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!
At the ODC Dance Commons in San Francisco's Mission District, sfSoundSeries presented a Sunday concert centered on works composed for the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Founded in 1961 by composers Morton Subotnick and Ramón Sender, the Tape Music Center was at the heart of the city's musical counterculture in the 1960s. It was the premier venue not only for cutting-edge technologies involving tape loops and electronics, but also for other musical experiments, from early minimalist pieces such as Terry Riley's In C, to multimedia and performance art works.
Concertgoers are lucky, compared to critics. They can simply like or dislike the music, but critics have to figure out why. At Saturday's Cabrillo Festival concert, after being tremendously disappointed by the clarinet concerto Riffs and Refrains by Mark Antony Turnage, a composer I normally admire, I couldn't put my finger on the reason. The problem certainly didn't lie in the Festival Orchestra's playing, and especially not in soloist Bharat Chandra's warm tone and flawless execution.
In the past few years, down at the Carmel Bach Festival, they've made a little addition to the logo. Beside the big "Bach" with its ornate B, the words "and Beyond" extend upward in tiny print — not in the aggressive diagonal of a Soviet propaganda poster, but in the sort of lazy curve a Thomas Kinkade country lane might take. We're bold! but we're friendly!
Not many musical works present a moral/political position with the power and persuasiveness of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem. Advocating the composer's nearly lifelong commitment to pacifism, the work was given a stirring performance by the San Francisco Choral Society on Friday at Davies Symphony Hall. The large chorus shared the stage with a strong group of soloists and a well-rehearsed pick-up orchestra, as well as the Piedmont Boys and Girls Choir, all under the baton of Artistic Director Robert Geary.
In the world of fine cello soloists, Matt Haimovitz has to be a leading adventurer. There he was at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Sunday night in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, performing a solo recital of prodigiously challenging pieces that many of his colleagues may never have heard of. And performing them with flair and passion as if this were core repertory.
Last week was “The Romantic Generation” week at [email protected], and by the Romantic generation they mean Middle European Romantics. The music on the main concert program, which I heard on Monday at St. Mark’s Church in Palo Alto, was by Johannes Brahms and the two greatest of his close associates, Robert Schumann and Antonín Dvořák, with a slight ringer in the form of a small contribution from Hugo Wolf.
Early Sunday morning, a visitor to Atherton's Menlo School might have seen a smallish crowd of eager-looking people congregating around the steps of Stent Family Hall. A number of these folks might further be seen to be carrying copies of a small, bright-red, hardbound volume. The hymnal of an esoteric sect? The Sayings of Chairman Mao? No, silly, the Boosey & Hawkes score of the complete Bartók string quartets.
[email protected]'s survey of music history arrived triumphantly at 20th Century Unlimited over the weekend. Program IV, "The Rise of Modernism," shone with rousing performances of Debussy, Stravinsky, Gruenberg, Ives, Britten, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. The sold-out house in St. Mark's Episcopal Church was hot not only in the wake of an unusual 90-degree day in Palo Alto, but also from the heat of creative juices flowing freely all evening long.