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!
Yo-Yo Ma’s and his Silk Road Project have come up with a new CD featuring a host of young performers supported by the Chicago Symphony. Titled Traditions and Transformations, the disc includes two standard works, Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo and Prokofiev rambunctious Scythian Suite, Op. 20, plus two first recordings, Byambasuren Sharav’s Legend of Herlen (2000), and Lou Harrison’s final work, his Pipa Concerto (1997). It’s quite a spread.
The audience quickly found itself in the dark last Wednesday at Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium. Percussionist Evelyn Glennie and guitarist Fred Frith walked on stage moments after the house descended into pitch-black, leaving only the sharp geometry of Glennie’s percussion instruments — which took up two thirds of the stage — and Frith’s two guitars and amplifiers to dance motionlessly against the effervescence of the backdrop. The music began without a word from either performer, despite the assurance in the program that everything would be announced from the stage.
Three performances that ranged from superb to problematic, three pieces that ranged from problematic to superb — match up the combinations and you come up with Saturday's concert by the University Chorus and the University Chamber Chorus at Hertz Hall at UC Berkeley.
A wide burst of music from three centuries in Slovenian pianist Dubravka Tomsic’s recital in Herbst Theatre engendered wide bursts of approval from her audience. With one exception, Saturday night’s full program, under the auspices of San Francisco Performances, stood as a model of sincerity and technical proficiency. That, plus her elegant stage deportment, again demonstrated why she’s considered today’s grand dame of the piano world.
It's not every day that you get an Israeli pianist, a Palestinian oud player, and an Egyptian conductor together on the same stage.
But this is exactly what the Sacramento Philharmonic did during its "Songs of Hope" concert at Sacramento's Community Center Theater on Saturday evening. And in doing so, this orchestra made the elegant argument that music can destroy all borders and make friends of perceived enemies.
That music has this potential, however, has never been in question. The larger question was how such a Middle Eastern focus to the music would play in Sacramento.
Peyote rituals, Chinese lullabies, Indian ragas, children’s toys, sacred bonds, and secular madness all dance and swirl in ritualistic fashion in Terry Riley’s extraordinary The Cusp of Magic. Commissioned by the Kronos Quartet — with whom Riley has collaborated ever since he met its founder, David Harrington, while Riley was teaching at Mills College in the '70s — the work celebrates the composer's 70th birthday. The 43-minute quintet also draws upon the talents of another frequent Riley collaborator, pipa player Wu Man.
A full and appreciative audience greeted the local farewell program of the Beaux Arts Trio Sunday evening in Herbst Theatre, presented by Chamber Music San Francisco, as the ensemble is about to bring down the curtain on its glory-filled concert career.
To mark the occasion, Mayor Gavin Newsom even issued a keys-to-the-city proclamation that declared April 20 to be "Beaux Arts Trio Day in San Francisco." I don't know about the day, but it was surely the Trio's night, for it played an exceptionally subtle program, even by its traditionally high standards.
The present efflorescence of countertenors on the vocal scene has allowed us to see the possibilities and individual variations in the voice type. Not surprisingly, since huge opera houses like the Metropolitan increasingly offer at least one Handel opera each season, we've discovered the large, thrilling voices in this category, dominated by David Daniels.
The Crowden Music Center's [email protected] concert series is by now a popular feature of the North Berkeley classical music scene, to judge by the eager audiences I see whenever I attend. One program a season goes to a Crowden School alumnus, and last Sunday that guest was Owen Dalby, now through with his studies at Yale and teamed up with fellow Yalie Alexander Rabin in a violin–piano duo.