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Category: Symphony

LIVING WOMEN, DEAD MEN (DE)COMPOSING

LIVING WOMEN, DEAD MEN (DE)COMPOSING

The Berkeley Symphony was focusing on women’s music, as both living composers and the guest conductor were from the distaff side. Little wonder: The two dead male composers, a cheery lot,  were immersed on themes of death looking back on two of the grand showmen of early music, Paganini and Liszt. Not to be outdone, piano soloist Cedric Tao put on a show of his own in two works Dec. 7, as if intent on bringing back pianist-composer Liszt from…

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ALMA, 12, IN STRIKING U.S. DEBUT – Just Don’t Call Her the ‘New Mozart’

ALMA, 12, IN STRIKING U.S. DEBUT – Just Don’t Call Her the ‘New Mozart’

The latest 12-year-old Wunderkind and international sensation turned out to be a bubbly composer and a very mature violinist, setting off San Jose’s two-week-long siege of Alma-mania being watched all over the country. The slender-as-a-sylph English girl Alma Deutscher, five feet tall if that, has the stage presence of a Hollywood veteran. She smiles and sways throughout her performance as though standing before her bedroom mirror, totally uninhibited. She clearly loved every minute of music-making before a sell-out crowd, involving…

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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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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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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 – Muti’s Orchestra in Rare Campus Visit

Chicago Meets Berkeley – Muti’s Orchestra in Rare Campus Visit

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,…

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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.

BIGGER THAN LIFE, AND FANTASTIQUE

BIGGER THAN LIFE, AND FANTASTIQUE

The San Francisco Symphony pulled out all the stops this week. Naturally, because Berlioz was featured as composer. Often derided as an anachronism, Hector Berlioz (1803-1879) was in truth a figure far ahead of his time, a futurist in that he brought the romantic era in music to full fruition. He’d have been very happy in our environment here today, I believe, always wanting things to be bigger and better.

MTT Pays Cool Tribute to Bernstein

MTT Pays Cool Tribute to Bernstein

His Prolific Mentor’s Centennial Michael Tilson Thomas showed incredible composure leading a program of music by his longtime mentor, Leonard Bernstein, commemorating the latter’s 100th birthday. When many lesser conductors might have melted completely with the first bars, MTT kept at it, dry-eyed, even in pieces where he had shared duo-piano duties with Bernstein himself, just a couple of years before the latter’s death in 1990. Spanning five decades of Bernstein’s creative life, the works included two of his most…

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