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!
Some "regional orchestras" settle down to the comfort levels of their audiences and their all too often exhausted players. During Jeffrey Kahane's tenure as music director, the Santa Rosa Symphony distinguished itself repeatedly as the one stop on the "Freeway Philharmonic" circuit where players and audience alike were encouraged, or rather commanded, to stretch their ears. It appears that Bruno Ferrandis, in his second year as Kahane's successor, is determined to do likewise.
Why do so many folks disparage Bizet's Carmen? While certain pre-Freudian elements of its plot strain credulity, like Corporal Don José's instant obsession with the Gypsy woman Carmen and her final quest for death, Henri Meilhac and Jacques Halévy's libretto is far more believable than many. And Bizet's score certainly has its share of pretty, easily hummable tunes and opportunities for artists to shine.
Mozart’s Idomeneo tells a tale of love, sacrifice, shipwreck, and war. Add to that a gorgeous score, stunning costumes, and good singing, and you should have all of the ingredients of a successful opera. The opening night of San Francisco Opera’s production, on Wednesday, however, was less than satisfying.
The performance I attended Saturday night began with a single performer, dressed in a white tunic, dancing on the stage while waving a flag. Immediately I grew nervous. I knew the performance was supposed to convey spiritual ascension, or even transcendence. The past week had been a rough one for me, and by attending this performance, I was hoping for a little transcendence of my own — some respite, however ephemeral, from my worldly worries. But this first performer seemed to be enacting a ritual to which I personally remained uninitiated.
If you're one of those Bach devotees who can quote Brandenburg Concerto themes or name all the movements of an orchestral suite, Philharmonia Baroque's new twist on several orchestral classics might be just up your alley. In "Bach Reconstructed," a program devised by guest conductor Paul Goodwin, some of Bach's finest old wines have been placed into new bottles, rearranged into new performance contexts, or adapted to novel instrumental combinations.
The San Francisco Bach Choir began its 73rd season last weekend with a concert titled “Before Bach: A Family Portrait,” paying homage to Johann Sebastian’s musical predecessors. As the program notes explained, Sebastian himself was interested in his genealogy, and in 1735 drew up a family tree dating back to the 1500s, which is the most reliable document we have today on the entire Bach family. Sebastian also collected and performed pieces by his family members, which is likely the reason that most of those works survive today.
This year, Composers Inc. marks its 25th anniversary as an active, vital musical presence in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the years, its loyal, supportive audiences have been grateful for the broadly eclectic programming and consistently high level of performances they have heard. Although a listener might not always agree with their choice of music, Composers Inc. has achieved a good track record for an impressively long period.
Since I'm reviewing a concert with an overt (and laudable) political theme — BluePrint's Saturday evening concert at the San Francisco Conservatory, titled "The Urgency of Now ..." — I think it appropriate to ask a decidedly political but often ignored question: Why make a distinction between students and professionals in a concert program?
There was a last-minute alteration to the program that the Tokyo String Quartet, under the auspices of San Francisco Performances, presented at Herbst Theatre on Thursday, and for the saddest of reasons: Violist Kazuhide Isomura, the single remaining founding member of the group, had been diagnosed with a detached retina earlier in the day. With surgery scheduled for the following morning, it was decided that a performance of Bartók's demanding Fifth String Quartet would create too much strain on his eye. As a result, one of Haydn's most witty and masterful late quartets, Op. 76, No.
Sunday's gray skies and icy wind marked the planet's tilt toward winter but, inside San Francisco's Temple Emanu-El, the Bay Area's first "Chamber Music Day—Live + Free" created an oasis of warmth as 16 local chamber groups performed for those who were brave — and wise — enough to venture out in the cold.