ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Time to reset your GPS to EPS (Esa-Pekka Salonen), SF Symphony’s new music director designate

Esa-Pekka Salonen, taking in the love Friday evening at his inaugural concert as SF Symphony’s new music director designate.  Concertmaster Sasha Barantschik is on the left while associate principal cellist, Peter Wyrick, is on the right. Photo: Geneva Anderson

What great fortune to have a front row seat last night at Esa-Pekka Solonen’s inaugural concert as San Francisco Symphony’s new music director designate.  Davies Symphony Hall was packed and the audience was excited, rapturous, rising to their feet several times to applaud the 60-year-old Finn who will take the helm as SFS’s Music Director in September 2020.  He succeeds MTT (Michael Tilson Thomas) who, in 2020, will have been at the helm for a quarter of a century.

Esa-Pekka Salonen. Photo: Geneva Anderson

What a wonderful way to start things off with Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s mysterious tonal poem METACOSMOS, composed in 2017.  It stuck just the right tone with an audience eager to hear something that had obvious meaning to Salonen and ready to embrace a female composer, which we haven’t had much of at Davies of late.  METACOSMOS had a Nordic feel and was both modern and  romantic, taking us on a short speculative journey down into a deep dark hole, the murky unknown of the consciousness, where epic battles ensue between forces of light and darkness.  It was followed by Also sprach Zarathustra, Richard Strauss’ grand tonal poem, from 1864, which was inspired by Nietzsche’s ideas about the course of humankind.  With moments of emblazoned flare, EPS coaxed a glorious sound from SFS.  Sitting just feet from his podium, I caught the fluidity and grace of his hands as well as the serenity in his face.  This is a man who is expressive, passionate, and in deep conversation with his musicians and his heart.  Musically, he knows exactly what he’s doing and it comes across in every gesture.

The evening closed with Sibelius’ Four Legends from the Kalevala, another tonal masterpiece, from 1895, which weaves the powerful Finnish epic Kalevala myth into four movements.  Again, a multi-sensory piece with wonderful contrasts and rich melodies, showcasing various sections of the orchestra throughout.    English horn player Russ deLuna and cellist Peter Wyrick were on fire.   What a journey we have ahead.  Experiencing the magic in person will cement memories for years to come.

Details:  There are two remaining chances to hear EPS conduct SFS this weekend: 8 p.m. Saturday, January 19 and 2 p.m. Sunday, January 20.  $50-$225. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F. 415-864-6000.  Tickets: www.sfsymphony.org

 

 

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January 19, 2019 Posted by | Classical Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco Symphony performs at Weill Hall Thursday night—the magnificent Mozart “Sinfonia” is on the program

San Francisco Symphony principal violist, Jonathan Vinocour, will solo, along with Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik, in Mozart’s magnificent “Sinfonia concertante” on Thursday evening at Weill Hall. Vinocour joined SFS as Principal Violist in 2009, having previously served as principal violist of the Saint Louis Symphony and guest principal of the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. He plays a 1784 Lorenzo Storioni viola, on loan from SFS. Vinocour and Barantschik have never together performed this virtuosic double Mozart concerto for viola and violin. SFS’s final concert at Weill Hall will also include Samuel Adams “Radial Play” and Bartók’s “Concerto for Orchestra.” Photo: Eyegotcha

It’s old news by now but, after two seasons of glorious performances at Green Music Center (GMC), San Francisco Symphony (SFS) is not returning to Weill Hall.  Our loss.  The reason, straight from SFS—despite the best efforts to build an audience for the series, attendance was very inconsistent and did not build to a level that could sustain further appearances at Weill Hall.  I can’t understand how we in the North Bay let this slip through our hands as every SFS performance in Weill Hall was magical, not to mention incredibly convenient.  SFS’ final scheduled concert at Weill Hall is this Thursday, “MTT Conducts Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra,” a wonderful mix of challenging classical and contemporary music featuring awe-inspiring solos and the famed MTT (Michael Tilson Thomas) at the helm.

SFS Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik and Principal Viola Jonathan Vinocour will solo in Mozart’s “Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola.”  Then, SFS will perform Bartók’s brilliant five movement “Concerto for Orchestra” in which each section of instruments solos. Rounding out the program will be Samuel Adams’ six minute “Radial Play,” which was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and premiered by the National Youth Orchestra in July 2014.  Adams, who lives in Oakland, is the son of composer John Adams and photographer Deborah O’Grady.   His modern “Drift and Providence” was performed at Weill Hall in 2012 and his career has been championed enthusiastically by MTT.

