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
   Trio From the Winner's Circle
March 18, 2008

Competitions play a smaller role in jump-starting the careers of chamber ensembles than they typically do in launching instrumental soloists. Even so, if your ensemble is something as specialized as a string trio, it doesn't hurt to have a high-profile competition victory or two to your credit. The Janaki String Trio, formed at the Colburn School of Music only three years ago, won the Coleman Chamber Music Competition in 2005 and then the Concert Artists Guild Competition in 2006.

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Archive REVIEW
   Carrying Abandon Too Far
March 18, 2008

The Takács Quartet returned to Hertz Hall Sunday for another installment in its all-Beethoven cycle, under the auspices of Cal Performances. It was great to see that the Quartet has developed an enthusiastic Bay Area audience, one willing to forgo a gorgeous afternoon to delve into the intricacies of two of Beethoven's most challenging quartets.

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Archive REVIEW
   First Impressions of Figueroa
March 18, 2008

Transfer of power is never easy, but the Berkeley Symphony has made the process one of the most interesting and edifying developments of this year’s music season. Soon after Kent Nagano declared his intention to step down as music director at the end of his 30th season in 2009, the organization announced that it would hold two years of on-podium auditions to determine his successor. The race is on.
Thursday evening at Zellerbach Hall, Guillermo Figueroa was the second of three applicants scheduled for this season.

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Archive REVIEW
   For the Love of Donizetti
March 18, 2008

L'elisir d'amore (The elixir of love) is not only one of most melodious and rhythmically exciting works in all opera, it also testifies to its composer's defiant humanity. Gaetano Donizetti endured many personal tragedies, including the loss of his wife in a cholera epidemic in 1837, the deaths of all three of his children shortly after their births, and a horrible, debilitating disease, which caused his mental deterioration and death in 1848.

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Archive REVIEW
   New Work Pays Off Richly
March 18, 2008

One word best sums up Friday's collaborative performance of Chanticleer and the Shanghai Quartet at Berkeley's First Congregational Church: work. Everything from the choice of works in the program to the enthusiastic work put in by the performers onstage simply "worked" well.
Due to the nature of the pieces performed and precious little explanation from the stage, however, the audience had to put in a bit of work to take in the music.

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Archive REVIEW
   Production With Two Faces
March 18, 2008

It took a while — until after intermission, in fact — but the San Francisco Lyric Opera's new production of La Bohème, unveiled on Friday night at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, finally gelled into a strong performance. The singers eventually gave themselves over to Puccini’s score, but the first half had some rough moments as everyone was trying too hard to “act.”
We saw Rodolfo (Vincent Chambers) full of artistic angst, Mimì (Darynn Zimmer) simpering, and Musetta (Shawnette Sulker) soubretting about.

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Archive REVIEW
 Cypress String Quartet  Miracle on Third Street
March 18, 2008

I had to pinch myself. Nearly 200 schoolchildren at a string quartet concert listening to Bartók, and they're quieter than an equal number of old fogies like myself? Am I dreaming? Or did the Cypress String Quartet do mass hypnosis at the 19 schools it visited in the last three weeks before coming here to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts?

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Archive REVIEW
   Persia With Oomph
March 18, 2008

Three cheers for Michael Morgan. What he and his Oakland East Bay Symphony may lack in subtlety, refinement, and nuance, they more than balance with passion and commitment. How gratifying it was to hear him announce, during a postintermission fund-raising spiel, that a full 25 percent of his orchestra's budget is devoted to educational outreach.

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Archive REVIEW
   Versatility of a Master Guitarist
March 18, 2008

Manuel Barrueco has been known as one of the world’s foremost classical guitarists since 1974, when, at 22, he became the first guitarist to win the Concert Artists Guild Award. Since then, his reputation has continued to grow. A large and enthusiastic audience was on hand on Saturday at Herbst Theatre to hear his substantial program, presented by San Francisco Performances and the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts.

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Archive REVIEW
   Meeting of the Minds
March 11, 2008

Four composers were seated onstage Thursday at the outset of the Other Minds Festival in Kanbar Hall of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. German cellist, composer, and inventor Michael Bach was dressed in simple concert black. Next to him, in a spiffy pinstripe suit with matching shoes, white silk tie, folded breast pocket handkerchief, and silvery rings for each finger was the Scandinavian composer Åke Parmerud. Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, an African-American trumpeter, with dreadlocks and graying beard, appeared in a rugged tan work jacket.

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