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!
What a perfect day. On Saturday I had the pleasure of listening to the Miró Quartet at the Florence Gould Theater of San Francisco's Legion of Honor. All my regrets about missing part of a beautifully sunny afternoon were dispelled by the performance of this first-rate ensemble. Two favorite works by Mozart and Beethoven joined a lesser-known excursion from Toru Takemitsu to form a well-balanced program.
The Miró Quartet formed at Oberlin College back in 1995, and the years of performing together have paid off.
Monday night’s concert at the odd sanctuary of San Francisco’s St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church by the chorus Volti, under the direction of Bob Geary, offered an intriguing evening of new choral works. The first half of the concert was largely given over to a performance from conductor Geary’s Piedmont Children's Choirs. The blend and ability to sing difficult music of this 40-voice mixed boys and girls ensemble was, as always, quite impressive.
The core of the first half consisted of two works by Australian composer Elliott Gyger (b. 1968), now on the faculty at Harvard.
Performing Mozart is easy, but also terribly difficult because the transparency of his compositions offers nowhere to hide. It’s like being naked on stage. A nigh-flawless performance is a rare occurrence, but when all the elements are in place, as they were Friday night for the San Francisco Symphony's all-Mozart concert under conductor Herbert Blomstedt, the results are awe-inspiring. Every single element sounded precisely placed, maximally musical.
Blomstedt offered three masterpieces, none overplayed, of different forms. He opened with the Divertimento No. 11 in D Major, K.
Even Cal Performances' starrier guests don't routinely sell out Zellerbach Hall. But more than two decades into his high-profile career, Joshua Bell's name still deservedly wields an uncommon pull, and it was to a capacity audience that he and pianist Jeremy Denk played on Sunday afternoon. The duo's Berkeley recital represented the one Northern California blip in a taxing tour (tucked in between a Costa Mesa concert on Saturday night and a Palm Desert one Tuesday). I hope the blame for a vexingly uneven recital may be assigned at least partly to fatigue.More »
History reserves an important place for composers who have left a monumental legacy. Bach’s cantata cycles and Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungs are good examples. Among Renaissance composers, both William Byrd and Heinrich Isaac fit that bill well.More »
Lucas Meachem sauntered onto the stage of Temple Emanu-El's Martin Meyer Sanctuary on Sunday as though walkin' into the High G Saloon. Swinging open wide the doors that separated him from everyone seated in the joint, he declared, "I'm Lucas. I'm from North Carolina, and I'm going to be singing some great songs tonight. I know you don't expect someone to start a recital like this, but I'm going to do what I can to change that …"
You can say that again.
Perhaps it's just me, but I possess a stereotypical image of a brass quintet. It is an image of gray-haired men who chiefly play Renaissance and Baroque music, with the occasional Christmas album thrown into the mix to shake things up a bit.
Regardless of whether my image might ring true for others, the Meridian Arts Ensemble certainly does not fit that stereotype. For starters, this New York-based ensemble is actually a sextet: a brass quintet with an added percussionist. It performed Sunday at Dinkelspiel Auditorium as part of the Stanford Lively Arts concert series.
To most Americans, Christopher Columbus is known as the "discoverer" of our part of the world. Less commonly understood is the land from which he came, an environment rich in culture but beset by violence and religious intolerance, a legacy that Columbus' arrival in the Americas would perpetuate.
The complex strains of Spain's multicultural heritage formed the backdrop to Hespèrion XXI's stunning presentation Saturday at Berkeley's First Congregational Church, under the auspices of Cal Performances.
The Tokyo String Quartet's personality has shifted over time, but through the ensemble's nearly 40 years of existence its technical panache and its fondness for minutely thought-out interpretation have remained in consistently high repute.More »