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!


Archive REVIEW
   Casual Nonchalance
April 8, 2008

By the time an erstwhile hot young virtuoso has lived through a couple decades of concertizing, whatever keeps you still listening is necessarily something other than hotness, youth, or virtuosity. Sometimes, to be sure, even the youth and the hotness persist longer than you would think possible.

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Archive REVIEW
   Don't Cry for Her Argentina
April 8, 2008

Mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack comes from Buenos Aires, and her home is now in San Francisco, but her future is in the great opera houses and recital halls of the world.

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Archive REVIEW
   Opening a Bag of Tricks
April 8, 2008

"Indigenous Instruments," composer Steve Mackey writes of one of his pieces, "is vernacular music from a culture that doesn't actually exist." But at UC Berkeley's Hertz Hall on Friday, the audience was able to catch aural samples of familiar vernacular music. Echoes of rock and jazz jostled with idioms of 20th-century art music in four works by Mackey, performed by Citywater and the Sacramento State Percussion Group.

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Archive REVIEW
   The Many Moods of Mahler
April 8, 2008

Gustav Mahler's Third Symphony is his longest work, and from Mahler, who was never brief, that's really saying something. It's six movements long and takes about an hour and three-quarters to perform. The Third requires a large orchestra, including eight French horns (who blast out the opening theme in unaccompanied unison) and four each of most of the other winds and brass.
Then there are two choruses (who only get to sing for four minutes in the middle of the symphony), plus a solo singer (who gets slightly more time than the choruses).

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Archive REVIEW
   Sounds of Sweetness
April 8, 2008

"Are all choral concerts like this?" asked my extremely sensitive sister-in-law. Had she not continued her thought, I could have responded in many ways.
"No, they are not," I might have said. Of the thousands upon thousands of choral groups that grace the American landscape, precious few are as fine-tuned and impeccably voiced as San Francisco Choral Artists. Even close up, in the second row of Oakland's St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where the fine acoustic covers precious little, the voices blend smoothly.

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Archive REVIEW
   Impressive in Size and Substance
April 1, 2008

As soon as soprano Elza van den Heever started to pour forth her large, stunning sound, a story about Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad came to mind. For Flagstad's first Metropolitan Opera audition, she was sent to a small rehearsal room whose proportions so cramped her vocal projection that no one sensed her ultimate potential.

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Archive REVIEW
   No Fiddling Around
April 1, 2008

Tastes in violin recitals have changed markedly over the years. At one time, the second half of a virtuoso's program generally consisted entirely of what we now think of as encore pieces. Nowadays, paradoxically, the only time you are likely to see a program like that is when the player is an "intellectual" musician making a historical point.

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Archive REVIEW
   Energy by the Drumload
April 1, 2008

Israeli percussionist Chen Zimbalista is a throwback to the days when “entertainer” wasn’t a pejorative term.

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Archive REVIEW
   Youth vs. Experience
April 1, 2008

The first of two concerts by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Sunday in Davies Symphony Hall, required some program shuffling. The venerable Sir Neville Marriner was filling in for the indisposed pianist-conductor Murray Perahia. With the presence of 21-year-old pianist Yuja Wang, the combination of youth and experience made for a zesty evening of virtuosity.
Marriner opened and closed with the two symphonies originally programmed: Mozart's Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297, the "Paris" Symphony, and Haydn's Symphony No, 104, also in D major, the "London" Symphony.

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Archive REVIEW
   Unified Musical Pleasures
April 1, 2008

The young ensemble Harmonie Universelle adopted the title of its San Francisco Early Music Society concert this weekend from a collection by Johann Pachelbel, "Musicalische Ergötzung," which translates into, roughly, "musical pleasures." Indeed, the program from the early German Baroque period offered a smorgasbord of delights, demonstrating how much variety can be discovered within a unified and closely knit repertoire.
All the composers on the concert hailed from the 17th century, a period in which famously fiery Italian soloists (such as Dario Castello and Marco Uccellini) exerted profound

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