ARThound is particularly excited about the “Sinfonia concertante,” which Mozart composed in 1779, in Salzburg. Violists, who have been somewhat shorted in showcase repertory, have long sung the praises of this piece as the closest Mozart came to writing a viola concerto. The 30 minute piece is scored in three movements with very prominent viola and violin solos and is one of Mozart’s more recognizable works, showing up in several movies and even in William Styron’s famous novel Sophie’s Choice (when adult Sophie, who is plagued by PTSD, hears the “Sinfonia concertante” on the radio, she is transported back to her childhood in Krakow).

Principal violist Jonathan Vinocour, who has been with SFS for six years now, has never before played the Sinfonia with SFS.  He’s been practicing at home for hours on end for the past 10 days and the Weill Hall audience will be the second audience to hear him play it, after the Davies Hall performance on Wednesday evening. “All three movements of the piece are wonderful — it’s Mozart, after all — but it’s the second movement, the Andante, that people usually remember most,” said Vinocour.  “Mozart sets up an intricate conversation between the viola and the violin, almost like a couple talking. It’s very emotional, but also a quintessential piece of musical one-up-manship that continues into the third movement.”

Vinocour and Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik were soloists together in June 2013, when they played Benjamin Britten’s “Double Concerto for Violin and Viola” and they have also performed many chamber concerts together.  “Sasha [Barantschik] and I have such a familiarity with each other’s style, we enjoy the parts of the piece that are more spontaneous. We don’t plot out every detail, because the Sinfonia should come out sounding elegant and graceful, but also free-feeling and very natural.”   

It took SFS Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik about a year to get comfortable with

It took SFS Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik about a year to get comfortable with “David,” the famous1742 Guarnerius del Gesú that was Jascha Heifetz’ favorite fiddle on stage and in the recording studio. Barantschik admires the way sound projects from the violin so that even while he is playing softly, the instrument can be heard throughout the concert hall. The violin rarely leaves Davies Symphony Hall, EXCEPT when it travels to the Green Music Center or to the Mondavi Center. Photo: Geneva Anderson

For more insight, ARThound turned to San Francisco Symphony violist Wayne Roden of Cotati, who auditioned for the SFS with this Mozart piece in 1973, 42 years ago.

“Back when I auditioned, the solo piece that was asked for was Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante, which Jonathan and Sasha will be playing. In years since then, the repertoire for solo pieces has often included a choice of either the Bartók or Walton Concerto, and sometimes Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher.  These 20th century pieces are very virtuosic, but the Mozart is required because it really shows you a tremendous amount about how someone plays. Musicians sweat blood over playing Mozart. I’ve sat on many audition committees, and have heard a lot of violists who played the hell out of the Bartók or the Walton–but within two lines of the Mozart, you can tell whether they’re good enough. A musician is really exposed in Mozart, more than in any music other than Bach, because of the nakedness of the musical expression.”

By the way, few will lament the loss of SFS at Weill Hall more than SFS’ three Sonoma County musicians (Roden, percussionist Tom Hemphill and bass player Chris Gilbert) who were saved the grueling commute to and from Davies Hall when SFS performed in Sonoma County.

Details: SFS will perform “MTT conducts “MTT Conducts Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra” at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall on Thursday, May 21, 2015, 8 PM.  Tickets: $20-$115, at sfsymphony.org or 415-864-6000.

Prepare yourself:

To read ARThound’s interview with SFS Concertmaster, Alexander Barantschik, on his January  2014 performance at Weill Hall, where he performed Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto in D Minor,” click here.

A free podcast about Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra is online at sfsymphony.org/podcasts.

May 20, 2015 Posted by | Classical Music, Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SoundBox—SF Symphony’s new space for musical experimentation

The atmosphere Saturday night at the opening of SoundBox, San Francisco’s Symphony’s new experimental space for music.  Ravel’s “Introduction and Allegro” performed by Alexander Barantschik, Dan Carlson, Jonathan Vinocour, Amos Young, Tim Day, Carey Bell, Doug Rioth.  Video projections by Adam Larsen.  Photo: courtesy SFS

The atmosphere Saturday night at the opening of SoundBox, San Francisco’s Symphony’s new experimental space for music. Ravel’s “Introduction and Allegro” performed by Alexander Barantschik, Dan Carlson, Jonathan Vinocour, Amos Young, Tim Day, Carey Bell, Doug Rioth. Video projections by Adam Larsen. Photo: courtesy SFS

