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  Undead Symphony
August 9, 2009

To be a Deadhead is to be a part of a unique, dedicated, and endlessly enthusiastic bunch. Tie-dye is always a dead giveaway (pun intended), as are long hair and/or headbands, flowers, hemp clothing, and equal parts intense, interactive listening for what goes on onstage and the ability to be lost in the moment with comrades down on the floor.

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Opera REVIEW
 Merola Opera Program  Grand Ensemble Marks Merola <em>Così</em>
August 9, 2009

The extra excitement of Merola Opera’s performance of Mozart’s Così fan tutte could be felt on both sides of the metaphorical footlights. As the house lights dimmed on Sunday at the outset of the production in Fort Mason’s intimate Cowell Theatre, you could almost hear the anticipatory questions in people’s minds: Were they about to witness one or more major stars in the making?

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Festival REVIEW
 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music  Around the World of Cabrillo
August 8, 2009

The Cabrillo Festival’s second night brought program music of various sorts to the full house that on Saturday filled the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Music Director Marin Alsop and her high-energy orchestra provided sharp, dynamic performances of three works that drew on eclectic sources of inspiration and were generally quite accessible.

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Festival REVIEW
 Music@Menlo  Living Legend at Menlo
August 8, 2009

Whoever thinks that the California scene is too relaxed for the best kind of classical music-making (especially in August, in the suburbs of San Francisco, where the parking is plentiful, the sun shines every day, and the wine flows plentifully) should have been at the Music@Menlo concert Saturday night, at the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.

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Festival REVIEW
 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music  Sublime Sounds Strike Cabrillo
August 7, 2009

How do you tell a hack orchestrator from a master? One composes a new sequence of sounds, the other a sequence of new sounds. And if the sequence itself has a certain cohesive inevitability about it, you have a ground-breaking masterpiece. Two of these were served up to an enthusiastic audience Friday night at the opening of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, thanks to invitations from Music Director Marin Alsop.

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Festival REVIEW
 Music@Menlo  Deeply Touched by Menahem Pressler
August 2, 2009

“We are looking for someone who will touch us deeply, in a way that we cannot forget.” These words, spoken by the pianist Menahem Pressler in a documentary about the Van Cliburn competition, came to mind while listening to his solo recital at this summer’s Music@Menlo Festival. In the course of his recital I discovered just how deeply they were meant. 

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Festival REVIEW
 Music@Menlo  Seriously Mendelssohn
July 31, 2009

A cycle of the Mendelssohn string quartets: It sounds like a reasonable programming idea, yet it isn’t done very often. Felix Mendelssohn wrote seven full quartets, plus a small assortment of individual movements, just about the right amount of music for a set of three concerts.

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CD REVIEW
 New Century Chamber Orchestra  Together? And How!
July 28, 2009
Those of us who attended violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg’s opening concert as music director and concertmaster of the New Century Chamber Orchestra (NCCO) can hardly forget her bracing and authoritative playing. More about New Century Chamber Orchestra »
Festival REVIEW
 Carmel Bach Festival July 21 and 23 Bach as a Springboard in Carmel
July 28, 2009

Festival namesake Johann Sebastian Bach constitutes roughly 18 percent of the current Carmel Bach Festival’s total programs, now spanning just over two weeks, down from three weeks over the last several years.

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Festival REVIEW
 Music@Menlo  Good Vibrations
July 27, 2009

Following what I had expected to be the preconcert lecture for the Music@Menlo evening presentation of "Midsummer Night Dreams," I found myself listening to an extravagant performance of the Dvořák Terzetto in C Major, followed by a breathtaking presentation of Brahms' Clarinet Trio in A Minor. After that explosion of sound, energy, and undisguised romance, I stumbled dizzily to another venue for the program that I was there to review.

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