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!

 San Francisco Opera  A Grand Night For Singing
October 14, 2009

The Daughter of the Regiment (La Fille du Régiment) by Gaetano Donizetti is about singing as a direct route to the hearts both of characters and audiences. The opera’s apparent naiveté and, at times, blatant absurdity belie its perfection. In it the mature master composer of some 52 prior operas hides his own virtuosity in order allow his singers to reveal truth of feeling.

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  Sufjan Stevens: The BQE Wild Ride Through Brooklyn
October 13, 2009

The music of this CD/DVD is easier on the ear than the concept is easy on the mind. But that doesn’t obviate the importance of, and the potential pleasure in, embracing the full intent of the creator, Sufjan Stevens. East Coasters may recognize in the title the source of inspiration: It’s the unsightly and often dysfunctional but vital Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which traverses a couple of New York City’s boroughs, one of them the site of the institution that commissioned and premiered this project, the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

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Chamber Music REVIEW
 Cal Performances  Adding Leafy Branches to the Takács Tree
October 11, 2009

Four years have passed since ex–San Francisco Symphony Principal Violist Geraldine Walther became the newest member of the Takács Quartet, and by now the ensemble sounds as though it’s been together forever. In the first of this season’s two Cal Performances recitals (happily, the two-concert-a-year rhythm looks to be an established pattern), there were a few untidy moments. But the concert, given Sunday at Berkeley’s Hertz Hall, saw the quartet preserving and even intensifying that near-miraculous balance of unanimity and individuality that has been its hallmark since Walther joined it in 2005.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
  Wu Han, David Finckel, and Anthony McGill Menlo-Atherton Concert Hall Strikes Gold
October 11, 2009

Sunday afternoon’s inaugural performance at the sumptuous new Center for the Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton opened both eyes and ears. The performers were pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, the artistic directors of Music@Menlo, along with a colleague, the clarinetist Anthony McGill of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; the composers were Beethoven and Brahms.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra  All Together Now
October 11, 2009

After last month’s impressive performances of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra returned to its 17th-century roots over the weekend with a program of short works, led by guest violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch.

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
  Los Angeles Philharmonic<br>Gustavo Dudamel New Baton Whipping Up the Parade
October 11, 2009

As I stood in the deserted Civic Center station with only three others from the full house that had vociferously cheered the Saturday concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its 28-year-old new music-director, Gustavo Dudamel, I reflected on L.A.’s love for the automobile. Is Dudamel the city’s new Ferrari, or is he just the winning float in the Rose Bowl parade, bestowed with colorful petals and dancing girls who obscure the true vehicle underneath, be it Corvette, Scion, or Edsel?

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 St. Peter's Chamber Orchestra  Debut of a Bright New Chamber Orchestra
October 10, 2009

The Mid-Peninsula is home to a number of dedicated amateur orchestras. Some local patrons felt there was, nevertheless, room for a chamber orchestra made up of local professionals — and now there is one. The St. Peter’s Chamber Orchestra, named for its hall, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Redwood City, gave its first concert Saturday. Artistic Director Paul Schrage conducted the performance. On the program were two classical period symphonies: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.

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 Artists Vocal Ensemble (AVE)  Virtue in Vespers
October 9, 2009

In another concert series geared toward social justice, the ArtisVocal Ensemble presented an evening of “Kirkenabendmusik” at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley on Friday. The program of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, and Mendelssohn aimed to invoke the solemnity of a Vespers liturgy in a 19th century Viennese church. 

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Chamber Orchestra/Orchestra REVIEW
 San Francisco Symphony  A Few Zesty Surprises
October 7, 2009

Applause broke out at unexpected times Wednesday evening in Davies Symphony Hall as guest conductor David Robertson wowed the San Francisco Symphony audience. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he had virtuoso pianist Yefim Bronfman as his soloist for a terrific program.

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   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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