Christmas started early for ARThound when a dear friend invited me to Saturday night’s unveiling of SoundBox, MTT’s (Michael Tilson Thomas’) and San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) newest venture.  SoundBox was designed to fill a gap in Bay Area music scene by providing an experimental space where anything musical can happen and to engage a younger, hipper audience with SFS and serious music.  Judging from Saturday’s thrilling reception which enthralled its sellout crowd of 450, Soundbox will do all that and more.  It also seems poised to give our brilliant but nerdy MTT some street swagger, the kind of coolness cred that he’s been aching for while collecting all those Grammies for classical recordings.  If you haven’t heard, SoundBox is a huge refurbished music space at 300 Franklin Street (in San Francisco). Formerly known as Zellerbach A, it was one of SFS’s most dour on-site rehearsal spaces, ironically renowned for its dead sound.

With generous patron funding and the board’s desire to revision SFS’ audience outreach, the cavernous space was entirely revamped.  Berkeley’s Meyer Sound was engaged to install its patented multi-speaker “Constellation” system, transforming the space into a virtual sound lab.  Now, with the push of touchscreen button, the venue can seamlessly tweak its acoustics (reverberation and decay times) for various pieces in a performance allowing otherworldly sounds to emerge from its tremendously talented SFS musicians and choral members.  Add state-of-the-art video projection capacity, making for an incredible visual experience, sleek quilted leather ottoman and low tables (even the furnishings will be tweaked with each performance), a fully-stocked bar serving thematic cocktails and innovative cuisine—wella! SoundBox has the grit of an European art house, the verve of a sophisticated nightclub, the acoustics of a world class concert hall, and, as if it needs to be said, the world’s best musicians playing tunes exquisitely curated by MTT.

Combining the excitement of an art happening with the verve of a sophisticated nightclub, the acoustics of a world class concert hall, and adventurous music spanning ten centuries, Saturday night’s opening of SoundBox will be long remembered. Photo: courtesy SFS.

Combining the excitement of an art happening with the verve of a sophisticated nightclub, the acoustics of a world class concert hall, and adventurous music spanning ten centuries, Saturday night’s opening of SoundBox will be long remembered. Photo: courtesy SFS.

On Saturday, 7:45PM, the crowd was already lining up on Franklin Street.  The buzz: no one knew exactly what to expect but we were all excited by the program we’d read about online and the promise of road-testing something completely new.  The pre-concert hour was dedicated to John Cage, who believed that every sound can be music, and featured a musical feast of his “Branches,” featuring electronically amplified giant cacti, and “Inlets” which coaxed sounds from shells filled with water that gurgled when moved and from amplified burning pinecones.  As people entered the darkened foyer of Soundbox and were confronted with Cage’s music, they passed by a curious gallery space, specially curated by MTT, that included beautifully lit minimalist arrays of  live cacti, a table of sea shells in a pool of water and colorful huge multi-layered projections of cacti.  Wow…felt like entering one of those East European art happenings I’d covered in the 1980’s.  Once we passed through a closed black door,  we entered the spacious main hall, which offered a hip but relaxed atmosphere—two low wooden platforms served stages and lots of low leather seating that could be easily re-arranged.   People were free to amble about and get a drink or just settle in and get busy with their phones and texting.

The inaugural run, called “Extremities,” kicked off dramatically with “Stella splendens in monte,” a brief anonymous Spanish work (local composer Mason Bates contributed the percussion arrangements.)  The SFS chorus, in flowing robes, entered from the back of the hall, and made a dramatic procession to the stage, their lyrical voices swelling to fill every corner of the space.  As they passed by each of us, we got a sampling of each singer’s individual voice.  From there, it only got better—a very well-thought sonic and visual feast was about to unfold and we were ravenous for it.  The audience snapped their fingers, clapped, yowled and tossed their exquisite locks…and the musicians beamed with pride.  A glowing MTT looked like he’d dropped a decade as he engaged with the audience in a very heartfelt way, talking about musical choices and the potential of the space.

Steve Reich’s “Music for Pieces of Wood,” performed by members of the SF Symphony Percussion Section at SoundBox.  From L to R: Tom Hemphill (from Sonoma County), James Lee Wyatt III, Victor Avdienko, Jacob Nissly, Raymond Froehlich. Photo: courtesy SFS

Steve Reich’s “Music for Pieces of Wood,” performed by members of the SF Symphony
Percussion Section at SoundBox. From L to R: Tom Hemphill (from Sonoma County), James Lee Wyatt III, Victor Avdienko, Jacob Nissly, Raymond Froehlich. Photo: courtesy SFS

Highpoints for ARThound:  Steve Reich’s minimalist “Music for Pieces of Wood” featured five SFS percussionists with tuned hardwood claves creating a pulsing bed of rhythmically complex continuous sound.  This reminded me of the miraculous frog concerto I am treated to in my pond in Sonoma County every time a serious storm blows through.  After 8 minutes of this mesmerizing sound, which was accompanied by projections of Adam Larsen’s images of a New York skyline, we were all in trance mode.  When it ended, and everyone stopped playing, we were left with a very perceptible silence, a void in the acoustic atmosphere that left us all profoundly aware of the power of sound to inflate and deflate the psyche.

