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!
A conventional all-Russian program sidetracked the Marin Symphony’s “Salute to the Silver Screen” season theme Jan. 20, but few seemed to miss the cinematic connections. All evening the playing was first rank, and violinist Vadim Gluzman’s interpretation of the Tchaikovsky concerto provided plenty of pyrotechnical sizzle to excite an audience that not quite filled the Marin Veteran’s Auditorium. The Sunday symphony concerts are usually full, but perhaps a three-day weekend, cold temperatures, and television football combined to lower attendance.
“Intoxicated and With Fire” is the title of the third movement of Schumann’s Phantasiestücke for cello and piano, written five years before the composer’s attempted suicide and seven years before his death in an insane asylum. Listening to pianist Aleck Karis and cellist Charles Curtis’ Music at Meyer performance at the Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco on Monday night, however, you would never have guessed that the piece was composed by someone courting madness.
In an all-out effort to embrace modernity, China’s first Western-style opera, Farewell My Concubine, made its premiere this weekend at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. It marked the first time that a brand-new opera was presented in the United States by the China National Opera. Like me, the audience was consumed with great curiosity and anticipation about the new production, sung in Mandarin Chinese, which had premiered in China last October.
One of the pleasures of working in the field of early music — really early music, that is, music from well outside the ordinary classical musician's realm of experience — must be the sense of having found a corner of the repertoire and built a relationship to it, minutely and intimately and genuinely from scratch. Dedicate yourself to knowing and loving Bach or Haydn or Brahms, and you are to some extent only taking a great common love a little farther than most, building on an appreciation that comes easily to many.
For 21 years, the Coro Hispano de San Francisco has been singing to accompany the Three Kings who make their annual Epiphany trip 12 nights after Christmas. Saturday's "Concierto del Dia de los Reyes," the fourth of five performances around the Bay Area, was held at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Berkeley. The program, organized and conducted by Juan Pedro Gaffney Rivera, was a feast of Hispanic music ranging from the 10th to the 20th centuries.