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
October 14, 2008

Classical guitarist David Tanenbaum presented an excellent recital of classical guitar, featured in a variety of chamber music settings, along with one spellbinding solo work on Saturday at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concert Hall. A faculty member at the Conservatory, where he is chair of the collegiate Guitar Department, Tanenbaum was joined by fellow faculty members harpsichordist Corey Jamason and violinist Axel Strauss, as well as by steel string guitarist Peppino D'Agostino.

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Archive Review
October 14, 2008

Choral concerts organized around a single figure can make for a bland evening if not programmed with restraint and consummate care. But the Artists’ Vocal Ensemble (AVE) made Saint Francis of Assisi the focus of a thoughtful, artfully structured, and surprisingly varied concert in two performances over the weekend.

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Archive Review
October 14, 2008

If an often-played masterpiece is a warhorse, what is its opposite? I had just written about the benefits of unusual programming in the pastures of Arizona when, lo and behold, not one but three peacehorses galloped into the San Francisco Symphony’s Davies Hall, two of them bridled by überpianist Emanuel Ax, and a third paraded magnificently by guest conductor Peter Oundjian.

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Archive Review
October 14, 2008

One of the great experiences in music listening comes when you attend an "interesting" program by a musician you hadn't known at all, only to find yourself blown away by his flawless musicianship. That was the case Sunday afternoon at Old First Church, as visiting pianist Emanuele Arciuli presented a textbook example of just how well the instrument can be made to sound.

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Archive Review
October 14, 2008

There was half an hour to go before the concert, but if you happened to be standing outside St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco at 3:30 on Saturday you could hear them. Just a few highly trained people, a few feet apart, yet formidably strong and utterly fearless — powering through their chosen medium at alarming speed and with frightening precision ...

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Archive Review
October 14, 2008

I confess that I had not heard of the Santa Cruz Chamber Orchestra until I learned of the concert with which it opened its third season on Saturday. But it was a honey of a program that I wouldn't have missed for anything. The result was warm and delicious: two cold and austere Northern string orchestra works by Jean Sibelius and Pēteris Vasks rendered rich and resonant in the reverberant acoustics of Santa Cruz' Holy Cross Church, plus the comforting familiarity of Dvořák's Serenade for Strings.

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Archive Review
October 14, 2008

Judging from its performance at the Crowden Music Center in Berkeley on Sunday afternoon, the Afiara String Quartet faces a future both promising and challenging. This young ensemble of Canadian musicians, now in residence at San Francisco State University (as assistants to the more established Alexander Quartet), had just returned from a successful trip to the prestigious ARD chamber music competition in Munich, where it was awarded second prize.

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Archive Review
October 14, 2008

For those seeking respite from overplayed classics (See Jeff Dunn's feature), there are a handful of daring ensembles in San Francisco that specialize in new and unusual pieces. While the mainstream presenters lure audiences with Mozart or Beethoven, the marketed draw for sfSoundSeries' Sunday night concert at the ODC Commons was Gino Robair’s Percussion Potluck.

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Archive Review
October 14, 2008

Medieval secular music has a way of inspiring a startling array of interpretive approaches. There are those ensembles that gussy up their performances with (literally) all manner of whistles and bells, mystical in sound but dubious in authenticity. At the other end are the extreme purists, demanding authenticity to a fault and using only the barest surviving historical evidence to generate "faithful" but lifeless performances.

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Archive Review
October 7, 2008

Sometimes the act of artistic creation is more involving than the music itself. On the first stop of a coast-to-coast “"Remembrance Concert Tour” that will culminate in Carnegie Hall, soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian graced the stage of Herbst Theatre on Saturday night. Her San Francisco Performances recital celebrated the music of Armenia’s national composer, genocide victim Reverend Gomidas Vartabed (1869-1935).

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