Ravel’s exquisite “Introduction and Allegro” (1905) shimmered and glowed when played by a small ensemble of seven SFS musicians including principal harpist Douglas Rioth and concertmaster Sasha Barantschik whose beloved 1742 Guarnerius del Gesù (“The David”) cast a spell over the audience, some of whom swept away tears.  The chamber piece showcased the space’s ability to tease out nuances in the contrasting sonorities.  The velvety woodwinds, the percussive harp and the warm resonance of the strings were all so clear, so distinct, that I felt I was getting a personal introduction to the possibilities of these instruments.

One of the evening’s hip visuals was the Nordic visual art pioneer, Steina’s (Steina Vasulka’s), seven minute video, “Voice Windows” (1986), featuring the voice of Joan La Barbara.  The short engrossing film was co-presented by SFS and SFMOMA and points to the limitless possibilities for future collaboration in a space like this.  Since the early 1970’s, Steina, in collaboration with Woody Vasulka, has explored intricate transformations of vision, space and sound, through digital technologies, mechanical devices and natural landscape. “Voice Windows” was an exquisite and haunting example of her artistry in manipulating digital and camera-generated images and layering that with “real” and altered sound.

Beaming MTT (Michael Tilson Thomas) conducts members of the SF Symphony and Chorus in Monteverdi’s “Magnificat” (1610) from “Vespro della Beata Vergine.”  Photo: courtesy SFS

Beaming MTT (Michael Tilson Thomas) conducts members of the SF Symphony and Chorus in Monteverdi’s “Magnificat” (1610) from “Vespro della Beata Vergine.” Photo: courtesy SFS

After two intermissions, the evening closed with Monteverdi’s glorious “Magnificat” (1610) from Vespro della Beata Vergine.  It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke where the Virgin Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with the future John the Baptist.  When Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith, Mary sings the “Magnificat” in response.  Talk about immersive—the 19 minute piece featured soloists, the chorus and orchestra, all in rapturous splendor with gorgeous golden-hued projections of a Venetian church enhancing the mood.

Details: The next Sound Box performance, “Curiosities,” is January 9 and 10th, 2015.  Doors open at 8 PM and performance starts at 9 PM.  Tickets on sale now: $25 for open seating.  The space accommodates 450 and will sell out quickly.  The SoundBox website is not working correctly. Call the SFS Box office (415) 864-6000 to purchase tickets.  SoundBox is located at 300 Franklin Street, San Francisco, CA.  Parking: (is hell) Performing Arts Garage (360 Grove Street) or Civic Center Garage (between Polk, Larkin, Grove and McAllister).

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Art, Chamber Music, Classical Music, Jazz Music, SFMOMA, Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MTT conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the San Francisco Symphony, mezzo Sasha Cooke, the SFS Chorus, and the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Grammy winning mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke guest solos with MTT and San Francisco Symphony this week in three performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3.  Cooke appeared this summer at San Francisco Opera in the world premiere of Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Seen worldwide as Kitty Oppenheimer in the Met Opera and Grammy® Award-winning DVD of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic, Cooke is renowned for her command of Romantic and Contemporary repertoire.  Photo: Dario Acosta

Grammy winning mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke guest solos with MTT and San Francisco Symphony this week in three performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. Cooke appeared this summer at San Francisco Opera in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Seen worldwide as Kitty Oppenheimer in the Met Opera and Grammy® Award-winning DVD of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic, Cooke is renowned for her command of Romantic and Contemporary repertoire. Photo: Dario Acosta

Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony in D Minor, the most expansive of his ten symphonies, is a cosmological tour de force.  Full of magic and mystery, it’s the musical journey of Nature coming to life, at first through flowers and animals and then on up to man, the angels and the love of God.  This Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) conducts the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke, the SFS Chorus, and the San Francisco Girls Chorus in this rarely performed epic—in six movements grouped into two parts—which clocks in at roughly 90 minutes, earning it the distinction of the longest symphony in the standard repertoire.   It almost goes without saying that MTT has sealed his reputation on Mahler.  In 2001, SFS and MTT launched the Mahler Project and recorded the balance of Mahler’s major works for voices, chorus and orchestra picking up four Grammys in the process.  The Symphony No. 3 and Kindertotenlieder recording won the 2004 Grammy for Best Classical Album.  Of course, nothing compares to the magic of a live MTT/SFS Mahler performance.  Whether it’s your first or 50th time, each performance reflects a constantly evolving understanding of the composer’s genius and complexities.

