Geneva Anderson digs into art

Green Music Center is on a roll! Up Thursday—Charles Dutoit conducts the San Francisco Symphony with guest violinist James Ehnes

Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit conducts the San Francisco Symphony in the second of a four concert series at Weill Hall on Thursday, January 31, 2013.  Photo: courtesy SF Symphony.

Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit conducts the San Francisco Symphony in the second of a four concert series at Weill Hall on Thursday, January 31, 2013. Photo: courtesy SF Symphony.

 Those who experienced Yo Yo Ma’s soulful performance at Weill Hall on Saturday with pianist Kathyrn Stott walked away with another unforgettable Green Music Center moment. Along with many in the audience, I was pierced early on—Stravinsky’s “Suite Italienne” and the Serenata drew streams of tears. By the second half, and Piazzolla’s exquisite “Oblivion,” I was deep in melancholy and revelation. What a wonderful opportunity we now have to hear the world’s finest musicians at our doorstep. And what a doorstep it is! Since the center’s gala opening on the weekend of September 29-30, 2012, the lineup, thanks in large part to Robert Cole (Cal Performances’ recently retired booking czar) , has featured the world’s finest musicians— Joyce DiDonato, Stephanie Blythe, Alison Krauss, Buika, Lang Lang, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra—and that’s just the first three months.

Up this Thursday at Green Music Center—and seats are still available—is the San Francisco Symphony’s second concert in its four concert series at GMC.  Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit conducts the San Francisco Symphony with guest violinist James Ehnes.  Lalo’s Spanish heritage and Ravel’s Basque roots are richly explored in “Rapsodie espagnole” and “Symphonie espagnole”— savory, evocative works that promise a workout for the Stradivarius of Canadian violinist James Ehnes, who’s been called “the Heifetz of our day.”  Ehnes’ beautiful intonation, technique and sensitivity for the music should all come across in the warm, intimate-feeling Weill Hall whose acoustics are proving to be especially well-suited to the nuances of string instruments.  Elgar’s ever-popular “Enigma Variations” concludes the 2 hour program.  

PROGRAM:  Chlares Dutoit conductor, James Ehnes violin, SF Symphony

Ravel | Rapsodie espagnole  (~15 min) (for James M. Keller’s program notes, click here.)

 Lalo | Symphonie espagnole, Opus 21 (~30 min) (for Michael Steinberg’s program notes, click here.)

 Elgar | Enigma Variations, Opus 36 (~ 30 min) (for Michael Steinberg’s program notes, click here.)


Canadian violinist James Ehnes performs with the San Francisco Symphony with Charles Dutoit conducting on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall. Photo: courtesy SF Symphony.

PRE-CONCERT TALK:   Interested in going deeper?  One hour prior to the concert, an “Inside Music” talk from the stage with Susan Key  on some aspect of the performance will be given.  Free to all concert ticket holders; doors open 15 minutes before, or 6:45 p.m.

CD SIGNING: James Ehnes will sign his CDs immediately following the performance on January 31 in Weill Hall’s Person Lobby.  The lobby is named after Evert and Norma Person, long-time Santa Rosa Symphony patrons.  

AUDIO PROGRAM NOTES:  A free audio podcast about Elgar’s Enigma Variations is downloadable from and from the iTunes store.

BROADCAST:  These concerts will be broadcast on Classical 89.9/90.3/104.9 KDFC and on Tuesday, February 12 at 8 pm.

Details: The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra performs Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 8 pm at Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park.

Tickets: $15-$145. Tickets are available at or by phone at 415-864-6000 or in person at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco or at the Green Music Center Box Office located on the first floor of the SSU Student Union in the interior of the Sonoma State University Campus.

New Fees SSU Parking: Parking is $10 for the lot nearest Weill Hall.  Have cash ready to hand attendants as you drive in.  All other SSU general parking lots have had a rate increase to $5, and a parking receipt must now be displayed all 7 days of the week, no exceptions. 

Here is Ehnes on YouTube playing gorgeous passages on irreplaceable 18th century instruments from the Fulton Collection of Violins and Violas.  

Most of us consider ourselves lucky to hear a Stradivarius or Guarneri in a concert setting as fine as Weill Hall, but Grammy-winning James Ehnes was chosen to play some of these treasured instruments under very unusual circumstances.  David Fulton, who spent a great of his life playing and enjoying the violin, sold his very profitable Fox Software company to Microsoft in the early 1980’s for $173 million.  He used the money he made to buy the most precious violins, violas, and cellos to be had. Crafted by Antonio Stradivari, Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù and a handful of other 18th-century Italian masters in and around Cremona, the Fulton Collection has been deemed the world’s greatest private collection by a number of experts.  James Ehnes met Fulton back in the 1990’s in Seattle when he came to play in a chamber music festival.  He gradually developed a close friendship with Fulton and his wife, and played chamber music with them.  Fulton purchased a famous Stradivari violin— ex-Marsick—with which Ehnes had fallen in love, and loaned it to Ehnes to use as his main concert violin. The idea to have him road test these rare instruments, showing off their unique qualities was born out of this special relationship.  This is a clip from a magical and highly successful DVD/CD Homage (2008, Onyx) that captures the whole glorious experience and Ehnes’ virtuosity.

Upcoming SFS Performances at Weill Hall: The Orchestra’s four-concert series for GMC also includes performances on March 7, and May 23, 2013

Thursday, March 7 at 8 pm: Michael Tilson Thomas conductor, Yuja Wang piano, San Francisco Symphony

Berio Eindrücke

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Opus 58
Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Opus 68

Thursday, May 23 at 8 pm David Robertson conductor, Marc-André Hamelin piano, San Francisco Symphony

Elliott Carter Variations for Orchestra

Ravel Piano Concerto in D major for the Left Hand

Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue

Ravel La Valse

January 28, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music, Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment