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!


CD REVIEW
   Ah, Youth!
October 6, 2009

If you are looking for a gift for someone beginning their odyssey into classical music, you could do worse than send them the latest DGG sampler release of repertoire standards spiced with two dances by the Mexican composer Arturo Márquez.

Why? The conductor is Gustavo Dudamel, product of Venezuela’s world-famous El Sistema who has just taken over the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 San Francisco Contemporary Music Players  Having the Composer At Hand
October 5, 2009

Music sounds different when the composer’s in the room. It sounds even more different when he’s sitting near you and hands you a score. That was the predicament in which I found myself Sunday afternoon, at the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ “Contemporary Insights” lectures.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
   The Anatomy of Cultural Diversity, With Imani Winds and Stefon Harris
October 4, 2009

Imani Winds, a wind quintet whose stylish grace and charm match the high quality of sound produced from their instruments, hold a substantial pedigree among fellow artists, audiences, and critics alike. 

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  Three Notes, And Worlds of Them
October 3, 2009

Would you rather focus on atoms, or planets? Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas chose both and overindulged a bit in one for Saturday’s San Francisco Symphony concert.

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Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Conservatory of Music  Bach, Stewed
October 2, 2009

The Japanese guitarist Kazuhito Yamashita performed an ambitious, all-Bach program Friday at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The recital, presented by the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts, featured arrangements of the First and Sixth Cello Suites as well as the Second Sonata for Solo Violin and had a decidedly mixed reception.

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Recital REVIEW
 San Francisco Performances  Thomas Hampson Surveys American Song
September 30, 2009

Midway through his Song of America recital on Wednesday, presented by San Francisco Performances, Spokane-raised Thomas Hampson paused to address the adoring Herbst Theatre audience he had sung for on 10 previous occasions. “In many of the places where I’ve presented this project," the 54-year-old baritone declared, “people ask me if I’d please sing more songs like that one called Shenandoah. But here, on the 30th anniversary of this wonderful organization, I want to do a group of songs from our own century.”

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CD REVIEW
  Schubert Live Start of a New Schubert Cycle
September 29, 2009

Avie Records has begun a new series of recordings of Schubert’s late piano works, featuring the estimable pianist Imogen Cooper, who has recorded little in recent years. Volume I is just out, containing five important and varied Schubert compositions on a pair of CDs (AV2156).

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CD REVIEW
  Various Composers: A/Rhythmia, Alarm Will Sound Heartening a/rhythmia From Alarm Without Sound
September 29, 2009
Within three or four measures, the riot is in full swing. It’s as though Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti embrace under acid rain madness, while Frank Zappa and Bruce Springstein come sloshing through in quick-step fashion. You may not know just what’s happening here, but you sure as hell want to dive in to find out. More »
Chamber Music REVIEW
 San Francisco Early Music Society  Grace Notes, but Not by Accident
September 27, 2009

French music, the stereotype goes, prizes clarity, elegance, balance — in a word, gracefulness. Of course, exceptions are easy to find, but last weekend’s concerts titled “Les grâces françoises: Graceful Music From France,” by the aptly named ensemble Les grâces, made a persuasive case that a consciously graceful performance style immaculately suits the polite, early-Baroque gems. The concert was one in the series presented by the San Francisco Early Music Society.

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Recital REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Brewer Breathes Life Into American Songs
September 27, 2009

The American song repertoire is often overlooked in vocal recitals, though it wasn’t always thus; as Christine Brewer observed in her splendid recital Sunday afternoon at Hertz Hall, sopranos including Eileen Farrell, Kirsten Flagstad, Eleanor Steber, and Helen Traubel used to regularly include English-language songs in their programs.

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