequence, that is, the one for soprano and orchestra.

More about San Francisco Symphony »
CD REVIEW
  Handel: Dettinger Te Deum Stormy and Stately Weather
May 25, 2010

It’s not as rare as one might think, from the constant reports of the demise of the classical recording industry, to encounter great new recordings of unfamiliar music. All the same, this recent release by the Göttingen Festival Orchestra, the NDR Choir, and a stellar cast of soloists under the direction of Nicholas McGegan is rather astonishing.

More »