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
March 11, 2008

When Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld was first performed in Paris, in 1858, the famed critic Jules Noriac, of mighty Le Figaro, stammered with delight: "Unheard-of. Splendid. Outrageous. Graceful. Charming. Witty. Amusing. Successful. Perfect ..."

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Archive Review
March 4, 2008

Yundi Li presented a recital of tried and true audience favorites at Herbst Theatre on Sunday, under the auspices of San Francisco Performances. Some of them he has played here before. I went to the theater hoping to gain some insight into the artistic imagination of this acclaimed young artist. I left dazzled, puzzled, and wishing for more substance along with the pyrotechnics that these days seem to be the measure of all things pianistic.

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Archive Review
March 4, 2008

Mention the California Bach Society, and you might get a similar reaction to the one I received when mentioning its latest concert to a colleague: “Ah, yes — you’ll enjoy their program. They're a good amateur group." My friend clearly meant her description as a compliment, but the word amateur carries such invective in our modern parlance that it seems misplaced for this group.

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Archive Review
March 4, 2008

When does 180 miles equal light-years? When you hear Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony and Shostakovich’s Ninth on the same concert, and realize that the composers’ hometowns (Järvenpää and Leningrad) are that far apart from each other.

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Archive Review
March 4, 2008

Viewed against the more robust concert scenes in San Francisco, the East Bay, and the Peninsula, the classical-music pickings in Marin County can seem slender. But alongside the programs of the county's indigenous ensembles (the Marin Symphony and the American Bach Soloists chief among them), plus the regular visits of musicians from the rest of the Bay Area, the county proffers established concert series that approach the other counties' larger presenters in quality, if not in scale.

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Archive Review
March 4, 2008

Dawn Upshaw flew in with eighth blackbird to sing a concert Saturday night in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. The eighth blackbird sextet and six equally remarkable players formed the Orquesta Los Pelegrinos, which joined Upshaw in a stunning performance of Osvaldo Golijov's Ayre.

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Archive Review
March 4, 2008

There is something both intimate and grand about Edward Elgar’s not-oft-performed oratorio The Dream of Gerontius. Perhaps, it’s the challenge of reconciling those dissimilarities that makes this work, written in 1899-1900, a rarity. Or maybe it’s the fact that there are plenty of tricky musical parts to navigate for chorus, orchestra, and soloists?

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Archive Review
March 4, 2008

In programming an American Bach Choir concert with the ambitious title "Vocal Visionaries," conductor Jeffrey Thomas set his sights high. Not only did he choose choral music that, in his opinion, displays the transcendent, visionary gifts of its composers, but he also strove to transport his audience with radiant vocalism. That's a tall order, especially when the music is as challenging as the chosen works, by Tomás Luis de Victoria, Richard Strauss, Eric Whitacre, and Sven-David Sandström.

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Archive Review
March 4, 2008

What a perfect day. On Saturday I had the pleasure of listening to the Miró Quartet at the Florence Gould Theater of San Francisco's Legion of Honor. All my regrets about missing part of a beautifully sunny afternoon were dispelled by the performance of this first-rate ensemble. Two favorite works by Mozart and Beethoven joined a lesser-known excursion from Toru Takemitsu to form a well-balanced program.

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Archive Review
March 4, 2008

Monday night’s concert at the odd sanctuary of San Francisco’s St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church by the chorus Volti, under the direction of Bob Geary, offered an intriguing evening of new choral works. The first half of the concert was largely given over to a performance from conductor Geary’s Piedmont Children's Choirs. The blend and ability to sing difficult music of this 40-voice mixed boys and girls ensemble was, as always, quite impressive.

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