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!
Performing Mozart is easy, but also terribly difficult because the transparency of his compositions offers nowhere to hide. It’s like being naked on stage. A nigh-flawless performance is a rare occurrence, but when all the elements are in place, as they were Friday night for the San Francisco Symphony's all-Mozart concert under conductor Herbert Blomstedt, the results are awe-inspiring. Every single element sounded precisely placed, maximally musical.
Even Cal Performances' starrier guests don't routinely sell out Zellerbach Hall. But more than two decades into his high-profile career, Joshua Bell's name still deservedly wields an uncommon pull, and it was to a capacity audience that he and pianist Jeremy Denk played on Sunday afternoon. The duo's Berkeley recital represented the one Northern California blip in a taxing tour (tucked in between a Costa Mesa concert on Saturday night and a Palm Desert one Tuesday). I hope the blame for a vexingly uneven recital may be assigned at least partly to fatigue.
Lucas Meachem sauntered onto the stage of Temple Emanu-El's Martin Meyer Sanctuary on Sunday as though walkin' into the High G Saloon. Swinging open wide the doors that separated him from everyone seated in the joint, he declared, "I'm Lucas. I'm from North Carolina, and I'm going to be singing some great songs tonight. I know you don't expect someone to start a recital like this, but I'm going to do what I can to change that …"
To most Americans, Christopher Columbus is known as the "discoverer" of our part of the world. Less commonly understood is the land from which he came, an environment rich in culture but beset by violence and religious intolerance, a legacy that Columbus' arrival in the Americas would perpetuate.
The Tokyo String Quartet's personality has shifted over time, but through the ensemble's nearly 40 years of existence its technical panache and its fondness for minutely thought-out interpretation have remained in consistently high repute. At Berkeley's Hertz Hall Sunday afternoon, under the auspices of Cal Performances, the Tokyos took on a juicy all-19th-century program with what it seems distressingly inadequate to call predictable excellence.
West Bay Opera's current production of Così fan tutte stands tall on the twin ramparts of Barbara Day Turner's rock-solid conducting of a fair-to-middling orchestra, and Douglas Nagel's vital, if risky, staging. Combined, they made for fine musical theater, if not quite dramma per musica.