Heuwell Tircuit is a composer, performer, and writer who was chief writer for Gramophone Japan and for 21 years a music reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle. He wrote previously for Chicago American and the Asahi Evening News.
Articles by this Author
For those of an eclectic bent, pianist Ivan Ilić’s Friday recital at San Francisco’s Old First Church proved a delight. The program was an adventure in learning as well as a brilliant display of technical prowess, all free of clichés.
It was almost as if Herbst Theatre itself were smiling in delight Thursday as Nicholas McGegan and his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra played a memorial tribute to Felix Mendelssohn’s bicentennial. The audience seemed even more delighted. Glancing up and down my aisle, I noted that every face had a broad expression of pure pleasure. In toto, the concert turned out to be one of the ultimate feel-good events of the season.
While not flawless, pianist Lise de la Salle's Sunday afternoon recital in San Francisco Conservatory's Concert Hall proved that, at all of age 20, she's already a virtuoso of the front rank. A few minor problems turned up along the way, but nothing that could dim an otherwise startling event. Her San Francisco Performances program opened with Mozart's showy Sonata No. 9 in D Major, K. 284, followed by Liszt's Legend in E Major, "St. Francis of Palma Walking on the Waves," plus two of his concert études, Forest Murmurs and Gnomes' Dance.
Contrary to my apprehension, Sunday’s festival of youth orchestras went smoothly in Davies Symphony Hall, via a grand display of musical talent around Northern California. Under the banner "Bay of Hope 2009," the concert presented six youth orchestras playing major and often virtuoso music by six composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. As an additional touch, the proceeds from the concert have been donated to support homeless-youth programs.
Disappointed that his relatively bland Third Symphony had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947, Charles Ives called awards "badges of mediocrity." Sometimes that's true, though not always. Cellist David Requiro, winner of the 2008 Naumburg Award, certainly proved that much Sunday evening in Herbst Theatre, presented by San Francisco Performances, when he played a gloriously musical as well as technically adroit program of major — and not so major — repertoire.
Yo-Yo Ma’s and his Silk Road Project have come up with a new CD featuring a host of young performers supported by the Chicago Symphony. Titled Traditions and Transformations, the disc includes two standard works, Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo and Prokofiev rambunctious Scythian Suite, Op. 20, plus two first recordings, Byambasuren Sharav’s Legend of Herlen (2000), and Lou Harrison’s final work, his Pipa Concerto (1997). It’s quite a spread.
The San Francisco Bach Choir came up with an unusual idea for its Sunday afternoon concert in Calvary Presbyterian Church: a program, titled "Aleluya! A Candlelight Christmas," devoted largely to Christmas music created mostly in Spain or Latin America. Director Corey Jamason gathered selections that turned out to be a mixed bag, something akin to the little girl with the curl: excellent and so-so, in about equal measure.
The California Bach Society has a long history of elegant performances, but it rather outdid itself Friday with a program titled "A Venetian Christmas." Director Paul Flight assembled a program, performed at Saint Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, entirely devoted to the glories of Venetian Christmas music from the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
The program was highlighted by two Monteverdi settings of the Magnificat, the Magnificat primo tutono a quattro voci — the four-voiced one — and the even more impressive Magnificat a otto voci con sei instrumenti
The program at Old First Church on Sunday afternoon was titled "Alla Zingarese," but the program of the Laurel Ensemble actually covered the two principal aspects underlying traditional Hungarian music: the native folk music and the better-known Romany traditions. ("Romany" is current preferred PC-speak for "Gypsy.") It added up to a hint that we might start thinking of expanding the term Three B's — Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms — to include Bartók as the new fourth "B".
Every so often I come across a musical event that defies all logic. That was the case Sunday afternoon as Benjamin Shwartz conducted the San Francisco Symphony's Youth Orchestra and a 13-year-old boy soloist through a performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto that would be the envy of any leading virtuoso. Born in October 1995, Stephen Kim left many of the audience in Davies Symphony Hall in a roaring state of astonishment.
High-minded Herbert Blomstedt is in town for his annual two weeks with the San Francisco Symphony, fulfilling his obligations as its conductor emeritus. In his first program, he created a sensation Wednesday evening in Davies Symphony Hall with only two pieces — but what two pieces they were! Neither amounted to a well-known or remotely popular composition.
Pianist Leon Fleisher returned to his native San Francisco for a celebration of his 80th year, with both hands working beautifully after a nearly 40-year layoff, due to his right hand, which partly died on him. The cause was a focal dystopia that brought on the dysfunction of two of his fingers. With guest conductor Marek Janowski on the podium for last week's San Francisco Symphony program, Fleisher proved that he's fully recovered.
A listener could easily have ended up feeling a bit like Alice wandering through Wonderland, Monday evening at a program titled "Struck, Plucked, Scraped & Shaken," which San Francisco Contemporary Music Players presented in the Arts Forum in Yerba Buena Center. A large crowd greeted the event with loud cheers for a semiritualistic program exhaling new music for percussion instruments. The performances were all superb, the compositions of mixed merit.
On paper, last week's San Francisco Symphony program honoring Leonard Bernstein looked like a hopeless mishmash. But no, it turned out to be a triumphal success that had been brilliantly planned. Of course, that it was honoring "Bernstein I" and conducted by what amounts to "Bernstein II," Michael Tilson Thomas, didn't hurt. But who knew the man could sing and conduct at the same time?
A large, enthusiastic crowd greeted the season opener of the Conservatory Orchestra in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Saturday evening in the school's concert hall. Conductor Andrew Mogrelia built his program around new or relatively new music by two of the Conservatory's resident composer-teachers, Elinor Armer and Conrad Susa. Four highly varied orchestral experiences ensued, aided by no fewer than nine soloists.