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
   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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Archive REVIEW
   Stylish Work on Eight Strings
April 1, 2008

Paul Galbraith, whose Sunday recital at the Florence Gould Theater was sponsored by Chamber Music San Francisco, is a unique figure in the classical guitar world. Winner of the Segovia International Guitar Competition and the BBC Young Musician of the Year Award in 1981 at age 17, he began giving concerts throughout Europe regularly.

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Archive REVIEW
   Earnest Eclecticism
April 1, 2008

If eclecticism is your thing, San Francisco's Mission Dance Theater was the place to be on Sunday for the first annual Switchboard Music Festival. Billed as "eight hours of nonstop, genre-defying music by the Bay Area's most innovative artists," it was founded to bring together people who are "creating new sounds that defy description."
The informality of Dance Theater's black box provided a suitable environment, as well as a familiar one for those of us who have performed on these types of adventurous "new music" forays.

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Archive REVIEW
   Uneven Temperaments
April 1, 2008

It has been an exciting two weeks on the podium at the San Francisco Symphony. Two of the world's most talked-about young conductors — Gustavo Dudamel and Alan Gilbert — came to town back-to-back to guest conduct the orchestra. I had the pleasure of observing both Dudamel's Rachmaninov and Stravinsky last week (see review) and Gilbert's program of Stucky, Mozart, and Nielsen on Saturday.

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Archive REVIEW
   Top-Rank Organ Playing
April 1, 2008

The composer Ned Rorem once said that he didn't particularly enjoy going to organ recitals, because the live acoustics in churches prevented him from properly hearing the music. He thought that other organists, who are used to hearing through the acoustical fog, mostly made up the audiences for these recitals.

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Archive REVIEW
   More of These Tones, Friends
April 1, 2008

What repertoire staple could get Symphony Silicon Valley to give four performances instead of its usual two or three? Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, of course. And as soon as Scott Bearden stood up to deliver his opening solo in the fourth movement, “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!” on Saturday evening, it was clear why San Jose’s California Theatre was full. He sang with as much power and clarity of articulation as the finest bass-baritone in the world. It was a truly thrilling moment in a generally exciting evening.
Bearden shared the stage with other good singers.

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Archive REVIEW
   Unexaggerated Brilliance
March 25, 2008

It doesn't matter how much hype is swirling around conductor Gustavo Dudamel. He is the real deal, a great all-around young talent, who consistently delivers the goods, as his debut concerts with the San Francisco Symphony last week proved.
All of Davies Hall’s 2,750 seats were sold for a 10 a.m. open rehearsal, surely a first, and there was a long line of hoping-against-hope applicants for the nonexistent tickets, all but waving a finger in the air a la Deadheads in quest of admission.

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Archive REVIEW
   Legends Befit Legends
March 25, 2008

Lovefest, joyful reunion, royal tribute — such descriptions merely begin to tell the tale of the U.S.

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Archive REVIEW
   Liszt the Admirer
March 25, 2008

Thunder and lightning flashed from the piano in Herbst Theatre last Tuesday night as Canadian virtuoso Louis Lortie presented a sort-of-Liszt program, under the auspices of San Francisco Performances. Actually, most of the evening was built around Franz Liszt's great admiration for Wagner. Transcriptions abounded, because of some last-minute programming shuffling.
Lortie opened with a piano version of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, as transcribed by Wagner's assistant Joseph Rubinstein.

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Archive REVIEW
   She Came to Conquer
March 18, 2008

Cleopatra, in the person of Isabel Bayrakdarian, stormed into the First Congregational Church of Berkeley Saturday night, in the company of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Opera found its way to Germany in the early 18th century, and Cleopatra was a favorite character, sharing the stage with one or the other of her famous lovers, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
A grand overture from Carl Heinrich Graun's Cleopatra e Cesare opened the concert.

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