News & Reviews

Items of Note About Us and Our Performers


There was a very nice mention in the San Francisco Chronicle by Joshua Kosman, who wrote: “Since its founding in 2004, Chamber Music San Francisco has been an invaluable presence on the Bay Area’s classical music landscape, bringing top-tier marquee names to the region and introducing local audiences to less familiar performers.”  Thank you, Joshua!


We are delighted that Midori — who will appear in our 2022 season, in all three cities — is one of this year’s Kennedy Center honorees, along with Garth Brooks, Debbie Allen, Joan Baez and Dick Van Dyke.  Read more about it in The Washington PostPBS Newshour, and The Strad.


Michael Schade‘s recital featuring violinist Livia Sohn got a very nice review from the San Francisco Chronicle, which was titled “Tenor and Violin in a Charmingly Eclectic Double Bill”  Read the full review HERE.


Augustin Hadelich‘s recital received a very positive review from the San Francisco Chronicle, in which he was described as “a violinist of the first order, boasting iron technique and probing intellectual fervor.”  Read the full review HERE.

The San Francisco Chronicle gave pianist Seong-Jin Cho a glowing review for his San Francisco recital debut: “Cho boasts a poetic sensibility that evokes the fantastical sound world of the early Romantics.” Read the full review HERE


The San Francisco Chronicle gave the Szymanowski Quartet a lovely review, saying “The group boasts a distinctively understated sound, at once silky and emotionally urgent, and it deploys that texture in the service of readings that are dramatic without ever sounding overblown.”  Read the full review HERE.


The San Francisco Chronicle wrote a very nice preview of our artists Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian.  Read it HERE.


Notable for being our first presentation in Marine’s Memorial Theatre, Garrick Ohlsson‘s recital was well reviewed by “The Fantasy Op. 49 was inspired, a labyrinth of sequences matched with an improvisatory feel. Few can approach Ohlsson in matters of clarity and brilliance, and here, themes were treated distinctly with sensitive gradations of touch, poetry, and an affinity for the music.”  Read the full review HERE.

2012 had nice things to say about Olga Kern‘s performance of Carnaval: “…the most revealing and contrasted character scene was that of “Chopin,” where Kern’s tone appeared velvety, a longing sound that evaporated delicatedly in the hall.  It was a form of serenity and tribute to the giants of the nineteenth century.  Meanwhile, the devilishly difficult “Paganini” was calculated to titillate with precision, infectious rhythm and speed. Kern understands the instrument well and she has a graceful on-stage presence to deliver with clever effectiveness.”


Guzik “kids” sweep the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition
From 2005 through 2008 we presented young Russian artists sponsored by the Guzik Foundation, and on June 30, 2011 three of these won top honors in their respective divisions at the Tchaikovsky:
Gold Medal, PIANO: Daniil Trifonov (who we presented in 2008)
Gold Medal, CELLO: Narek Hakhnazaryan (who we presented in 2005)
Silver Medal, VIOLIN (shared; no Gold was awarded): Sergey Dogadin (who we presented in 2008)

Of special interest is that, since we were already scheduled to present the Tchaikovsky Gold Medalist in piano on Feb 28, 2012, it turns out that we will be bringing back Daniil Trifonov in recital at Herbst. What a thrill!

The San Francisco Chronicle reviewed Elisso Virsaladze’s piano recital on April 12, 2011.
Read the full review HERE.

The San Jose Mercury News had very nice things to say about Louis Lortie’s recital in March 2011: “It’s a rare virtuoso who brings together all the elements. Well, from the slopes of Mount Olympus arrives Louis Lortie, who played all 27 études, from memory, in a single recital Saturday at the Herbst Theatre—and seemed to be having a super (or perhaps a superhuman) time in the process. His performance was equal parts power, poetry and pleasure: He was constantly smiling to himself, lost in some reverie, or bouncing in his seat, as if preparing to get up and dance.”
Read the full review HERE.

San Francisco Classical Voice gave a very positive review to Rafal Blechacz in his February 2011 recital, for example saying:
“Here, we were witnessing an emerging titan. Rafal Blechacz’ mastery of Chopin’s music is impeccable.”
Read the full review HERE.


The San Francisco Chronicle gave a great review for our Stoltzman-Harrell-Levin concert—especially the world premiere of the Wyner Trio—on March 13, 2010.
Read the full review HERE.

The Chronicle also had very nice things to say about Olga Kern’s recital in April 2010: “It’s a rare pleasure to hear a performer and a piece of music as well suited to each other as Olga Kern and Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Sonata seem to be.

In her Saturday afternoon recital at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, presented by Chamber Music San Francisco, the Russian virtuoso deployed a splendid combination of technical prowess and dramatic eloquence to turn this potentially overblown work into something taut and expressive.

