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

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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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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