Monday, September 03, 2012

San Francisco Symphony 2012 Fall Preview

The San Francisco Symphony is giving San Francisco society ladies a break this year, holding their gala opening two weeks from now on Wednesday the 19th, rather than within days of the San Francisco Opera gala opening this Friday. The schedule change is necessitated by music director Michael Tilson Thomas and his jet-setting, multi-city obligations, but Society is probably breathing an appreciative sigh of relief nonetheless.

Officially opened or not, the San Francisco Symphony is still offering two weeks' worth of concerts starting this Wednesday, with the Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov above in charge. This week he's joined by violinist Pinchas Zukerman playing the warhorse Bruch concerto followed by Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. The following week is when things gets interesting. The original program announcement was for Shostakovich's 7th Symphony, the World War Two era Leningrad Symphony. For some reason, possibly just to confuse unwary arts editors who put mistakes into print forever, the program has been changed to Shostakovich's Eleventh Symphony, subtitled The Year 1905 about the Russian Revolution. San Francisco has a great Shostakovich orchestra, and it's always interesting listening to a Russian at the helm with his music.

After a week of French bonbons for Opening Week, Tilson Thomas above conducts Mahler's Fifth Symphony with a first half curtain raiser by John Adams' composer son, Samuel Carl Adams. The last time I heard MTT conduct Mahler's Fifth was in 2009, and it wasn't a very good performance, but it's impossible to tell ahead of time whether the conductor and the composer are going to be sublime together or slightly out of joint. I've heard both over the years, so let's pray it's the former.

The next week brings back one of my favorite young conductors, Vasily Petrenko above. The first half of is his program is the very serious Part and Bartok (the third piano concerto), followed by Respighi's pop trash classics, The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome. If he can make those two overplayed pieces sound interesting, Petrenko will officially be proclaimed a Musical Savior.

In mid-October, the conductor Vladimir Jurowski makes his debut with an all-Russian program of Scriabin, the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto, and an arrangement of the music from the Eisenstein film, Ivan The Terrible (above), complete with soloists and chorus.

On Halloween, the pianist Yuja Wang above will be playing the Prokofiev Second Piano Concerto which she will also be performing during a long tour of Asia in November with the San Francisco Symphony. After the orchestra's return, Davies Hall essentially becomes a Christmas Factory for the month of December before returning for six months of weekly music with some very cool concerts.

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