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  Amazed by a Quiet Parade of Americana
September 22, 2010

The advance ads might have convinced you that the main event on this week’s San Francisco Symphony program was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. To be sure, Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra performed the work as planned, conferring considerable eloquence and brio on Tchaikovsky’s monumental masterpiece. But the program’s greatest rewards came in a trio of American works by Aaron Copland and Lou Harrison. It may be some time before audiences hear any of these works played in the Bay Area again — or hear them played this well.

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Opera REVIEW
 San Francisco Opera  S.F. Opera's Marvelous <em>Marriage of Figaro</em>
September 21, 2010

When an opera is as brilliant as Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and everything onstage and in the pit clicks, the results can be magical. Such is the case with one of the most animated and delightful productions of the masterpiece that I have ever seen.

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CD REVIEW
  Anonymous 4: The Cherry Tree Anonymous 4 Goes Cherry Picking For Christmas
September 21, 2010

Time has smiled sweetly on Anonymous 4. Twenty-four years after their founding, three of four members of this chart-topping a cappella women’s vocal ensemble remain, sounding as good as ever ... and as simple as ever.

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Choral REVIEW
 Chanticleer  Chanticleer: Voices of the Stars
September 17, 2010

Chanticleer began its 33rd season this week with “Out of This World,” a program built around music referencing the stars, the planets, and the heavens. The men’s chorus drew principally on music of the Renaissance, Romantic, and modern eras, and delivered a performance that was varied in content, well-nuanced, and crowd-pleasing.

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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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