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!
San Francisco Opera launched its 2008-2009 season on Friday with a comparative rarity, Verdi's great opera of reunion and reconciliation, Simon Boccanegra, using the revised version of 1881. This revival, led by outgoing Music Director Donald Runnicles, is blessed with a much better cast than that of the 2001 production.
A large, enthusiastic crowd greeted the season opener of the Conservatory Orchestra in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Saturday evening in the school's concert hall. Conductor Andrew Mogrelia built his program around new or relatively new music by two of the Conservatory's resident composer-teachers, Elinor Armer and Conrad Susa. Four highly varied orchestral experiences ensued, aided by no fewer than nine soloists.
How can one hour sum up 642,000 hours of a lifetime in music? Conrad Susa, 73, is being honored for his service to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with the second hour of a concert on Saturday, Sept. 6. The two items of his on the program, the recent instrumental work The Blue Hour, and excerpts from his opera The Dangerous Liaisons, will display the refined, sensual aspects of his style — but will they tell of the most decisive change in his life? Or of the choice he made in the face of the modernist camp at Juilliard?
Composer Elinor Armer brims with excitement about creating music. "There's a kind of energy that I feel when I'm playing music or writing it. I feel exhilarated and happy and 'God, is this fun.'" Armer, who retired from teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music a few years ago, is co-honoree in a special concert by the Conservatory Orchestra this week. The concert features the premiere of her Piano Concerto, as well as another recent work, The Call of the West.
Bless San Francisco Lyric Chorus' collective heart for programming heavenly music during the worst of summer's classical concert lull. While Lord knows how many singers and musicians were hiking Yosemite, SFLC's music director, Robert Gurney, took his musicians on a trek to the firmament. Programming no fewer than four Te Deums by Handel, Haydn, Britten, and Dvorák, as well as enlisting four professional soloists, an organist, and a timpanist in the process, was a major undertaking.
David Sloss and the Fremont Symphony proved last weekend that the rave review for the Fremont Opera's inaugural production of La Bohème last year was not the result of a fluke. This time, the fledgling but impressively talented company took on Rossini's Barber of Seville, also one of the most popular — and therefore "transparent" — operas, singing it in Italian, with English subtitles.
Joel Fan is a young pianist who has been quickly making a name for himself in the past few years, most visibly as a member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. His work as a solo performer has much of that group's spirit of exploration and its canny sense of connection between the standard repertory and more far-flung musical adventures.
The Guitar Foundation of America held its annual Convention and Competition in San Francisco this year and presented a week of fascinating concerts, lectures, master classes, and showcases of the work of celebrated luthiers and publishers, as well as this year's most important international classical guitar competition. Under the direction of Richard Patterson, the guiding force behind the Omni Foundation's series of guitar recitals often presented in association with San Francisco Performances, and David Tanenbaum, chair of the S.F.