Michael Tilson Thomas with the bust of Gustav Mahler at the Weiner Staatsoper (Vienna Opera House) during the filming of the acclaimed "Keeping Score" series in which MTT mapped the actual geography of Mahler’s life. Photo: Courtesy SFS

Michael Tilson Thomas with the bust of Gustav Mahler at the Weiner Staatsoper (Vienna Opera House) during the filming of the acclaimed “Keeping Score” series in which MTT mapped the actual geography of Mahler’s life. Photo: Courtesy SFS

At Monday’s press conference announcing the 2014-15 season, Tilson Thomas, could not recall how many times SFS has played the work during his 19 year tenure as Music Director (3 times—1997, 2002 and 2011) but he did speak about the joys of revisiting Mahler— “I think of these pieces, these big symphonies, like the Mahler, are like National Parks that we love and we come back to.  We all know the map of the park.  I have the complete map and others on stage have the intricate trail maps of one path or another.  But no matter how much you look at the map of that, when you are actually on the trail, it’s a different thing every time—the nature and character of the piece will vary according to where you are in your life and what you’ve experienced and with whom you are on the trail.  Sometimes, you’ll stop and smell the mimosas and other times, you’ll press ahead to get to the view of the glacier.”

The San Francisco Girls Chorus includes 400 singers from 45 Bay Area cities.  In 2008-2009, the Chorus sang at the swearing in of President Barak Obama and can also be heard of several SFS recordings, including the Grammy winning Mahler Symphony No. 3.  Photo:  SFS

The San Francisco Girls Chorus includes 400 singers from 45 Bay Area cities. In 2008-2009, the Chorus sang at the swearing in of President Barak Obama and can also be heard of several SFS recordings, including the Grammy winning Mahler Symphony No. 3. Photo: SFS

Mahler wrote his Third Symphony between 1893 and 96, when he was in his mid-thirties.  When the German composer and conductor Bruno Walter, visited Mahler at his composing hut in Steinbach am Attersee, Austria (some twenty miles east of Salzburg), he wrote in his memoirs that he looked up at the sheer cliffs of the colossal Höllengebirge and Mahler told him “No need to look up there any more—that’s all been used up and set to music by me.”  This immense rockface inspired the introductory theme of the first movement—a grand unison chant for eight horns evoking the primitive forces of nature.  A offstage horn, also figures prominently in the third movement.  Heard floating in the distance, a melancholy haunting solo imitating an old posthorn or valveless coach horn creates one of Mahler’s soulfully nostalgic moments.

Grammy winner, mezzo Sasha Cooke, was radiant as Mary last summer in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene at San Francisco Opera.   In the summer of 2013, she performed Mahler’s Second Symphony with MTT and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Her expressive and rich voice should be a good match for the dark fourth movement, a Nietzsche text that is sung against heavy strings.  By contrast, the fifth movement is light and will feature the voice of angels—women of the SFS Chorus in three part chorus, joined later by the San Francisco Girls Chorus who enter creating lovely bell like noises and join in the exhortation “Liebe nur Gott”(“Only love God”).   The symphony ends with an adagio, softly walking the edge of the sound and silence.

Cellist Margaret Tait joined SFS in 1974 and is one of the orchestra’s most tenured musicians.  When she plays Mahler’s No. 3, she pulls out her personal card which has markings and memories from previous performances and then “gets down to teaching her fingers how to do that.”  Tate especially likes the middle sections of No. 3 which are “light and very songful.”  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Cellist Margaret Tait joined SFS in 1974 and is one of the orchestra’s most tenured musicians. When she plays Mahler’s No. 3, she pulls out her music which has markings and memories from previous performances and then “gets down to reviewing the part and honing the upcoming performance.” Tait especially likes the middle sections of No. 3 which are “light and very songful.” Photo: Geneva Anderson

