Wednesday, January 07, 2015

SF Symphony Winter Suggestions

The San Francisco Symphony winter season in Davies Hall starts with a strange, remarkable looking concert where John Adams, Elvis Costello, and Malcom McDowell are finally together at last. In truth, composer Adams is conducting his 1982 Grand Pianola Music, a modern masterpiece for two pianos, chamber orchestra of brass and percussion and a trio of female singers intoning wordless music. The second half of the program is Stravinsky's chamber theater piece for seven instruments and three actors, L'Histoire du Soldat. Elvis Costello is the Narrator, Malcolm McDowell (of If... and O Lucky Man! and A Clockwork Orange and decades of Hollywood crap) is The Devil, and Tilson Thomas conducts. This is the concert you need to go to this winter, if no other, just to say that you were there. Performances are from January 16-18.

The ancient former SF Symphony music director Herbert Blomstedt arrives for two weeks, from February 12th to the 21st. The first week's program has Mozart's Piano Concerto #19 with Peter Serkin as the soloist and the Sibelius Second Symphony. Peter Serkin, like his father Rudolf, is a god in Mozart and should not be missed. I've heard the Sibelius one too many times live recently at the Symphony, but this music is a specialty of Blomstedt's and it should be wonderful to hear him conduct the orchestra in it. The second week he conducts Brahms' German Requiem, a piece I don't care for at all, but because he's conducting it and the baritone Christian Gerhaher is a soloist, the performance is another must-hear.

March 5-7 has the British composer Thomas Ades (above right) conducting short pieces by Ives, Milhaud, and Sibelius, followed by his own composition, In Seven Days, with soprano soloist Dawn Upshaw (above left). I'm not a big fan of Ades' music, which is probably my own limitation, but have long considered Dawn Upshaw a musical goddess who can do no wrong.

Finally, the omnivorous Jeremy Denk is touring with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra as conductor/pianist on March 15th and 16th, playing four Bach keyboard concertos over two evenings, along with music by Suk, Dvorak, and Stravinsky. It could be really good.

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