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!


Archive REVIEW
   Fearless Youth
April 22, 2008

The Crowden Music Center's Sundays@Four concert series is by now a popular feature of the North Berkeley classical music scene, to judge by the eager audiences I see whenever I attend.

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   Women on the March in April
April 22, 2008

“The 51% Majority” was the title of the Empyrean Ensemble’s program of compositions by female composers last Friday at Old First Church in San Francisco. Of the featured music, 52.4 percent (three and two-thirds of the seven pieces) was unexceptional — no surprise considering that contemporary classical music hasn’t been time-filtered enough. But the rest made the concert more than worthwhile.
Tops for me was the first performance of Ann Callaway’s The Memory Palace (2006) for clarinet, cello, and piano. According to Callaway (b.

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   A Rippin' Pippin
April 22, 2008

Adam blamed Eve for yielding to temptation, and Elizabethan poets sighed over the inconstancy of women. In Mozart's opera Così fan tutte, men go to extraordinary lengths to test women's constancy. And so they did Sunday at the Legion of Honor, in Pocket Opera's production.
Guglielmo and Ferrando, convinced that their lovers, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, will always be true, are seduced by Don Alfonso's bet that he can prove them wrong. Sure that they will win the bet, they agree to follow his directions for 24 hours.

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   Towering in Every Aspect
April 22, 2008

Bryn Terfel sure knows how to work a crowd. After his rendition of Roger Quilter's Go, Lovely Rose left adoring attendees at his Cal Performances recital in profound silence, he smiled and said, "You're a fabulous audience. You can breathe, you know."
Such a winking acknowledgment of his impact was only part of the shtick.

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   Darkness and Light
April 22, 2008

Opera San José’s production of Mozart's Magic Flute, seen Saturday, got me thinking about the issue of time in opera. Not the minutes that we, the audience, spend in our seats, but how time is portrayed on the stage and how the singers as actors must accommodate that flow.
What it comes down to is that portrayed time within an act of a spoken drama is fairly close to real time, while in opera real time gets suspended whenever an aria explores the emotional reaction of a character to an event.

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   Playing With Fire
April 15, 2008

With its latest release on the Dorian label, Musica Pacifica returns to repertoire that has earned it a fiery reputation, the virtuoso Italian repertoire of the mid-18th century. The disc centers on the most venerated master of the concerto, Antonio Vivaldi, but is fleshed out with concertos by two different Giuseppes, Tartini and Sammartini.
As the genre’s definition suggests, the band was obliged to complement the ensemble (the usual cast of four) with a quartet of strings and a theorbo (bass lute).

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   Royalty Indeed
April 15, 2008

What a joy to experience Kate Royal in person! Looking for all the world like a Greek goddess, draped in a form-fitting, floor-length black dress secured over one shoulder, the elegant young soprano gracefully entered Hertz Hall to present her Cal Performances recital.

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   Young Singers Reanimate History
April 15, 2008

San Francisco Conservatory of Music's young artists went way back in time to present an opera three-and-a-half centuries old, last weekend in Fort Mason Center's Cowell Theater. Richard Harrell, director of the Conservatory's Opera Theater, has bravely (and judging by the results, wisely) selected Francesco Cavalli's 1643 L'Egisto, a sensation in its time, but virtually impossible to find performed today.
Harrell was also stage director of the production, which was visually defined by Dean Shibuya's occasionally jerky, at times confusing, projections.

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Archive REVIEW
   Bright in the Dead of the Night
April 15, 2008

Eighth blackbird's concert on Saturday defied elementary arithmetic. For example, the program featured two pieces, but four composers, which might seem twice as many composers as was required. Similarly, the first piece specified 12 musicians, but was performed by only six, which might seem twice too few.
Yet strange arithmetical — not to mention musical — feats can happen when the performing ensemble is a sextet with the ordinal "eighth" in its name: eighth blackbird, an accomplished new-music ensemble whose members play flute, clarinet, violin/viola, cello, piano, and percussion.

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Archive REVIEW
   Sonic Tattoos
April 15, 2008

In newspaper ads touting his appearances with the Santa Rosa Symphony, Christopher O’Riley wore a black T-shirt, the better to show off a massive henna tattoo running the length of his arm, right down to the ends of his fingers. In his April 12 concert, the tattoo was no longer in evidence, but he did manage to tattoo the symphony’s resident Steinway with some of the richest sounds to emerge from that instrument in a long time.
Clad in a knee-length black coat, O’Riley got right to work on Bartók’s Piano Concerto No.

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