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
 Music@Menlo  English Elusiveness and Steel at Menlo
July 27, 2010

After two centuries of an increasing reputation as a “Land Without Music,” whose homegrown composers weren’t considered worth importing by disapproving Germans, England suddenly flowered with a blossom of great composers starting around the turn of the 20th century. A garland of works by three of these masters formed “The English Voice,” the second of this year’s [email protected] chamber music festival main concert programs.

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CD REVIEW
  Apollo’s Fire: Mozart Symphony No. 40 Fanning Mozart’s Fire
July 27, 2010

It’s a tried-and-true strategy for constructing programs, concerts, and CDs alike: Make certain there’s a surefire favorite in there somewhere, then pack around it as much unfamiliar music as you dare. Not often, though, have I seen it deployed as baldly as it is on the new Mozart recording by the Cleveland-based period-instrument orchestra Apollo’s Fire.

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Dance REVIEW
 Festival del Sole  Ebullient Ballet From Festival del Sole
July 23, 2010

Since 2006, Napa Valley’s Festival del Sole has lured the likes of Joshua Bell and the Russian National Orchestra to wine country in the summer months for an orgy of the tasteful high life: the world’s finest musicians paired with the region’s best wines, enjoyed between meals at the area’s architecturally exquisite estates, vineyard strolls, and test drives of the Bentleys parked on display. On Friday, thanks to the sponsorship of Dede Wilsey, the festival added ballet to its pleasures, with tremendous success. “Stars of American and Russian Ballet” sold out Yountville’s Lincoln Theater.

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CD REVIEW
  Alondra de la Parra: Mi Alma Mexicana Mexico’s Sizzling, Sensual Soul
July 20, 2010

Mi Alma Mexicana abounds in revelations. That its all-Mexican classic repertoire, which ranges from sedate, 120-year-old, European-influenced salon music to uncommonly savage modern fare, arrives with such wide-eyed freshness and power owes as much to the abundant gifts of 29-year-old conductor Alondra de la Parra as to the artistry of the young members of her 6-year-old Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA).

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Festival REVIEW
 Carmel Bach Festival  Bruno Weil’s Farewell to Carmel Bach
July 18, 2010

Bruno Weil’s 19th, and last, season as music director of the Carmel Bach Festival happens, by timely rotation, to include the St. Matthew Passion. Heard Sunday at Carmel’s Sunset Center, this production of the great work was the most satisfying of the many times he has performed it there.

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Festival REVIEW
 Midsummer Mozart Festival  Vibrant Start to Midsummer Mozart Festival
July 16, 2010

The Midsummer Mozart Festival has never been about the kind of easy-listening, check-your-brain-at-the-door fare that plagues many summer concerts. Music Director George Cleve wasted no time making that point Friday evening at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, as he and the orchestra got the annual Mozart bash off to a characteristically vibrant start.

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Opera REVIEW
 Merola Opera Program  So Sing the Merolini of 2010
July 16, 2010

When Eleazar Rodriguez sang Fenton's aria from Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor Friday in Herbst Theatre, I experienced a multiple déjà vu. This was the opening concert of the Merola Program Class of 2010, but I was back at a similar occasion 12 years ago, listening to Charles Castronovo for the first time.

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Festival REVIEW
   Pleasures Doubled at the Salkind Festival
July 8, 2010

The world of music for two pianists is a rarified one. Established as an art form in the Mozart family for its two talented children, then popularized by Schubert at coffeehouses in Vienna, and finally made immortal by Brahms, the two-piano/four-hands repertoire has occupied an important but often neglected corner in the vast richness of piano music. The Milton and Peggy Salkind International Piano Duo Festival celebrates that repertoire.

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CD REVIEW
  Selmer Saxharmonic: <em>Flying Saxophone Circus </em> Selmers Satisfy With Sax-Ranging Repertoire
July 6, 2010

What if you were confronted with a dozen spirited saxophonists, male and female, embracing a stunning range of pitch and a delightful variety of repertoire? That wouldn’t be too much sax, would it? Not in the case of the Selmer Saxharmonic.

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CD REVIEW
  Osvaldo Golijov<br><em>La Pasión Según San Marcos</em> Golijov's Sensational Passion
June 29, 2010

Boom! Wham! As the percussion of Orquesta La Pasión,led by Mikael Ringquist and Gonzalo Grau, pounds away, Argentinean-born composer Osvaldo Golijov wastes no time proclaiming that his St. Mark Passion will take a giant step away from the language of J.S. Bach’s monumental achievement.

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