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!


Archive Review
March 18, 2008

Cleopatra, in the person of Isabel Bayrakdarian, stormed into the First Congregational Church of Berkeley Saturday night, in the company of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Opera found its way to Germany in the early 18th century, and Cleopatra was a favorite character, sharing the stage with one or the other of her famous lovers, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

Great music has a way of repeating itself, especially in recital. Just three months ago, SFCV carried my review of a Cal Performances recital by baritone Mariusz Kwiecien that included Ravel's final song cycle, Don Quichotte à Dulcinée, and Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe. I noted at the time that, since 2001, no fewer than 10 other baritones, two tenors, and two lyric sopranos had performed the latter work in the Bay Area.

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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

Competitions play a smaller role in jump-starting the careers of chamber ensembles than they typically do in launching instrumental soloists. Even so, if your ensemble is something as specialized as a string trio, it doesn't hurt to have a high-profile competition victory or two to your credit. The Janaki String Trio, formed at the Colburn School of Music only three years ago, won the Coleman Chamber Music Competition in 2005 and then the Concert Artists Guild Competition in 2006.

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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

The Takács Quartet returned to Hertz Hall Sunday for another installment in its all-Beethoven cycle, under the auspices of Cal Performances. It was great to see that the Quartet has developed an enthusiastic Bay Area audience, one willing to forgo a gorgeous afternoon to delve into the intricacies of two of Beethoven's most challenging quartets.

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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

Transfer of power is never easy, but the Berkeley Symphony has made the process one of the most interesting and edifying developments of this year’s music season. Soon after Kent Nagano declared his intention to step down as music director at the end of his 30th season in 2009, the organization announced that it would hold two years of on-podium auditions to determine his successor. The race is on.

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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

L'elisir d'amore (The elixir of love) is not only one of most melodious and rhythmically exciting works in all opera, it also testifies to its composer's defiant humanity. Gaetano Donizetti endured many personal tragedies, including the loss of his wife in a cholera epidemic in 1837, the deaths of all three of his children shortly after their births, and a horrible, debilitating disease, which caused his mental deterioration and death in 1848.

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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

One word best sums up Friday's collaborative performance of Chanticleer and the Shanghai Quartet at Berkeley's First Congregational Church: work. Everything from the choice of works in the program to the enthusiastic work put in by the performers onstage simply "worked" well.

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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

It took a while — until after intermission, in fact — but the San Francisco Lyric Opera's new production of La Bohème, unveiled on Friday night at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, finally gelled into a strong performance. The singers eventually gave themselves over to Puccini’s score, but the first half had some rough moments as everyone was trying too hard to “act.”

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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

Three cheers for Michael Morgan. What he and his Oakland East Bay Symphony may lack in subtlety, refinement, and nuance, they more than balance with passion and commitment. How gratifying it was to hear him announce, during a postintermission fund-raising spiel, that a full 25 percent of his orchestra's budget is devoted to educational outreach.

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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

Manuel Barrueco has been known as one of the world’s foremost classical guitarists since 1974, when, at 22, he became the first guitarist to win the Concert Artists Guild Award. Since then, his reputation has continued to grow. A large and enthusiastic audience was on hand on Saturday at Herbst Theatre to hear his substantial program, presented by San Francisco Performances and the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts.

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