Cellist Margaret Tait (Lyman & Carol Casey Second Century Chair) has been with SFS since 1974 and currently heads the SFS Players Committee.  At Monday’s press conference, she said.  “We in the orchestra have a deep pool of shared experience, of performing this repertoire on world stages.  When we come to a piece again like the Mahler’s Third Symphony, we can enter the performance with a feeling of security, of asking ‘What can we bring to the work right now that is new and fresh?’  We rely on our deep knowledge of the piece and our understanding of it over years.  This is the only time I’ve had a relationship with a music director that has lasted 20 years.  The orchestra and MTT have been through a lot together and it’s been a wonderful journey for the orchestra. There’s a sense that what we do is deeply American and very adventuresome. ”

Details: “MTT Conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony” is Thursday (Feb 27) at 8PM; Saturday (March 1) at 8 PM and Sunday (March 2) at 2 PM at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco.  Tickets: $30 to $162; purchase online here, or, call (415) 864-6000.  For more information, visit www.sfsymphony.org.

Getting to Davies:  Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall.  The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.  Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently congestion around the toll-plaza.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up on weekends.  Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larken Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

February 25, 2014 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco Symphony performs with MTT at Weill Hall this Thursday, September 12, 2013

Grammy award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman, or “Fima,” performs with SFS at Weill Hall on September 12, 2013.  No stranger to the Wine Country, the passionate pianist has a wine named after him—Fimasaurus—a blend of cabernet and merlot produced by John Kongsgaard in Napa Valley.  Chocolate, cassis, and saddle leather lead its aromatic profile. Photo: Dario Acosta

Grammy award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman, or “Fima,” performs with SFS at Weill Hall on September 12, 2013. No stranger to the Wine Country, the passionate pianist has a wine named after him—Fimasaurus—a blend of cabernet and merlot produced by John Kongsgaard in Napa Valley. Chocolate, cassis, and saddle leather lead its aromatic profile. Photo: Dario Acosta

As an appetizer to the delights that await us at Weill Hall in its second year, the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) heads North this Thursday, September 12, for “MTT conducts Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1,” the first in a four concert series at Green Music Center (GMC) scheduled for the 2013-14 season.  In his only GMC performance this season, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), who became SFS Music Director in 1985, will lead SFS in a program that includes the highly-anticipated West Coast premiere of young Canadian conductor Zosha Di Castri’s “Lineage.”  Di Castri, 28, is the first recipient of a New Voices Commission a program conceived of by MTT in collaboration with SFS, the New World Symphony Orchestra and publishing house Boosey & Hawkes.  The headliner is renowned guest pianist, Yefim Bronfman, who joins SFS for Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, one of the musical icons of Russian Romanticism and one of Bronfman’s signature offerings. SFS also plays Prokofiev’s otherworldly, outrageous, and over-the-top Third Symphony, based on material from the composer’s daring opera The Fiery Angel.

Program—Michael Tilson Thomas conducts SFS, with guest artist Yefim Bronfman

Zosha Di Castri

Lineage (New Voices Commission)

Tchaikovsky

Piano Concerto No. 1

Prokofiev

Symphony No. 3

Concert is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes, including intermission

Inside Music at 7 PM:   Composer Zosha Di Castri and Peter Grunberg, musical consultant to SFS and Musical Assistant to MTT, will give an informative talk.  Free to ticketholders.

Yefim Bronfman— Affectionately known as Fima, Yefim Bronfman has been a frequent guest of the San Francisco Symphony since 1984.  He last performed with MTT and the Orchestra at Davies Symphony Hall and the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University in December 2012 in concerts of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5. Among his recent recordings is one of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 with Mariss Jansons and the Bayerischer Rundfunk (2007) on Sony. He performed Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2, commissioned for him, with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic and released on the Da Capo label. This year The Wall Street Journal praised Bronfman as “a fearless pianist for whom no score is too demanding,” and added, “…a more poetic touch has lately complemented his brawny prowess.”

Zosha Di Castri talks with Jeff Kaliss of San Francisco Classical Voice about “Lineage.” Video by Beth Hondi

Zosha Di Castri— The inaugural New Voices composer, Zosha Di Castri is a Canadian composer and pianist living in New York. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in composition at Columbia University, studying with Fred Lerdahl and teaching composition, electronic music, and music history.  Her work has been performed in Canada, the US, and Europe by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Internationale Ensemble Modern Akademie, L’Orchestre de la Francophonie, the NEM, JACK Quartet, L’Orchestre national de Lorraine, members of the L.A. Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Talea Ensemble.  She has participated in residencies at the Banff Center, Domaine Forget, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne’s Forum, and the National Arts Centre’s summer program.  She was named a laureate of the 3rd International Composer’s Competition for the Hamburger Klangwerktage Festival, won two SOCAN Foundation awards for her chamber music in 2011, and in 2012, tied for the John Weinzweig Grand Prize for her first orchestra piece Alba, commissioned by John Adams and Deborah O’Grady and premiered at the Cabrillo Festival in 2011. Recently, her work Cortège garnered her the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music.

