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 Symphony  Running Mahler to Earth
September 23, 2009

San Francisco Symphony audiences who have grown accustomed to long-arch excursions through the Mahler symphonic canon need to adjust their sights for this week’s “Gustav Mahler: Origins and Legacies” programs at Davies Symphony Hall. As the middle panel of Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas’ three-week Mahler Festival ’09, the programs amount to busily filled, prismatically constructed talk-and-play probings of the composer’s musical sources, techniques, humor, pathos, and psychology. 

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Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  Mozart 'Musical' at the War Memorial
September 23, 2009

Grand and glorious as Mozart's 1782 Die Entführung aus dem Seraglio (The Abduction from the Seraglio) is, it's not a through-composed, sung-only "grand opera." Now onstage at the San Francisco Opera, in a new coproduction with Chicago's Lyric Opera, "Abduction" is an early forerunner of the Broadway musical, a "singspiel" with a great deal of spoken dialogue.

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Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Conservatory of Music  Christopher Basso's Long Journey Home
September 23, 2009

In difficult times, there are few things that give me as much joy as listening to music being performed for nothing other than the love of it.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony DVD REVIEW:<br>Keeping Score</em> Season Two: Berlioz, Shostakovich, Ives Keeping Score Scores a 10
September 22, 2009

Keeping Score is about to return. The first three musical journeys in the second season of Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony’s Keeping Score TV series are set to air nationwide. Scheduled locally on KQED-TV for Oct. 15, 22, and 29 at 10 p.m., the one-hour programs explore BerliozSymphonie Fantastique, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, and Ives’ Holidays Symphony.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
   Ensemble Gombert’s Crystalline Polyphony
September 22, 2009

Some early music ensembles approach the performance of Renaissance polyphony as if it were fine crystal: beautiful, but delicate, a fragile object not to be unduly disturbed. Like crystal, the music can occasionally shimmer and reveal prisms of color when viewed through different angles, but it remains a static object, more a museum piece than a kinetic construct. This analogy aptly summarizes the experience of hearing Ensemble Gombert, a 14-voice chamber choir from Australia specializing in High Renaissance polyphony.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Left Coast Chamber Ensemble  From Left Coast to Around the Globe
September 21, 2009

The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble does not confine itself to the region of its name. The Bay Area–based chamber ensemble opened its 2009-2010 season Monday evening at the Green Room of the Veterans Building in San Francisco with an engaging program of short works derived from such far-flung musical locales as Armenia, India, Iran, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, and the Balkans.

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Choral REVIEW
  Trinity College Choir, Cambridge Trinity Goes to Tinseltown
September 20, 2009

We Americans often find the concept of an established church difficult to grasp. As our fellow citizens debate school prayer, crosses in public parks, and vouchers for religious schools, official state support of the church remains de rigueur in other lands and is an integral part of state education. This is particularly apparent at the famous British universities Oxford and Cambridge.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Bay Area Rainbow Symphony (BARS)  Orchestra of Promise
September 20, 2009

Warhorse has become a dirty word, synonymous with tired and predictable. If a musical warhorse is included in a concert program, particularly one as important as the season opener, its function is to appease those who did not love the aural and intellectual assaults that preceded it. So it’s fitting that the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony, a gay and lesbian volunteer orchestra whose enterprise is based on daring, would disregard the trend with an opening night lineup featuring one very short contemporary piece and two warhorses.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Concerts Grand  Pulling Listeners Into Her World
September 20, 2009

North Bay fans of piano music are a lucky bunch. For the past six years, the Concerts Grand series, produced by Terry McNeill, has been presenting piano recitals primarily in Sonoma, attracting established as well as upcoming talents from near and far. Every year, pianists of extraordinary caliber have graced the Newman Hall stage of Santa Rosa Junior College. 

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Magical Mahler From the S.F. Symphony and Susan Graham
September 16, 2009

For many San Francisco Symphony fans, the orchestra’s 2009/2010 season finally got underway last Wednesday (Sept. 16). True, the season’s official start came one week earlier, with a glitzy gala that featured pianist Lang Lang. But it wasn’t until Wednesday’s all-Mahler program at Davies Symphony Hall that Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra got down to serious business. And, as usually happens when this conductor and his ensemble delve into the music of Mahler, the results were dazzling.

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