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!


Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  A <em>Werther</em> for the Brain, Not the Heart
September 15, 2010

San Francisco Opera’s current production adopts Goethe’s ironic distance, but works against so much of what Massenet does with the music. On the other hand, it boasts an extremely strong cast, headed by Ramón Vargas and expertly conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. Everyone should hear Villaume’s stunning ensemble of singers and players.

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CD REVIEW
  Hadyn:
September 14, 2010

Not that long ago it would have been rare to find any small label issuing all 12 of Haydn’s last symphonies at one go, and borderline impossible to find them so well-played as they are on Marc Minkowski’s new set of Haydn’s “London” Symphonies, with Les Musiciens du Louvre.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Chamber Music Day: Live + Free  Chamber Music Day: Eclectic Ensembles For Every Taste
September 12, 2010

The multitude of musicians and aficionados swarming, free of charge, through the San Francisco Conservatory last Sunday afternoon displayed how far the annual Chamber Music Day has outgrown the chamber it began in.

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Opera REVIEW
 Opera San José  Opera San José’s Ambitious <em>Anna Karenina</em>
September 11, 2010

Works of fiction that become operas often suffer some degree of degradation in the translation. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, for example, is generally acknowledged a masterpiece: Dostoyevsky called it “flawless as a work of art.” Yet David Carlson’s opera Anna Karenina seems destined to go down in operatic history as a valiant attempt, at best.

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Opera REVIEW
  <em>Jerry Springer the Opera</em> Jerry! Jerry! By the Bay
September 11, 2010

Richard Thomas' Jerry Springer the Opera is a multiple award-winning, much-praised work, developed with the support and participation of Cameron Mackintosh, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Nick Hytner, and other notables. It finally made its profane, foul-mouthed, offensive and hilarious entry last weekend in a big, spectacular Ray of Light Theater production at the Mission's Victoria Theater, the beginning of a five-week run.

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Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  <em>Aida</em>: If Looks Were Everything
September 10, 2010

As one of the grandest of grand operas, it’s only fitting that Verdi’s Aida would open San Francisco Opera’s fall season. The 140 people assembled on the War Memorial Opera House stage for the Triumphal Scene may not have held a candle to the 2,000 supernumeraries enlisted by Col. Mapleson in Chicago in 1885, but when you add in all the women in the audience who used the opening as an excuse to wear huge pieces of Egyptian-styled jewelry, it was quite the show.

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CD REVIEW
  Orchestral Works by Gordon Getty Getty's Orchestral Pieces, Wistful to Rocking
September 7, 2010

Judging from their playing, which pours forth freely in one melodic stream after another, Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields must have relished their assignment. Their recent multichannel SACD sampler of orchestral music by Gordon Getty (b. 1933), released by Pentatone, is a joyful experience, overflowing with lovely, richly scored pieces.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Bon Voyage: A Promise, Not Just a Wish
September 3, 2010

The Lucerne Music Festival, where Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony are heading, is an orchestral showcase, in addition to its many spectacular chamber-music events. The month-long festival opened with Claudio Abbado and his Festival Orchestra and will close on Sept. 18 with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.

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CD REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony Mahler: <em>Songs With Orchestra</em> San Francisco Symphony’s Mahler Series Shimmers to a Close
August 31, 2010

The great long arc of the San Francisco Symphony’s Mahler Project comes to a gentle, soft landing with Songs With Orchestra, the final CD of an unprecedented undertaking.

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CD REVIEW
  Rhys Chatham: A Crimson Grail Literally Surrounded by Sound
August 24, 2010

A Crimson Grail was premiered at the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur, after a commission by the city of Paris. Rhys Chatham’s piece consciously makes use of the architecture’s 15-second reverberation time. The musicians surround the audience, creating a live, surround-sound experience. The Paris-based Chatham wrote the piece for a variable number of electric guitarists and bassists (astonishingly, up to 400), plus a single percussionist. The Nonesuch recording captures the work’s Lincoln Center performance.

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