Di Castri’s work includes interdisciplinary collaborations in the realms of electronic music, sound installation, video, performance art, and contemporary dance. Her latest mixed-media works include Akkord I for flute, piano, electronics, and large sculpture, and a collaboration with choreographer Thomas Hauert of the ZOO Contemporary Dance Company on a new piece for electronics and dance at Ircam in Paris. She is also creating a new evening-length work for ICE in collaboration with David Adamcyk for ICElab 2014.

 

Details:  “MTT conducts Tchaikovsky” is September 12, 2013 at 8 PM at Green Music Center. Tickets $156-$20.   Advance ticket purchase for SFS at Green Music Center must be made through the SFS Box Office Box Office at (415) 864-6000 or online here.  You can choose your seat yourself only by phone; if you purchase tickets in advance online, best available seating will be assigned.  Tickets can also be purchased on September 12 in person at the Green Music Center Box Office one hour before the performance.   As of Tuesday morning, there was amply orchestra seating available.

For more information about San Francisco Symphony, visit http://www.sfsymphony.org/index.aspx

For more information about the Green Music Center, visit www.gmc.edu.

September 9, 2013 Posted by | Green Music Center, Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soprano Renée Fleming is in San Francisco for the next week—there are several chances to hear her at Davies Hall—special recital with Susan Graham next Wednesday, January 16, 2013

America’s regal soprano, Renée Fleming, will perform an all French program, including a new Debussy arrangement, on January 10, 12 and13, and in duo recital with Susan Graham on January 16, 2013, both at Davies Symphony Hall.  Photo: @Decca/Andrew Eccles

America’s regal soprano, Renée Fleming, will perform an all French program, including a new Debussy arrangement, on January 10, 12 and13, and in duo recital with Susan Graham on January 16, 2013, both at Davies Symphony Hall. Photo: @Decca/Andrew Eccles

Lyric soprano Renée Fleming has long captivated audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, accessibility, and joie de vivre.  While opera is clearly her sweet spot, you can’t help but admire this Grammy-winning soprano for her sense of experimentation.  She cut her first rock album Dark Hope in 2010 at age 51 and hasn’t slacked off one bit in the classical realm.  In October, she drew tears with her tender “Ave Maria” as Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” at the Metropolitan Opera. She opened her Met career with this challenging role 17 years ago.  In December 2012, she was nominated for a Grammy for “Poèmes,” her visceral album of French works for soprano and orchestra.  Bay Area audiences are in for a special treat this week as Fleming returns to Davies Symphony Hall Thursday, Saturday and Sunday with an all French program of orchestral songs by Debussy and Canteloube, with Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS).  And next Wednesday, at Davies, Fleming will perform a duo recital of French works by Debussy, Fauré, and Saint-Saëns with the legendary mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and pianist Bradley Moore.  In addition to singing, there’ll be ample opportunity to meet both Fleming and Graham as they sign cd’s following Wednesday’s performance.

MTT & Renée Fleming, January 10, 12, 13, 2013:  Davies Symphony HallMichael Tilson Thomas leads SFS and soprano Renée Fleming in the world premiere of Robin Holloway’s arrangement, commissioned by the SFS, of Debussy’s C’est l’extase. Fleming also performs selections from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, and the Orchestra performs Debussy’s Jeux and La Mer.  Approximate length: 2 hours

C’est l’extase is Robin Holloway’s  new orchestration of Debussy’s settings of the poems of French 19th century poet Paul Verlaine; the cycle includes the six Debussy titled Ariettes oubliées.  An SFS commission, the work receives its world premiere in these performances. Previously, SFS and MTT have commissioned and premiered three works by composer Robin Holloway, including Clarissa Sequence (1998), the Fourth Concerto for Orchestra (2007), and 2004’s En blanc et noir, an orchestration of a Debussy work for two pianos that the Orchestra performed on tour in the US and Europe.  Holloway taught music at Cambridge University for 32 years, and his students included Judith Weir and Thomas Adès.

Debussy Jeux

Debussy (arr. Robin Holloway) C’est l’extase (Settings of Paul Verlaine) (SFS Commission, world premiere)

Canteloube Selections from Chants d’Auvergne: La Delaïssádo,” Malurous qu’o uno fenno,” “Baïlèro

Debussy La Mer

 Pre-Concert Talk:  Peter Grunberg will give an “Inside Music” talk from the stage one hour prior to each concert. Free to all concert ticket holders; doors open 15 minutes before.

