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!
Lucas Meachem sauntered onto the stage of Temple Emanu-El's Martin Meyer Sanctuary on Sunday as though walkin' into the High G Saloon. Swinging open wide the doors that separated him from everyone seated in the joint, he declared, "I'm Lucas. I'm from North Carolina, and I'm going to be singing some great songs tonight. I know you don't expect someone to start a recital like this, but I'm going to do what I can to change that …"
To most Americans, Christopher Columbus is known as the "discoverer" of our part of the world. Less commonly understood is the land from which he came, an environment rich in culture but beset by violence and religious intolerance, a legacy that Columbus' arrival in the Americas would perpetuate.
The Tokyo String Quartet's personality has shifted over time, but through the ensemble's nearly 40 years of existence its technical panache and its fondness for minutely thought-out interpretation have remained in consistently high repute. At Berkeley's Hertz Hall Sunday afternoon, under the auspices of Cal Performances, the Tokyos took on a juicy all-19th-century program with what it seems distressingly inadequate to call predictable excellence.
West Bay Opera's current production of Così fan tutte stands tall on the twin ramparts of Barbara Day Turner's rock-solid conducting of a fair-to-middling orchestra, and Douglas Nagel's vital, if risky, staging. Combined, they made for fine musical theater, if not quite dramma per musica.
Ever since Beethoven raised the genre of symphony to the pinnacle of achievement in Western art music, there have been composers whose efforts to write symphonies have been left incomplete. Something about the task was just too daunting for them. But finished works have been made out of these pieces, one way or another, and the Russian National Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski played two of these works at Davies Symphony Hall last Thursday, on the San Francisco Symphony's Great Performers series.
It is hard to imagine a musical repertory of more astonishing refinement than the one cultivated at the 15th-century Burgundian courts of Philip the Good and his successor, Charles the Bold. These courts were home to the most esteemed composers of the century, a roster that included among its many members Guillaume Dufay, Binchois, Hayne van Ghizeghem, Nicolas Grenon, Robert Morton, and Jean Molinet.
At opposite sides of the Bay over the weekend, two productions of Giselle highlighted two ballerinas who are, in effect, at opposite ends of their careers. Nina Ananiashvili, artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia and in her 40s, danced the title role Saturday night during the troupe's Cal Performances engagement at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall.
An enthusiastic crowd packed Berkeley’s MusicSources Friday night to witness the U.S. debut of French harpsichordist Benjamin Alard. The buzz in Berkeley was no surprise, reflective of the enthusiasm Alard has engendered since winning first prize at the 2004 Bruges harpsichord competition when he was only 19 years old. This Belgian competition is the world's most prestigious contest for early-music soloists, and many of its winners have gone on to important international careers.