IVES’ FOURTH: WAY AHEAD OF ITS TIME

IVES’ FOURTH: WAY AHEAD OF ITS TIME

The epic Fourth Symphony of Charles Ives is an overwhelming anthology of Americana in a hodge-podge mix with European roots as seen from the distant future. You like dissonances? Charles Ives loved them. The work is unique, bigger than life, with impinging musics, like collisions of galaxies. It’s an element that this musical visionary loved, dating back to his hearing two marching bands intersecting with rival selections on a city street. Always pushing the envelope. Moment to moment in this…

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UNFAMILIAR TWISTS IN CHAMBER MUSIC

UNFAMILIAR TWISTS IN CHAMBER MUSIC

The brother-sister act Plus Two known as the Tetzlaff Quartet played gorgeous music. Sometimes like a well-oiled sports car, the sound purrs at you seductively or inflames you, leaving  the sell-out crowd wishing for more. First violinist Christian Tetzlaff is a legend both as recitalist and concerto soloist, but here he was in a third guise leading a chamber music group in Austrian standards. It was a study in contrasts: Three tall women, poised and disciplined, anchored by sister Tanja Tetzlaff on cello; and Christian, weaving and bobbing, providing more visible body English than a squad of Londoners.

NEW CENTURY PLAYERS’ YOUTH MOVEMENT

NEW CENTURY PLAYERS’ YOUTH MOVEMENT

During its interregnum period, the crack New Century Chamber Orchestra  is inviting various contrasting guest leaders. The latest is Benjamin Beilman, a supremely gifted East Coast violinist, who was younger than any of the 19 players in the ensemble that he led on Nov. 9. Though a superb soloist, Beilman has neither the experience nor the knack of integrating into an ensemble and blending his sound seamlessly into the orchestra. Indeed, according to his detailed and impressive CV, he has…

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RUSSIANS SERVE US AN ULTRA-GENEROUS SYMPHONIC PROGRAM

RUSSIANS SERVE US AN ULTRA-GENEROUS SYMPHONIC PROGRAM

The renowned conductor Valery Gergiev returned to the Bay Area, a generation after his leadership  role in the San Francisco Opera’s brief heyday of Russian opera. This time, he was touring with the elite Mariinsky Orchestra of St. Petersburg. If you want him in opera, these days you have to fly to the Met in New York or beyond. The Mariinsky (formerly Kirov) Orchestra poured out its Russian soul Nov. 4 with an intriguing lesser-gems program of early 20th century composers…

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MEXICAN-AMERICAN AMITY IN OAKLAND

MEXICAN-AMERICAN AMITY IN OAKLAND

Four collaborating East Bay troupes furnished a pulse-quickening show in the Oakland Ballet’s latest “Dia de (los) Muertos” blowout before a large crowd whopping it up enthusiastically. The Mexican counterpart to the European Day of the Dead is a joyous feast of color and vivacity despite all the skulls and skeletons dancing about the Paramount stage (as well as others who were ticket-buyers, watching from the prime seats out front, with elaborate face paint). The performance pace was breath-taking, the…

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S.F. SYMPHONY TURNS TO YOUNGER FAST-RISING GUESTS

S.F. SYMPHONY TURNS TO YOUNGER FAST-RISING GUESTS

The fast-rising Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski comes across like a breath of fresh air on the symphonic front, even though he looks like a boyish prospect sent to do a man’s job. His airy conducting technique is full of whimsy and sensitivity. His fingers are as expressive as a mime, or some lead dancer in a Russian ballet. And when his arms fly up toward the sky, it reads like a bid for divine intervention to produce exuberant music that…

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SYMPHONY PORTRAYING AN ENTIRE LIFETIME

SYMPHONY PORTRAYING AN ENTIRE LIFETIME

OAKLAND—The enigmatic composer Dmitri Shostakovich left us a profound final symphony, in some ways showing as much versatility as the works of Mahler. The Oakland Symphony revived it in grand fashion at its opening concert Oct. 20. His Symphony No. 15 was supposedly a human’s life cycle, from birth to death. But my own theory is that it was somewhere between an autobiography and a valedictorian statement——-Shostakovich at his most candid and eloquent—at least, as much as was possible under…

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Chicago Meets Berkeley

Chicago Meets Berkeley

The maestro with the motionless baton brought his Chicago Symphony on tour to California with predictable old-line programs and polished performances. That maestro is the veteran Italian Riccardo Muti, 76, music director of this esteemed orchestra since 2010. He offers listeners a surprise: He stops all movement of his baton several times a night and lets the ensemble fend for itself for several seconds. It’s as if to say, do you see what an incredible group of players we have, continuing flawlessly without even getting a beat?

GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES

GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES

After a considerable 2016-17 absence given the birth of her triplets, Music Director Joana Carneiro was back on the podium this week looking as fit as a Guarneri fiddle. It’s a Bay Area first: There’s no record of any symphony conductor here ever having borne triplets and then returning to the podium. Her program at the Berkeley Symphony was unusual, with an avant-garde world premiere, an early Beethoven, and modern pieces requiring rounding up a quartet of saxophones.

SMUIN PRESENTS A TASTY SMORGASBORD OF DANCE

SMUIN PRESENTS A TASTY SMORGASBORD OF DANCE

The high-flying, versatile Smuin Ballet has put together a rousing evening to elevate the spirits. Somewhere on high, founder Michael Smuin must be smiling. The dancers run the stylistic gamut from modern ballet to Broadway show dance, as adept at one as the other. Credit Artistic Director Celia Fushille, herself a former dancer under Smuin, for shaping a prime ensemble, then assembling a program resplendent  in prime-color contrasts. The most daring piece is Annabelle L.  Ochoa’s mystical “Requiem for a…

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