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!


Festival REVIEW
 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music  Impressive Opening Night Audience Graces Cabrillo Festival
August 6, 2010

Sure, the Cabrillo Festival showcased a trio of distinctive, lauded — and breathing — composers on its opening night program. And yes, Music Director Marin Alsop and her band played their hearts out, as they usually do. But perhaps more impressive was the most neglected portion of the classical music communication channel: the audience.

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Opera REVIEW
 Merola Opera Program  Merola Program Pushes the <em>Elixir</em>
August 5, 2010

Want to know what can makes a bel canto opera performance great and what can neutralize it? Head to Cowell Theater, where select participants in this summer’s installment of San Francisco Opera’s famed Merola Opera Program hold forth in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.

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CD REVIEW
  John Adams and the Los Angeles Philharmonic: The Dharma at Big Sur Josefowicz Download Un-dulls John Adams’ <em>Dharma</em>
August 3, 2010

If you head to iTunes, you can check out a great new recording of American compositions in the live DG Concerts series, for which John Adams conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in his own work. It used to be that new classical pieces, if they got recorded at all, took years to get on a CD. But things aren’t the way they used to be, thanks to the advent of the download.

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CD REVIEW
  Il Fondamento: Telemann Ouvertüre <em>La Bourse</em> and Suites The Vast Telemannian Sea
August 3, 2010

One of the persistent pleasures in listening to whatever comes your way is that any random find may lead you to treasure. You pick up a stray gem, track its source, and suddenly uncover an entire vein of music as good. It was like that for me with Georg Philipp Telemann’s orchestral suites.

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Opera REVIEW
   Berkeley (Now West Edge) Opera Conquers Big, Miniature <em>Ring</em>
July 31, 2010

Once upon a time, six long years ago, there was a little opera company in Berkeley tackling a huge project, called the Legend of the Ring, making waves far and wide. And now, on Saturday, here was a little company again, taking up the same challenge: David Seaman’s condensation of Richard Wagner’s four-opera, 15-hour Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle into a four-hour evening.

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Festival REVIEW
 Music@Menlo  Tasty Viennese Treats From Music@Menlo
July 31, 2010

[email protected] continued its traversal of geographically inspired programs Saturday night with a focus on music from Vienna. Looking at the festival’s range of programs, this approach seems, as often as not, to raise a new banner under which the organization presents a fair amount of familiar repertoire.

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CD REVIEW
  Apollo’s Fire: Mozart Symphony No. 40 Fanning Mozart’s Fire
July 27, 2010

It’s a tried-and-true strategy for constructing programs, concerts, and CDs alike: Make certain there’s a surefire favorite in there somewhere, then pack around it as much unfamiliar music as you dare. Not often, though, have I seen it deployed as baldly as it is on the new Mozart recording by the Cleveland-based period-instrument orchestra Apollo’s Fire.

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Festival REVIEW
 Music@Menlo  English Elusiveness and Steel at Menlo
July 27, 2010

After two centuries of an increasing reputation as a “Land Without Music,” whose homegrown composers weren’t considered worth importing by disapproving Germans, England suddenly flowered with a blossom of great composers starting around the turn of the 20th century. A garland of works by three of these masters formed “The English Voice,” the second of this year’s [email protected] chamber music festival main concert programs.

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Dance REVIEW
 Festival del Sole  Ebullient Ballet From Festival del Sole
July 23, 2010

Since 2006, Napa Valley’s Festival del Sole has lured the likes of Joshua Bell and the Russian National Orchestra to wine country in the summer months for an orgy of the tasteful high life: the world’s finest musicians paired with the region’s best wines, enjoyed between meals at the area’s architecturally exquisite estates, vineyard strolls, and test drives of the Bentleys parked on display. On Friday, thanks to the sponsorship of Dede Wilsey, the festival added ballet to its pleasures, with tremendous success. “Stars of American and Russian Ballet” sold out Yountville’s Lincoln Theater.

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CD REVIEW
  Alondra de la Parra: Mi Alma Mexicana Mexico’s Sizzling, Sensual Soul
July 20, 2010

Mi Alma Mexicana abounds in revelations. That its all-Mexican classic repertoire, which ranges from sedate, 120-year-old, European-influenced salon music to uncommonly savage modern fare, arrives with such wide-eyed freshness and power owes as much to the abundant gifts of 29-year-old conductor Alondra de la Parra as to the artistry of the young members of her 6-year-old Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA).

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