Kern, who came to prominence as a joint winner of the gold medal at the 2001 Van Cliburn Competition, walks a fine line in her recordings between the almost blustery showmanship that wins competitions and a vein of bluff but tender lyricism. Both those qualities were in play in the Rachmaninoff, and again in the fourth of the same composer’s “Moments Musicaux,” which served as the second of Kern’s three encores. The first movement of the sonata coursed forward amid plenty of dense keyboard passagework, but Kern was able to shape the torrents of notes into a compelling and broad soliloquy.”


The debut of of our debut concert season at our newest location on the Peninsula was heralded in the local press:

The Mountain View Press  – Read article HERE.

Palo Alto Online – Read article HERE.


The Chronicle raved about Rafal Blechacz’ San Francisco debut in May, 2008: “Blechacz has fingers of steel and plenty of stamina, but more rewardingly, he has a distinctive point of view. His Chopin is a far cry from the droopy, speculative rhapsodist that so many pianists give us; in Blechacz’s world, Chopin is a vigorous, forthright presence, so crisply plainspoken as to be scarcely recognizable as a Romantic artist. This is a slightly offbeat take on a familiar composer, and some listeners may find the shortage of gauzy colors and emotional insinuation to be a loss. But the compensatory rewards are striking.”

Read the full review HERE.

The Contra Costa Times heaped praise upon the piano-duo The Naughton Twins in Walnut Creek on May 10, 2008: “To see these lovely young women with such obvious affinity both for their music and for each other leaning in together to caress a phrase, drawing back as if one to renew an attack, was nothing short of a revelatory joy…. As endearingly awkward as these two were taking turns at the microphone to introduce each piece, the Naughtons at the keyboard were the very picture of poise, professionalism and purity of purpose. They have a great future awaiting them.”

Read the full review HERE.

The Chronicle gives the Beaux Arts Trio a lovely sendoff for its final concert here (April, 2008) before retiring: “I overheard one patron say to her husband in strikingly heartfelt tones, “That is a concert I will never forget.” It wasn’t hard to understand why. It’s rare to hear chamber music delivered with such an intoxicating blend of silky tonal beauty and expressive vigor; even without a rueful sense of the occasion, Sunday’s recital would have been one for the books.”

Read the full review HERE.


Pascal Rogé gets the nod from the Chronicle
See the San Francisco Chronicle’s review here of the brilliant French pianist’s recital for us on March 3, 2007. Some excerpts:

…plenty of sensuously full-bodied sound… it was the first book of Debussy’s Preludes that elicited not only [Roge’s] most beautiful but also his most intellectually probing response. From the superbly differentiated chords of the opening “Danseuses de Delphes” to the rhythmically deliberate “Minstrels” at the end, Rogé seemed determined to leaven the richness of his keyboard touch with meticulous clarity and dramatic directness.

Hellooooooooooo Walnut Creek!
In Spring 2007 we began presenting performances in Walnut Creek.We are delighted to be serving a new constituency!


Imogen Cooper’s recital makes the Chronicle’s Top 10
On December 31, 2006 the Datebook ran the Chronicle’s picks for the best of 2006 in film, dance, etc. and we are delighted (and honored) to report that Ms. Cooper’s recital, presented by Chamber Music San Francisco, was included in the classical-music category. We couldn’t agree more—it was a stunning debut! Congrats to Ms. Cooper, and to those lucky patrons who were there…click here to read the article.

The San Francisco Chronicle sent Imogen Cooper a love letter for her recital debut in May, 2006: “… nothing in her recorded work quite prepared a listener for the stormy brilliance and dramatic clarity of her thrilling debut recital Sunday afternoon.

Her keyboard sound was big and brawny, with a wide dynamic range that favored the louder end of the spectrum without ever sounding bombastic or overstated. And by crisply outlining the rhythmic and textural underpinnings of even the most intricate writing, she endowed her performances with a structural armature strong enough to sustain her scaled-up rhetoric. That fundamental solidity, in turn, gave her room to bring sweetness and grace to the lyrical passages without allowing them to drift away. In Schumann’s “Kreisleriana,” for example, the exquisitely turned close to the fourth movement seemed to linger in a timeless world of pure shimmering beauty—one made possible by the fastidious clarity of everything that had come before.

But the afternoon’s most splendid stroke came at the end, with an expansive and hugely eloquent account of Schubert’s A-Minor Sonata, D. 845. From the dexterously weighted chords of the opening movement to the waggish but slightly dark rondo finale, Cooper kept shading the music with emotional ambiguity and melodic fervor—never more grippingly than in the unpredictable theme and variations of the slow movement.”

