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!


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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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Santa Rosa Symphony  Music Center at Sonoma State Still A-Greening
February 13, 2010

While California and its constituent parts sit in a blue mood, Sonoma County on Friday night was celebrating the future and its hopes. At least, 350 of its movers and shakers were doing that, the donors who had raised much of the $96 million toward building the Green Music Center on the Rohnert Park campus of Sonoma State University. In their presence that night, the Santa Rosa Symphony gave the first real test to the auditorium that bids to be the prime symphony hall in Northern California.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  British Radiance
February 12, 2010

There was nothing of English pastoralism on Friday’s all-British program by the San Francisco Symphony, under guest conductor Charles Dutoit. The two 20th-century works offered a nearly tactile brilliance all evening long, aided and abetted by the orchestra’s concertmaster, Alexander Barantschik, and, in the closing minutes, by the wordless, offstage women of the S.F. Symphony Chorus.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra  Brahms, in Style
February 11, 2010

The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra hasn't been just a Baroque orchestra for a very long time; Haydn, Mozart, and the early Romantics are bread and butter to its seasons now. Still ... Brahms? From a self-described Baroque orchestra? The Philharmonia launched their Brahms foray on Thursday night at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre, a double bill of the composer's First Serenade for full orchestra (in D major, Op. 11) and his Violin Concerto (Op. 77, also D Major), with Viktoria Mullova as soloist.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 San Francisco Performances  Spelunking in Music’s Caves
February 9, 2010

Schumann’s Piano Trio, Op. 110 in G minor, has thousands of notes, if not tens of thousands. The same goes for Chopin’s Piano Trio, Op. 8 in G minor, and Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87. So many classical musicians are intent on bringing out every single written note that it’s a relief to hear an ensemble that knows exactly when to highlight a gesture and when to recede into the background texture. This, Trio Cavatina knows how to do.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Earplay  Music For Art’s Sake
February 8, 2010

Earplay’s 25th season of concerts began Monday with a program at Herbst Theatre featuring works by composers who have a Bay Area connection, past or present. The opening selection was Mexican-born Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez’ provocatively titled and of course, Henry the Horse (2006), a collection of four short, attractive pieces scored for clarinets, violin, and piano duet. Each of the pieces “pays homage to, and is a commentary on, a contemporary work of art.”

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Recital REVIEW
   Midori Does It All, and Well
February 6, 2010

Violinist Midori proved Saturday in Herbst Theatre, under the auspices of San Francisco Performances, that a healthy musical diet can consist almost solely of works written in the 1990s. Her superb musicianship and faultless programming instincts produced one of the best recent-music chamber concerts I have heard in some time.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Concord Out of Discord
February 5, 2010

The San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas paid a mammoth tribute to two American composers, Charles Ives and Henry Brant, last week. Friday’s performance of A Concord Symphony, music by Ives as orchestrated by Brant, was a landmark in local performances of 20th-century music.

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CD REVIEW
  Barber, Bernstein, Bloch Gluzman and the Three Bs
February 2, 2010

Brimming with earnest and tender melodies by a 20th-century version of the Three B’s — Bernstein, Bloch, and Barber — this BIS recording showcases the abundant gifts of violinist Vadim Gluzman. Undeterred by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra’s often lackluster contributions, the Israeli soloist offers proof of how rich and nuanced the often broad-brushed adjective “lyrical” can actually be.

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