ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

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).

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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’s dazzling holiday line-up—there’s something for everyone—and there are still seats available for these special events

San Francisco Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball at Davies Symphony Hall is San Francisco’s most elegant celebration.  The unforgettable evening is built around exquisite music in a stunning setting.

San Francisco Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball at Davies Symphony Hall is San Francisco’s most elegant celebration. The unforgettable evening is built around exquisite music in a stunning setting.

If you happened to catch Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) spectacular concert last Thursday at Weill Hall, which inaugurated their annual 4 concert series at Green Music Center, chances are you’re hungry for more.  Each year SFS, offers a stellar musical line-up for the holidays, ranging from events suitable for children and families to attend together children to Handel’s classic Messiah to its spectacular New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball.  Half the fun of attending an event at Davies Symphony Hall is dressing up and entering its expansive curved lobby which affords gorgeous views of San Francisco.  During the holiday season, this elegant lobby is transformed into a Christmas wonderland, filled with towering trees decorated with handmade ornaments.  The internationally acclaimed San Francisco Symphony, nominated for yet another Grammy Award last week, is one of San Francisco’s treasured gems and the guest performers at Davies are world class.  There is nothing more precious than the gift of music shared between family, loved ones and friends.  Whether it be a matinee or evening performance, the concerts below all have ticket availability and if you act swiftly, there should be no problem attending one, or several, of these magical performances.  

HANDEL’S MESSIAH:   Thursday (12/13), Friday (12/14) Saturday (12/15) all at 7:30 p.m:  Few pieces can deliver a fresh perspective each time they are heard.  Handel’s Messiah is one of those works that yields a new secret on every hearing.  Composed in 1741, it reportedly was a favorite work of Beethoven for its “sublimity of language.”  For modern listeners, it holds a place of reverence in the canon for its universal appeal and moments of timeless expression.  Ragnar Bohlin leads soprano Joélle Harvey, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson-Cano, tenor Andrew Stenson, bass-baritone Michael Sumuel, and the SFS Chorus and Orchestra. (Approximate length: 2 hours and 30 minutes) 

Pre-show event:  “Inside Music,” an informative talk with Alexandra Amati-Camperi, begins one hour prior to concerts.  Free to ticketholders.

Post-show: meet Anthony Cirone, author of The Great American Symphony Orchestra: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Its Artistry, Passion, and Heartache (an engrossing backstage tour of symphony life) for a book signing in the Symphony Store following the December 15 concert.  

Davies Symphony Hall was built in 1980 and is the permanent home of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.  The hall was designed by Pietro Belluschi and seats 2,743 people.  Image: SFS

Davies Symphony Hall was built in 1980 and is the permanent home of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The hall was designed by Pietro Belluschi and seats 2,743 people. Image: SFS

MUSIC FOR FAMILIES WITH SFS: Saturday (12/15) at 2 p.m:  Pass Symphony magic from one generation to the next by bringing your family to hear SFS in kid-sized classical concerts designed for families—great music, fascinating musical discoveries, and priceless memories.  Recommended for ages 7 and older.  Half price for ages 17 and under. Group discount not available. Concert length is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.

Ticketholders will receive a free concert guide to enhance music appreciation at home.

Conductor/Performers:  Teddy Abrams conducts the San Francisco Symphony

Program: Bernstein-Overture to Candide; Handel—The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon; Haydn—Excerpt from Second Movement of Symphony No. 94, Surprise; Beethoven—Fourth Movement from Symphony No. 2; Tchaikovsky—Excerpt from Second Movement from Symphony No. 4; Liszt—Excerpt from Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2; Copland—Saturday Night Waltz and Hoedown from Rodeo; Handy—Saint Louis Blues; Stravinsky—Ragtime from L’Histoire du Soldat; John Williams—Main Theme from Star Wars 

San Francisco Symphony performs a live score accompaniment to the animated family-friendly film "The Showman" on December 22, 2012. Photo: SFS

San Francisco Symphony performs a live score accompaniment to the animated family-friendly film “The Showman” on December 22, 2012. Photo: SFS

THE SNOWMAN  film and sing-along: Saturday (12/22) at 11:00 a.m:  This charming animated 26-minute film (Dianne Jackson, 1982) tells the story of an English boy who makes a snowman on Christmas Eve, only to have it come to life that night and take him on a magical adventure to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus.  SFS performs the score to this family-friendly movie, led by Resident Conductor Donato Cabrera with the Pacific Boychoir.  After the movie, hear the Orchestra will perform Christmas favorites and the audience is invited to sing along.

Pre-show event:Tier with a Twist”—Enjoy a beverage during this concert at “Tier with a Twist” in the Second Tier.  A fresh and festive way to take in a concert, the Tier with a Twist offers specialty food and drinks in the Second Tier bar and you can take your drink to your seat! 

’TWAS THE NIGHT: Carols and sing-alongs with members of the SF Symphony Chorus and Orchestra:  Saturday (12/22) at 7:30 p.m., Sunday (12/23) at 4:00 p.m and Monday (12/24) at 2:00 p.m.

Chorus Director Ragnar Bohlin leads soprano Lisa Vroman, members of the Symphony’s brass section and singers from SFS Chorus in three special concerts, featuring favorite carols, childhood Christmas songs, plus audience sing-alongs.  Robert Huw Morgan will play the gorgeous Ruffatti organ, one of the great organs of the world.  Half price for ages 17 and under.  Concert length is approximately 2 hours. 

Pre-show event:Tier with a Twist”—Enjoy a beverage during this concert at “Tier with a Twist” in the Second Tier.  A fresh and festive way to take in a concert, the Tier with a Twist offers specialty food and drinks in the Second Tier bar and you can take your drink to your seat!

