Ken Herman, San Diego Story, 10th June 2018

“Michael Francis opened the 30th installment of San Diego’s annual Mainly Mozart Festival Saturday with an ebullient orchestra concert that brought back the excitement of the festival’s heady beginnings under David Atherton.”

“Even if festival Music Director Francis had not titled this concert “Rebel with a Cause,” the Balboa Theatre audience could not have missed the tradition challenging thrust of each work, which Francis complemented with brisk, unrelenting tempos that worthily challenged the musical prowess of his festival orchestra, a collection of first-chair virtuosos from leading American orchestras. Suffice it to say that the players responded with an ideal combination of avid enthusiasm and professional polish, and the audience response proved just short of ecstatic.”

“Francis supplied crisp and unequivocal direction to this unfamiliar score, and I was particularly impressed with his suave direction of the snarky accelerandos in the rondo them of the ‘Caprice.'”

“Both McDermott and Francis captured Mozart’s apparently whimsical but truly cunning shifts of mood and style in [Mozart’s] C Major Piano Concerto, catching the casual listener off guard at every turn.”

“Francis gave a sympathetic, thoughtfully considered account of [Beethoven’] Second Symphony, relentlessly following the composer’s con brio demarcation of the opening “Allegro,” but allowing the lyrical flights of the ensuing “Larghetto” to hover gracefully in the hall. The gentle pace of this movement allowed the audience to savor the splendid focus and tonal beauty of each section of the orchestra.”