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 a new music fan, Southern California’s Ojai Festival is about as close to nirvana as it gets. For 62 years now, this little artsy town in the hills near Santa Barbara has been bringing contemporary music to the outdoor Libbey Bowl, an acoustic shell in a sylvan park setting as idyllic as the music can be challenging. Stravinsky, Copland, Boulez, MTT (many times) … a good number of the 20th century’s most acclaimed musical creators and interpreters have directed the four-day extravaganza.
On Friday night, the San Francisco Symphony offered up a unique program as part of its 6.5 series: a chance to observe three of the Symphony’s staff conductors — Benjamin Shwartz, Ragnar Bohlin, and James Gaffigan — conducting back to back. At the start of the evening, Shwartz, the orchestra’s resident conductor and director of the SFS Youth Orchestra, jokingly dubbed the program a “tag team” concert. But while there were many instances of high-level musicmaking over the course of the evening, the team was occasionally on different pages of the playbook.
I would have liked to see Davitt Moroney's reaction when it dawned on him precisely what that dusty box of partbooks in the Bibliothèque Nationale contained. As the picture gradually came into focus that this was Alessandro Striggio's long-lost 40- to 60-part Missa sopra "Ecco sì beato giorno," it could not have taken him long to realize that his find would soon generate a buzz in the international music world of unequaled magnitude.
The Adorno Ensemble broke new ground at the de Young Museum on Friday, May 30, presenting musical, scholarly, and literary "Odes to Neruda." The Koret Auditorium, part of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, is a comfy little venue with giant padded seats. It feels like a library reading room that has been tiered steeply toward a stage. Cynthia Mei, Adorno's violinist and emcee for the evening, also played the role of stage manager, corralling various performers and presenters for an eclectic evening.
It was a bit like "second-try night." Only last fall, three of the principals in San Francisco Lyric Opera's current production of Benjamin Britten's Turn of the Screw — Anja Strauss (the Governess), Brooks Fisher (Miles), and Madelaine Matej (Flora) — appeared in the same roles in Oakland Opera Theater's abysmal production of that opera.
In a fitting conclusion to a season that has featured works like Maurice Ravel's Mother Goose Suite and William Bolcom's Fairy Tales, the Gold Coast Chamber Players ended their 2008 cycle with a program of musical knickknacks both familiar and obscure. Works by Franz Schubert were paired with a rarely heard suite by Bohuslav Martinů in an afternoon of informal pleasantry, enhanced by the ski-lodge-like comfort of the Soda Center at St. Mary's College in Moraga.