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 15, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 15, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 15, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 15, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 15, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 15, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 15, 2008

The crack early-music ensemble Magnificat attempted the difficult challenge of performing a Baroque comic opera in concert over the weekend. The form is unlike serious opera or slighter genres such as intermezzos or serenatas, which readily lend themselves to unstaged presentation. Comic opera, with its typically recitative-heavy, slighter music, depends on stage action, comic timing, and the conveyance of complicated and farcical plots, much of which gets lost by singers in dress clothes standing in place.

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Archive Review
April 15, 2008

To play all 32 Beethoven sonatas in public over two years, or 20, is one of the greatest challenges facing the pianist. The technical difficulties they present pale before the range of experience they embody and demand for their full realization.

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Archive Review
April 15, 2008

Oh, my virgin ears. Was that a portamento in Haydn? Did he just play that open string on purpose in the middle of that phrase? Haydn didn't ever mark sul ponticello, did he?

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Archive Review
April 15, 2008

Musical links, not literary ones, generally form the basis of orchestral programs, but last week at Davies Symphony Hall, the San Francisco Symphony took a novel approach. On the program were two works inspired by Cervantes' 17th-century masterpiece, Don Quixote — first, Manuel de Falla's 1923 one-act opera, Master Peter's Puppet Show, and, after intermission, Richard Strauss' 1897 tone poem, Don Quixote.

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