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!
Contemporary composers are like presidential candidates: A few front-runners get all the attention while others languish at the margins of recognition. And then there are the two major "parties," the American and the European. How does a composer from Latin America stand a chance?
It's yet another measure of how good we, the listening public, have it in the Bay Area that while the seasons of our "major presenters" would keep a voracious concertgoer pretty happy by themselves, you could eliminate every one of them from consideration and still put together a full — nay, impossibly overfull — calendar of first-rate recitals out of the offerings of the smaller concert series.
Monday night saw the opening of the fifth season of Music at Meyer, the concert series at the lovely Martin Meyer Sanctuary
During a discussion session that followed the Berkeley Akademie’s inaugural concert on Wednesday, musicologist Joseph Kerman reflected that many of today’s performing ensembles are seeking innovative ways of presenting classical music. Kerman’s remarks encapsulated the impetus behind the Akademie, a spin-off of the Berkeley Symphony, under the artistic direction of Kent Nagano and Stuart Canin. But while the Akademie’s innovations were both myriad and admirable, I found that the ensemble fell short of achieving its stated goals.
If noble titles were given as rewards for excellence, the FOG Trio would be royalty. While "FOG" also indicates the trio's connections with San Francisco, the name is formed by the players' last names: F is for violinist Jorja Fleezanis (former San Francisco Symphony associate concertmaster), O is for world traveler/San Francisco resident pianist Garrick Ohlsson, G is for San Francisco Symphony principal cellist Michael Grebanier. W is for Wow.
Brahms chamber music seems to be breaking out unnervingly in threes this season. First it was the three string quartets on a single program (the Emerson Quartet, in October). Coming up in February are the three piano trios (Nicholas Angelich and the brothers Capuçon, courtesy of San Francisco Performances).
'Tis the season to be singing, and Schola Cantorum has made its contribution to this year's choral celebrations in performances presented by the San Francisco Early Music Society and ably directed by Paul Flight. Saturday's concert at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley was especially welcome to lovers of the motet O Magnum Mysterium, by Tomás Luis de Victoria, who used musical material from it in his Missa O Magnum Mysterium .
Splitting his program right down the middle, pianist William Wellborn devoted the first half of his Sunday afternoon recital in Old First Church to 18th-century masters and the second to 19th-century composers. In place of the all-Beethoven program that had been announced, Wellborn programmed his pieces to display contrasts. It made for some intriguing comparisons.