Audio Program Notes: A free audio podcast about Debussy’s La Mer will be downloadable from sfsymphony.org/podcasts and from the iTunes store.

Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 2 p.m. 

Mezzo Soprano Susan Graham will perform a selection of French art songs in duo recital with Renée Fleming on January 16, 2013 at Davies symphony Hall.  Part of a month long tour with Fleming, this is Graham’s only Bay Area performance in the 2012-13 season.  Photo: @Dario Acosta

Mezzo Soprano Susan Graham will perform a selection of French art songs in duo recital with Renée Fleming on January 16, 2013 at Davies symphony Hall. Part of a month long tour with Fleming, this is Graham’s only Bay Area performance in the 2012-13 season. Photo: @Dario Acosta

Renée Fleming and Susan Graham, Davies Symphony Hall, Wednesday, January 16, 2012 at 7 p.m  Their pairing in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier in 2000 and 2009 at the Metropolitan Opera was kismet.  Since then, whenever Renée Fleming and Susan Graham team up, they create magic.  Davies is the first stop in their new month-long cross country tour and these celebrated all-American divas will perform a light-hearted program of 19th century French song literature.  This is Graham’s only Bay Area performance in the 2012-13 season.   Eight composers, ranging from the romantic Hector Berloiz to the fin-de-siècle Raynaldo Hahn and André Messager, will be featured.  French composers from this period were mesmerized by lure of the exotic as were their audiences and, running through these pieces, you’ll hear references to Spain and even India.  Bradley Moore will accompany on piano.  Approximate length: 2  hours

 Saint-Saëns Pastorale,Viens! Une flute invisible,” and “El desdichado” (Ms. Fleming, Ms. Graham)

FauréPiusqu’ici-bas tout âme”, Opus 10, no.1, “Pleurs d’or”, Opus 72, Pavane, Opus 50, and Tarentelle, Opus 10, no.2 (Ms. Fleming, Ms. Graham)

Debussy Claire de lune (Mr. Moore)

Debussy Mandoline” “Beau soir” (Ms. Fleming)

O. StrausJe t’aime quand meme” from Trois valses (Ms. Fleming)

Hahn Le Rossignol” “Infidélité” “Fêtes galantes” “Le Printemps” (Ms. Graham)

BerliozLa mort d’Ophélie”, Opus 18, no.2 (Ms. Fleming, Ms. Graham)

Messager Blanche-Marie et Marie-Blanche” from Les p’tites Michu (Ms. Fleming, Ms. Graham)

Offenbach Barcarolle from Les contes d’Hoffmann (Ms. Fleming, Ms. Graham)

Delibes Duo des fleurs from Lakmé (Ms. Fleming, Ms. Graham)

CD signing:  Meet Renée Fleming and Susan Graham at a CD signing in the Symphony Store following the concert.

More about Susan Graham:  Those who attend the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD performances—at Sebastopol’s Rialto Cinemas for Sonoma County—were able to experience Susan Graham in full force last week as Dido in Berlioz’s rarely performed French opera of Trojan War, Les Troyens.  Slam dunk!  Dido calls for every emotion imaginable—from the agonizing disappointment and hurt of Aeneas’ abandonment to palpable moments of shared tenderness, love and respect.  Graham poured forth, taking up the reins held by legendary Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson whose last remarkable performances at the Met in 2003 defined the role. But seeing Graham on screen in a movie theatre is one thing and interacting with her live is another.  This is Graham’s only performance in the Bay Area in 2013 and is not to be missed.  

Susan Graham as Dido in Act V of Berloiz’s Les Toyens, conducted by Fabio Luisi; produced by Francesca Zambello.  2012-13 season.  Video: Metropolitan Opera.  Graham is featured on SFS Media’s 2010 release Mahler Songs with Orchestra, singing selections from Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder.  In October 2012, Graham released her first solo album since 2008, a compilation on Onyx titled Virgins, Vixens & Viragos, featuring music by Purcell, Berlioz, and Poulenc, among others.

Getting to Davies : Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall. The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—on weekends, there can be a 15 to 30 minute back-up on Highway 101 South from Sausalito onwards due to congestion around the toll-plaza.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up on weekends. Recommended Garages: Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larken Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

Tickets and information: www.sfsymphony.org , by phone at (415) 864-6000. Half-price tickets for children 17 and under are available for certain performances.

January 10, 2013 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment