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 7, 2008

For several years now, the Baroque ensemble Magnificat has made seventeenth-century French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier into something of a cottage industry. A regular fixture on the ensemble's season calendars, this composer embodies Magnificat's stated mission of uncovering the "'new music' of the early Baroque" — masters of the era who have yet to receive their due.

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Archive Review
October 7, 2008

It’s a rare occurrence when a symphony orchestra devotes an entire half of a subscription concert to music that wasn’t intended for a concert hall. On Sunday night Music Director Alasdair Neale and the Marin Symphony did just that, opening their 56th season with the innovative Quartet San Francisco and their tribute to the tango.

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Archive Review
October 7, 2008

Before an attentive and animated audience on Sunday afternoon, Artistic and Executive Director of Stanford Lively Arts Jenny Bilfield concluded her opening remarks on what we should expect from this, the presenter's 39th season opener, by restating part of its mission: “We bring artists that don’t fall neatly into artistic guidelines and categories.”
Sunday's crowd understood that they were going to get something unusual simply by the unusual conjunction of jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis as headliner with the Philharmonia Brasiliera in a presentation titled "Marsalis Brasilianos." Tr

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Archive Review
October 7, 2008

The Rose of Persia, currently being performed by Lyric Theatre at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose, was originally produced in 1899. It was probably the most successful operetta penned by Sir Arthur Sullivan after his collaboration with W.S. Gilbert. The libretto and lyrics are by one Captain Basil Hood, who did his darndest to serve up a Gilbertian pastiche.

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Archive Review
October 7, 2008

Call it the Wall Street Willies or what you will, the audience attending Richard Goode's Cal Performances recital at Zellerbach Hall on Sunday afternoon was in need of a musical bailout. Despite the somber tone of Bach's G-minor prelude from Bk. 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, which began his program, there was a palpable feeling of relief — that "this too shall pass."

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Archive Review
October 7, 2008

A listener could easily have ended up feeling a bit like Alice wandering through Wonderland, Monday evening at a program titled "Struck, Plucked, Scraped & Shaken," which San Francisco Contemporary Music Players presented in the Arts Forum in Yerba Buena Center. A large crowd greeted the event with loud cheers for a semiritualistic program exhaling new music for percussion instruments. The performances were all superb, the compositions of mixed merit.

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Archive Review
October 7, 2008

Used to be that the mention of bluegrass conjured up thoughts of a throng of senior citizens sitting in folding armchairs listening to foot-stomping, string-twanging folk music. The mention of Bach conjured up a dark church and powdered wigs. But Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile's Bluegrass and Bach concert, presented by San Francisco Performances, was not your Grandpa's bluegrass, nor was it your Grandma's Bach. It was a unique creation full of casual wit and quirky charm.

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Archive Review
September 30, 2008

Chanticleer celebrates several musical milestones this fall. The men's chorus' opening program of the season, titled "Wondrous Free," honors the 250th anniversary of America's earliest surviving secular composition, Frances Hopkinson's My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free. The concert program, heard last Thursday, was a marvelous gambol through five centuries of the repertoire Chanticleer so frequently champions, choral music of the Americas.

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Archive Review
September 30, 2008

Mark Morris has said that one of the things he finds puzzling about Romeo and Juliet ballets is that when the couple awakens after their night of nuptial passion, Juliet's still wearing toe shoes. When modern choreographers snipe at toe shoes, they're drawing distinctions between ballet's contrivances and modern dance's lack thereof. With Romeo and Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare — copresented last weekend by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall — Morris clearly wanted to bring R&J down to earth.

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Archive Review
September 30, 2008

Once a year or so, it's well to remember what we really owe the San Francisco Early Music Society. These aren't the early days of the early music movement, when “mainstream” presenters were leery of this faddish, old-instruments business, and it took the grassroots efforts of devotees to organize concerts by top-flight visiting “early musicians.” And the likes of Philharmonia Baroque, Chanticleer, Magnificat, and the American Bach Soloists are familiar institutions in their own right.

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