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!
“The 51% Majority” was the title of the Empyrean Ensemble’s program of compositions by female composers last Friday at Old First Church in San Francisco. Of the featured music, 52.4 percent (three and two-thirds of the seven pieces) was unexceptional — no surprise considering that contemporary classical music hasn’t been time-filtered enough. But the rest made the concert more than worthwhile.
Adam blamed Eve for yielding to temptation, and Elizabethan poets sighed over the inconstancy of women. In Mozart's opera Così fan tutte, men go to extraordinary lengths to test women's constancy. And so they did Sunday at the Legion of Honor, in Pocket Opera's production.
Opera San José’s production of Mozart's Magic Flute, seen Saturday, got me thinking about the issue of time in opera. Not the minutes that we, the audience, spend in our seats, but how time is portrayed on the stage and how the singers as actors must accommodate that flow.
With its latest release on the Dorian label, Musica Pacifica returns to repertoire that has earned it a fiery reputation, the virtuoso Italian repertoire of the mid-18th century. The disc centers on the most venerated master of the concerto, Antonio Vivaldi, but is fleshed out with concertos by two different Giuseppes, Tartini and Sammartini.
What a joy to experience Kate Royal in person! Looking for all the world like a Greek goddess, draped in a form-fitting, floor-length black dress secured over one shoulder, the elegant young soprano gracefully entered Hertz Hall to present her Cal Performances recital.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music's young artists went way back in time to present an opera three-and-a-half centuries old, last weekend in Fort Mason Center's Cowell Theater. Richard Harrell, director of the Conservatory's Opera Theater, has bravely (and judging by the results, wisely) selected Francesco Cavalli's 1643 L'Egisto, a sensation in its time, but virtually impossible to find performed today.
Eighth blackbird's concert on Saturday defied elementary arithmetic. For example, the program featured two pieces, but four composers, which might seem twice as many composers as was required. Similarly, the first piece specified 12 musicians, but was performed by only six, which might seem twice too few.
In newspaper ads touting his appearances with the Santa Rosa Symphony, Christopher O’Riley wore a black T-shirt, the better to show off a massive henna tattoo running the length of his arm, right down to the ends of his fingers. In his April 12 concert, the tattoo was no longer in evidence, but he did manage to tattoo the symphony’s resident Steinway with some of the richest sounds to emerge from that instrument in a long time.
May 7 will be Brahms' 175th birthday. You may have noticed that many musicians have been jumping the gun a bit to celebrate the event. The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra got out on the track Friday by delivering a fine performance of Brahms' Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16.