In this time of pandemic, classical music concerts are moving online. The new performances are principally chamber music and vocal recitals. Most that I’ve heard are succinct one-hour concerts, though many are single works and some are full two-hour shows. Some charge for admission via a password or private link and some are complimentary. Some are only available at showtime; some are up indefinitely or for limited periods. A few are dicey in recording quality but most are excellent both in audio and video.
Most importantly, they may be from anywhere. I’ve heard excellent local concerts from the San Francisco Conservatory, from Cal Performances and from the Noe Music concert series. But I’ve also heard good concerts from chamber music providers across the United States and in Europe. Just remember to convert the live performance time to Pacific Time.
So how are our favorite concert providers and ensembles in San Mateo County doing?
Music at Kohl Mansion has moved the first part of its season online. Three hour-long ticketed concerts, each with introductions by musicologist Kai Christensen, will be presented over the next three months. The rest of the season will be evaluated later. Kohl Executive Director Patricia Kristof Moy says, “We’re heartened to offer exclusive appearances by some of our most beloved musicians as well as prestigious artists we’ve been eager to introduce to our community. Until we’re back together in the Kohl Mansion’s historic Concert Hall, we joyfully share their artistry from their own home towns directly into our living rooms.”
For Kohl’s first concert, the Fauré Piano Quartet will play its namesake composer’s Op. 15 Quartet on Nov. 1. Cellist Amit Peled with pianist Noreen Polera will play an all-Beethoven program Nov. 15. The locally-beloved Alexander String Quartet, in one of its last concerts before violist Paul Yarborough retires, will also celebrate Beethoven’s anniversary with his Op. 130 Quartet Jan. 24. Each of these concerts is 7 p.m. Sunday, with a repeat the following Thursday. Info and tickets are at musicatkohl.org/38th-season-opens/.
Music@Menlo is also putting ticketed hourlong concerts online. Having had to cancel its entire summer festival or at least postpone it to next year, Menlo has scheduled a much fuller winter season online than they usually have in person, with six concerts altogether. The first was held last weekend and featured Spanish music for cello and piano. Next is an homage to Beethoven on Nov. 22. His “Kreutzer” Sonata will be played by violinist Arnaud Sussmann and pianist Wu Han. They’re joined by cellist David Finckel for the composer’s first piano trio.
Later Menlo concerts will feature violin and piano music by Maurice Ravel, with Kristin Lee and Orion Weiss (Jan. 17), French piano music with Gilles Vonsattel and Wu Han (Mar. 14) and concerts by the esteemed Emerson String Quartet (Beethoven’s Op. 132, Feb. 14) and the dazzling Calidore String Quartet (Dvorák and Korngold, May 16). All of these are Sundays at 5 P.M. Info and tickets are at musicatmenlo.org/festival/explorers-series.
Other ensembles are putting up briefer videos recorded via Zoom. The ensemble works among them can lack polish both in sound quality and in the rigor of the performers trying to play remotely. But at their best they have energy and enthusiasm.
The Peninsula Symphony has accumulated more than 40 at-home videos and are adding more regularly. One of my favorites is a rousing chamber-ensemble reduction of the first movement of Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony. In the Zoom video, you can catch a brief but silent visit by the flutist’s dog. There’s much more, including waltzes by Khachaturian and Shostakovich with accordion and talks by orchestra members introducing themselves and their instruments. This is all at peninsulasymphony.org/at-home.
The Peninsula Symphony is also featuring videos of noted soloists. They are interviewed by conductor Mitchell Sardou Klein and they each play a few pieces. The ones up so far include pianists Conrad Tao and Joyce Yang. There’s also an interview with the curator of the Violins of Hope project. More are scheduled, with hornist Brian Holmes going up on Nov. 10 and pianist Jon Nakamatsu on Nov. 24. These are at peninsulasymphony.org/allstars-at-home-season-72. Some older concert performances by the orchestra are at peninsulasymphony.org/concert-ondemand.