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!
For the 12th year running, New Music Bay Area and Lifemark Group Arts sponsored the Garden of Memory, an annual celebration of the summer solstice through new music and sound installations. For four hours on Sunday, more than three dozen artists took over the labyrinthine Chapel of Chimes, a mausoleum on the edge of Oakland's Rockridge district.
A bit quixotically, the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra's "Bon Voyage" program, offered Sunday in Davies Symphony Hall, took on three demanding symphonic monsters from early last century. Conductor Benjamin Shwartz's program turned out to be a little less than I had hoped for, but better than I had feared. Still, it left me amazed that these youthful players could manage so well in repertory where even experienced professionals normally fear to tread.
In the last decade of his life, Haydn entertained a number of visits from Georg August Griesinger, who transcribed their conversations and published them as a series of biographical notices. One of the most famous and controversial statements to appear in Griesinger's biography was one in which Haydn describes being cut off from the world at Esterháza, with no critics around to confuse or annoy him.
On an old episode of the irreverent animated series South Park, the Colorado boys' parents force the gang into a children's choir called, not so subtly, "Getting Gay With Kids." I think the character Cartman best summed up many Americans' attitude: "Dude man, choirs are gay."
Handel's Italian operas live through great singing, more so than many of their bel canto brethren. The subject matter and sensibility of their stories can seem foreign to us, and the arias are founded on emotions and metaphors that recur in every one of the operas.
The Thomashefskys are back. Michael Tilson Thomas' grandparents, stars of the New York theater scene from the 1880s until well into the 20th century, have been lovingly brought back to life in "The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater." Thomas is the host of this entertainment, and Friday night in Davies Symphony Hall he told their story, conducted the San Francisco Symphony and the audience, accompanied his grandmother on the piano, and even sang a rousing song himself.
On Friday evening, Old First Church featured the local debut of America’s newest chamber group devoted to promoting new music, New York’s Redshift quintet. The ensemble is especially idealistic in that it avoids big-name composers in favor of up-and-coming hopefuls. And this, while setting forth those intentions enthusiastically for every piece in sight: hook, line, and stinkers.
The New Century Chamber Orchestra's next season will see the orchestra with a regular music director again, in the person of the newly hired Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. Still, the ensemble's two-year run of guest-directed concerts, a running adventure that has resulted in far more hits than misses, is ending on a high note.
On Sunday night, the ODC Dance Commons in San Francisco's Mission District was full of classical music's most coveted demographic — young people in their 20s and 30s. They had gathered to attend sfSoundSeries' latest installment of improvisation and new composition, including works by John Cage, Bruno Ruviaro, and Kaija Saariaho, with improvisations featuring guest saxophonist John Butcher.