NEW YEAR’S EVE MASQUERADE BALL WITH SAN FRANCISCO SMPHONY: Monday (12/31) at 9:00 p.m. Ring in the New Year at the city’s most elegant celebration, the New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball with SFS. The event stars SFS conductor Michael Francis, soprano Heidi Stober, and members of Dance Through Time.  Everyone attending the event receives a complimentary mask as they enter the beautifully decorated lobby of Davies Hall.  Beginning at 8 p.m., The Martini Brothers entertain and perform their “swingin’ cocktail music” in the lobby.  Starting at 9 p.m., SFS performs polkas, waltzes, and dances on stage in Davies Symphony Hall.  Following the Symphony concert, guests are invited to celebrate and dance on the Davies Hall stage to The Peter Mintun Orchestra.  In the First Tier lobby, Super Diamond will perform the hits of the one and only Neil Diamond.  Immediately following the Symphony performance, guests enjoy complimentary sparkling wine, desserts, savories, and party favors.  As the clock strikes midnight, colorful balloons will cascade from the ceiling as the crowd welcomes in 2013.

Pre-event:  A special pre-concert dinner package includes a cocktail reception beginning at 6 p.m., followed by a sumptuous three-course dinner (wine included) in the lobby of the War Memorial Opera House.  The dinner package also includes La Marca Prosecco served in an exclusive gathering the Loge Level lobby at intermission.  Dinner packages begin at $160 and include parking.  For more details on the pre-concert dinners and to make reservations, call the Davies Symphony Hall box office at (415) 864-6000.

Tier with a Twist”—Enjoy a beverage during this concert at “Tier with a Twist” in the Second Tier.  A fresh and festive way to take in a concert, the Tier with a Twist offers specialty food and drinks in the Second Tier bar and you can take your drink to your seat!

Highlights from the 2012 Celebration:

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 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.

Dessert Alert!  Miette Bakery, 449 Octavia Street (San Francisco, 94102), 415 837-0300, M-F 9-7; Sat 8-7 and Sun 10-5, is just 2.5 blocks from Davies Symphony Hall and offers some of the most gorgeous and artfully prepared treats you’ve ever seen— heavenly macarons, confections, cookies and several seasonal selections.  “Miette” is French for crumb… but there won’t be any… because these old world treats with a modern interpretation are just too delicious to leave even a trace behind.  Click this map to get your bearings.

December 12, 2012 Posted by | Classical Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Magnificent Mahler–MTT and the San Francisco Symphony warm up at Davies for their Euro tour, series ends this weekend with Mahler’s No. 6

MTT--Michael Tilson Thomas-- and the San Francisco Symphony celebrate Mahler in performances of the 9th, 2nd and 6th Symphonies May 5-14, 2011. Photo: courtesy Michael Tilson Thomas

For all those lucky enough to nab tickets to Sunday’s sold-out performance of MTT leading SFS in Mahler’s No. 2, Resurrection, the performance did all the talking necessary.  No one knows how or why sometimes magic happens…but Sunday it all came together—orchestra, chorus, soloists (Karina Gauvin soprano and Jill Grove mezzo-soprano —I closed my eyes and floated in glory…aware of the distinctive sound coming from each and every section of the orchestra and singers and the wonderment of their combined flair and flow.  The SFS Chorus under Ragnar Bohlin’s direction though deserves special mention…its impressive entrance in the final (5th) movement was awesome–pure theatre–as its 140 members sang unaccompanied “Aufersteh’n” (“Rise again”) ushering in the resurrection theme and climax which soprano, mezzo soprano and full orchestra joined to bring the piece to end.   Something so near perfect raises the bar, even for MTT.  Now that he’s headed off with SFS and soprano Laura Claycomb and mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus for the big European tour (15 concerts in Prague, Vienna, Brussels, Luxemburg, Essen, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon), commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death, it’s nice to know that we here at home got the smetana (that’s Czech for cream). 

There’s still time to grab tickets for MTT conducting SFS in Mahler’s 6th Symphony in A minor this coming Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Davies Symphony Hall.  This is the third and final set of performances in the splendid Mahler series that has run at Davies since May 5, 2011.   Composed in 1903-04, Mahler’s No. 6–a passionate, relentlessly tragic and terrifying masterwork–culminates with “three blows of fate” sounded by a hammer in the last (4th) movement.  This is the very symphony that launched SFS’s recording cycle in 2001.  And, now ten years later, SFS has just finished the final recording of its complete Mahler cycle on its own label, SFS Media, including all nine of the Mahler’s symphonies, the Adagio from Symphony No. 10, and Mahler’s works for voice, chorus and orchestra.  The cycle has won seven Grammy® Awards, including three for Best Classical Album.  But, as Sunday’s unforgettable concert proved, nothing beats the excitement of experiencing music live.   Mahler’s No. 6 is replete with sudden juxtapositions of contrasting mood and tempo.  It opens with a grim march and is later filled with the sound of cowbells, harps and a portrait of Alma, Mahler’s wife.  I can’t wait.

And if find yourself in Vienna’s regal Konzerthaus on May 21-25, Tilson Thomas and the orchestra will perform Symphonies Nos. 2, 6, and 9 as part of the city’s Mahler commemoration, occurring just days from the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death.

Michael Tilson Thomas, conducts San Francisco Symphony Mahler/Symphony No. 6 in A minor

Thursday, May 12 at 8 p.m.

Friday, May 13 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, May 14 at 8 p.m.

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 Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 will be downloadable from sfsymphony.org and from the iTunes store.

BROADCAST: Portions of these concerts will be broadcast on Classical KDFC 89.9/90.3 FM on Tuesday, May 24 at 8:00 p.m.

TICKETS: $15-$140; available at www.sfsymphony.org, or by phone  (415) 864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.  Performance: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment