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
April 29, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 29, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 22, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 22, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 22, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 22, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 22, 2008

“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.

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Archive Review
April 22, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 22, 2008

Bryn Terfel sure knows how to work a crowd. After his rendition of Roger Quilter's Go, Lovely Rose left adoring attendees at his Cal Performances recital in profound silence, he smiled and said, "You're a fabulous audience. You can breathe, you know."

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Archive Review
April 22, 2008

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.

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