Read the full review HERE.

The Chronicle Sings Praises of Soprano Laura Claycomb
Claycomb’s recital a delightful show of ensemble work

Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic
Wednesday, June 21, 2006

“For her return to San Francisco this week, soprano Laura Claycomb put together a musical event that was part vocal recital and part amiable potluck. The air of friendly collaboration among her and her colleagues filled the confines of the Florence Gould Theater Monday night, making the evening one of alluring good cheer.

Instead of offering the usual voice-and-piano fare, Claycomb assembled a diverse ensemble of accompanists—cellist and composer Nina Kotova, guitarist Marc Teicholz and pianist Peter Grünberg—and together they tailored the program to their contributions, arranging the instrumental parts as necessary.

The result, the season-ending event for Chamber Music San Francisco, was a nicely mixed lineup that ranged from the Baroque era to the present day, with plenty of variety in both style and sonority.

Naturally, Claycomb remained the focus of attention, her forceful, pure vocal tone and crystalline diction rising to the occasion repeatedly in music of any stripe. And as always, the sheer warmth and charm of her presence were striking—Claycomb is a more personally communicative singer even reading from music than many of her colleagues are when performing from memory.”

Read the full review HERE.

Critical Rave for Guzik Concert!
Both of the Guzik concerts (Feb 18 and 19, 2006) were artistic smash successes, and Hewell Tircuit covered the Feb 19 performance for San Francisco Classical Voice. Excerpts follow…

Regarding both:
Both of these pianists are solid technicians, but, more important, both are individual, original, and highly expressive players.

Regarding Dinara Nadzhafova:
The maturity of Nadzhafova’s performances was as impressive as her dexterity. Her timbral variety, her formal clarity, and her perfect tempos were irreproachable… And all this from a 16-year-old? Unreal.

Still, in all, I found her playing of the First Ballade the most impressive performance of all. One rarely hears this disconsolate piece played so poetically, so unhurried, or with more profundity of concept. Only when she reached those final pages of Chopin’s violent outburst did she let go with a quickened tsunami of keyboard bravura — and all the right notes. (Neither is a commonplace event.) Total command of the keyboard, yes, but it was Nadzhafova’s innate musicianship which floored me. What will she play like in 10 years?

Regarding Ilya Petrov:
Here was the big Russian style of Anton Rubinstein’s playing in full bloom. There is no lack of delicacy in his playing, but even in the lyric items, such as the Petrarch sonnet and “Un sospiro,” Petrov displayed assured strength that rather reminded me of Emil Gilels. He can tinkle his way through “Feux follets,” the music tingled and flickered at even ultrasoft dynamic levels. But for the once standard Spanish rhapsody, the grand sway of the traditional “La Folia” theme and equally famous “Jota aragonesa” section, Petrov let loose the full power of his dynamic control while avoiding any hint of pounded brute force.

That formed an amazing contrast to the refinement he brought to the three best known of Liszt’s Paganini transcriptions: the playful No. 2 in E-flat major, subtitled “Scales and Octaves”; No. 3, “The Little Bell”; and the dizzying No. 5, “The Chase.” Here, as in his entire program, the beauty of his piano sound and his ability to slip into and out of fleeting accents struck me as major pianism of the first rank.

The Moszkowski Sparks bubbled with effervescence like a top-class champagne. Played quickly and delicately, that was as fine a rendition as I’ve ever encountered—and considering that I’ve heard Horowitz play it something like a dozen times in recital, that’s saying something.

Read the full review HERE.


Our first presentation of the Beaux Arts Trio earned an insightful review from the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The group’s performances are illuminating and potent, but not because these three players see eye to eye. Rather, the power of their artistry seems to come from the tensions among them, like some kind of musical isometrics.

The main contrast is between Pressler’s elegant, slightly subdued approach and Hope’s brawnier and more extravagant playing. Hope’s rough, sometimes imprecise playing makes his solo work less than persuasive. But when he has to negotiate with Pressler’s suavity, with Meneses acting as a sagely diplomatic intermediary, the results bristle with vigor and intelligence.”

Read the full review HERE.


The San Francisco Chronicle’s review of our very first concert (on April 22, 2004) was headlined “Soprano Laura Aikin Delivers Stunning Debut: “Aikin returned to San Francisco on Tuesday night to make her U.S. recital debut, and the results were stupendous — an evening as memorable for its intelligence and cogency as for the sheer sensual appeal of the music.

Accompanied with wonderful delicacy by pianist Donald Sulzen and clarinetist Carey Bell, Aikin brought a combination of gleaming sound and far- reaching interpretive insight to her program of German and American songs, many of them somewhat off the beaten path.”

Read the full review HERE.