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 Music REVIEW
 Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts  Guitarmen Always Ring Twice
February 27, 2010

A well-known guitar legend quotes Chopin as saying, “Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two.” Mark Eden and Christopher Stell, the Eden Stell Guitar Duo, gave evidence on Saturday at the Veterans Building Green Room with their magnificent sound, vivid interpretations, and telepathic ensemble. They jokingly asked the Omni Foundation presenters to lock the exit doors so no one could leave during their performance of Leo Brouwer’s astringently modern Per Suonare a Due, but the audience responded with wild cheering and insisted on encores after the concert.

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 Volti  Choral Dancing on a High Wire
February 27, 2010

What can you expect from a chorus whose motto is “singing without a net”? Certainly not sea chanteys or singers standing solemnly on risers. Instead, audiences attending Volti’s memorable concert Saturday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco found themselves Shoveling Snow With Buddha; encountering Gossiping Women; listening to freely tonal, microtonal, and atonal music; and performing some music themselves.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Oakland East Bay Symphony  Monumental Question, Partly Answered
February 26, 2010

What does it mean to be an American? This question — provoked by the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s concert Friday — people have been asking in this country from jump, and we have in our collective memory a wide array of answers. Of course, to qualify the question we must understand what an American is in the first place, and here’s where things always become tricky.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Magik*Magik Orchestra  When Classical Met Indie Rock
February 26, 2010

It’s hard to know what to make of Thursday's concert at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. Was it a classical music event that featured The Dodos? Was it an indie rock concert with the Magik*Magik Orchestra? It was just this ambiguity, this realm that falls somewhere between modern classical and indie rock that was probably the goal of the Magik*Magik Orchestra, and their director, Minna Choi. These boundaries don't always mean as much as we think they do.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Perfection Meets Awe
February 25, 2010

At the February 25 San Francisco Symphony matinee, Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt led the orchestra in two polar opposite symphonic masterpieces. Both works received the high-polish performances you expect from a world-class orchestra and their juxtaposition turned out to be brilliant programming.

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  Florilegium: Bolivian Baroque, Vol. 3 Unexpected Delights
February 23, 2010

If you’re looking for music to restore your faith in what’s good in life, look no farther. Florilegium’s pioneering Bolivian Baroque series — three superbly recorded volumes by that period instrument ensemble — contains some of the most delightful music I’ve heard in many a year.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony Gewandhaus Orchestra Stunner From Leipzig
February 21, 2010

Even in a standard-repertoire program, there was something cheeky about the world’s oldest civic orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (est. 1743), putting Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony on Sunday’s opening bill of a two-night stand at Davies Symphony Hall. But by then, after a transportingly good performance of the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1, with Louis Lortie at the keyboard, Riccardo Chailly (the orchestra’s 19th music director) and his ensemble had already conquered the California crowd. It was a captivating night of music-making all around.

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Recital REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Braved by Bell
February 21, 2010

Some guys have all the luck — or at least it seems that way with Joshua Bell. In the last decade, the American violinist has become one of the most successful artists in classical music history, selling millions of CDs and stacking up awards like so many Legos. With his boyish good looks, it would be easy to dismiss him as the industry’s most marketable commodity. Yet his meteoric rise isn’t all hype: Sunday afternoon at Zellerbach Hall, a few thousand fans braved the wet weather to hear him in a duo recital presented by Cal Performances, and they didn’t go away disappointed.

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 Artists Vocal Ensemble (AVE)  Back to the Land
February 21, 2010

Wander through the meandering roads of San Francisco's Presidio National Park, pass the George Lucas Pavilion, cross the huge parade grounds where cute vehicles parry in jerky zigzags as San Franciscans learn to operate manual transmissions, and veer off on a smaller path before the main road and you will discover an antique, white barrack newly renovated as an open, two-story gallery space for the Walt Disney Family Museum. On Sunday, I had the good fortune to discover that the gallery is an ideal place to hear a chamber music or choral concert.

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 West Edge Opera  Cads Get Their Comeuppance
February 20, 2010

Berkeley Opera, undergoing some significant changes, is assuring its audience that all is well, by presenting an engaging production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Saturday’s performance in its new venue, the El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, under the direction of new Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky, was a resounding success.

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