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

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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Archive Review
March 18, 2008

I had to pinch myself. Nearly 200 schoolchildren at a string quartet concert listening to Bartók, and they're quieter than an equal number of old fogies like myself? Am I dreaming? Or did the Cypress String Quartet do mass hypnosis at the 19 schools it visited in the last three weeks before coming here to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts? But no child was sleeping, and the many I asked after the concert said they liked all three pieces on the program, two of which, the Bartók Sixth Quartet and a new work by Kurt Rohde, are hard nuts to crack.

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Archive Review
March 11, 2008

Four composers were seated onstage Thursday at the outset of the Other Minds Festival in Kanbar Hall of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. German cellist, composer, and inventor Michael Bach was dressed in simple concert black. Next to him, in a spiffy pinstripe suit with matching shoes, white silk tie, folded breast pocket handkerchief, and silvery rings for each finger was the Scandinavian composer Åke Parmerud. Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, an African-American trumpeter, with dreadlocks and graying beard, appeared in a rugged tan work jacket.

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Archive Review
March 11, 2008

Charles Amirkhanian, artistic director, Other Minds Festival: "How important is it for you to write something that’s never been heard before?"
Keeril Makan, assistant professor of music, MIT: "Nothing’s been heard before."
To this reviewer, however, everything at the third and final concert of the 13th Other Minds Festival at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on Saturday has been heard before, and was heard again and again, sometimes with pleasure, sometimes ad nauseam.

Minimalist procedures from the 1960s and

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Archive Review
March 11, 2008

The primary strength of some string quartets lies in transparency, in making what they play sound as though it could only go this way. Others insist on making you aware that theirs is a point of view, that there is a medium as well as a message.

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Archive Review
March 11, 2008

The Stravinsky Project, sponsored by Stanford Lively Arts and held at Dinkelspiel Auditorium and other campus venues, is a program designed by the noted music writer Joseph Horowitz, author of several books, including the recent Artists in Exile, a study of European refugees in America in the 1940s.

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Archive Review
March 11, 2008

Two masterpieces graced Thursday's program of the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, aided and abetted by violinist Gil Shaham. Only two works were on offer, but that was enough to provoke the audience to standing ovations. And, for a change, those reactions were no exaggeration.
Davis Symphony Hall resounded with the sound of William Schuman's big, bravura Violin Concerto (1947-59), and, following intermission, Beethoven's even larger, bravura Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55, the "Eroica" (1802-1804).

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Archive Review
March 11, 2008

Parler à son plaisir, veiller et dormir,
Crouer à plaisir, ou autrement va-t-en mourir.
(Speaking of pleasure, waking and sleeping,
Feast on pleasure, or otherwise we shall die.)

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Archive Review
March 11, 2008

In his poem "The Soup," U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic concocted a mordant, macabre "soup of the world." Cockroaches, dirty feet, Stalin's moustache, Hiroshima, and bloody sausages number among the incendiary images in the poem. Can you even dare imagine musical analogs for them?

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Archive Review
March 11, 2008

With Easter just around the corner, the timing seems about right for a performance of a passion by J.S. Bach, one of the genre’s great masters. But while Bach’s St. Matthew Passion might spring immediately to mind, the San Francisco Bach Choir opted for the shorter, less grandiose Johannes-Passion.

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