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!


Recital REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Schubert, and Nothing But
October 18, 2009

Michael Schade makes a strong case for singing nothing but Franz Schubert, as he did Sunday afternoon in Berkeley’s Hertz Hall, presented by Cal Performances. The German-born Canadian tenor combines his fluency in Schubert’s language with Mozart’s Italian sensibilities. His singing flows effortlessly from ringing, heroic declamation to exceedingly soft, intimate passages.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 San Francisco Performances  Nimble New Voice in the Juilliard Quartet
October 18, 2009

The introduction of a new player into a venerable chamber ensemble is always a touchy thing; you can never quite be sure what sort of entity will emerge at the end of the process, how much or how little it will resemble the group you once knew. That goes doubly for the leaders of string quartets. For better or worse, the first violinist has a disproportionately large role in forming a quartet’s collective character. 

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Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  The Demented and the Divine
October 18, 2009

“The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death,” sings Salome, the eponymous central character in Richard Strauss’ 1905 opera.

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Recital REVIEW
  Roland Dyens Inspired Guitar
October 16, 2009

Pixinguinha is a name revered in Brazil but relatively unknown elsewhere. Alfredo da Rocha Vianna Filho, better known as Pixinguinha, was the first and most influential musician in Brazilian popular music. A master of the musical genre known as chôro (Portuguese for cry or lament) at the beginning of the 20th century, he also influenced the development of the samba and bossa nova styles.

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Opera REVIEW
 West Bay Opera  An Intimate <em>Bohème </em> From West Bay Opera
October 16, 2009

Giacomo Puccini often chose settings that brought opera up close and personal, and he thus worked vital changes on the form and made it ready for the 20th century. There’s a consequent advantage in witnessing Puccini in a smaller venue, such as the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, where the West Bay Opera continues its well-sung production of La bohème next weekend. 

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Berkeley Symphony   Launching the <em>S.S. Berkeley</em>
October 15, 2009

Awesome was the recaptained ship, the Symphony Season Berkeley, as it slipped into the October-audience channel. The Symphony’s new skipper, Music Director Joana Carneiro, brought on board high hopes, boundless energy, charismatic facial expressions, and two newish pumping systems in the engine room: works by John Adams and Gabriela Lena Frank.

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Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  A Grand Night For Singing
October 14, 2009

The Daughter of the Regiment (La Fille du Régiment) by Gaetano Donizetti is about singing as a direct route to the hearts both of characters and audiences. The opera’s apparent naiveté and, at times, blatant absurdity belie its perfection. In it the mature master composer of some 52 prior operas hides his own virtuosity in order allow his singers to reveal truth of feeling.

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CD REVIEW
  Sufjan Stevens: The BQE Wild Ride Through Brooklyn
October 13, 2009

The music of this CD/DVD is easier on the ear than the concept is easy on the mind. But that doesn’t obviate the importance of, and the potential pleasure in, embracing the full intent of the creator, Sufjan Stevens. East Coasters may recognize in the title the source of inspiration: It’s the unsightly and often dysfunctional but vital Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which traverses a couple of New York City’s boroughs, one of them the site of the institution that commissioned and premiered this project, the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra  All Together Now
October 11, 2009

After last month’s impressive performances of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra returned to its 17th-century roots over the weekend with a program of short works, led by guest violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
  Los Angeles Philharmonic<br>Gustavo Dudamel New Baton Whipping Up the Parade
October 11, 2009

As I stood in the deserted Civic Center station with only three others from the full house that had vociferously cheered the Saturday concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its 28-year-old new music-director, Gustavo Dudamel, I reflected on L.A.’s love for the automobile. Is Dudamel the city’s new Ferrari, or is he just the winning float in the Rose Bowl parade, bestowed with colorful petals and dancing girls who obscure the true vehicle underneath, be it Corvette, Scion, or Edsel?

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