Sunday, September 18, 2011

SF Symphony 100th Season Preview

The San Francisco Symphony, including publicist Louisa Spier above left, hosted a reception in the basement of the Main Library last Tuesday in honor of the publication of "Music for a City, Music for the World," an authorized history of the institution's first 100 years written by Larry Rothe (below).

Cedric Westphal had a funny distillation of the large, lavishly illustrated coffee table book at SFist (click here):
"...if there is a drinking game associated with the book, it is to gulp a shot every time a music director is said to have brought the orchestra up to national status and recognition. You'll drink to Alfred Hertz, Pierre Monteux, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, Edo de Waart, Herbert Blomstedt and MTT."

There is an associated exhibit at the Main Library which mainly served to remind me that I am old and have been listening to live concerts by the San Francisco Symphony for almost half of its century-old existence. As a teenage hitchhiker from Southern California, I remember buying a standing room ticket at the San Francisco Opera House for one of Seiji Ozawa's concerts in his love-beads and Beatle haircut first season. Ozawa announced that he was going to focus on Berlioz and Haydn that year, and that first concert consisted of Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms," one of Haydn's 100+ symphonies, and Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" in a sensational performance.

At the reception, we were joined by the Symphony's current principal trumpeter Mark Inouye above who turned out to be as charming as he is musically gifted. Inouye told a few stories involving his Giants Rally Rag and tuxedo, along with a recurring practical joke involving standing for applause with his brass section. I am not sure the tales were meant to be shared, so ask me in private if you're dying to know what he said.

After being wined and dined, there was a talk between the author Rothe and Symphony archivist Joe Evans (above) about the process of digging through a century's worth of ephemera to find historical treasures.

A couple of years ago, during the announcement of the programs for the 99th season, a number of writers complained about how boring most of it was and asked if all the exciting stuff was being held back for the 100th anniversary season. The answer then was "no," but they weren't really telling the truth, because this year is jammed to the gills with musical goodies.

I went to the opening concert of the season last Thursday with Yo-Yo Ma playing the Hindemith cello concerto in a great performance of music that doesn't do much for me, though it does for counterpoint enthusiast Jeff Dunn (click here) who thinks it is one of the greatest concertos of the 20th century. The second half of the concert had MTT conducting the Brahms First Symphony in a surprisingly good performance. I haven't been convinced by Tilson Thomas in a lot of 19th century music, so this felt like a good sign.

Here are a few of my favorite things, on paper, that are scheduled for this fall: Mahler's gargantuan 3rd Symphony is coming up this week (September 21-25); the Symphony-commissioned "Polaris" by British composer Thomas Ades with "moving images" by his partner Tal Rosner (September 29-October 1); the great young conductor Vasily Petrenko conducting Elgar's First Symphony and joining with Joshua Bell in the Glazunov Violin Concerto (October 5-9); James Conlon conducting Shostakovich's Symphony No. 14 (October 14-16) and then jumping in as a substitute for Fabio Luisi with Verdi's Requiem (October 19-22); a Symphony commission of a new work from the amazing composer Sofia Gubaidulina (November 17-20); and Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting Sibelius, his own Violin Concerto, and excerpts from Wagner's "Ring" (December 8-10).

This is without even mentioning the special party guests who will be playing in Davies Hall this year, which include the entire orchestras of Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, many bringing brand new music written for their respective ensembles. Click here to buy tickets or call (415) 864-6000. If you are feeling poor like me, Center Terrace seats behind the orchestra are a wonderful deal at $15 a ticket, and you are basically sitting in trumpeter Mark Inouye's lap.

1 comment:

Nancy Ewart said...

Hosting a glass of cheer for all the guys mentioned sounds like a good idea. And Oh My God. I remember that poster. I can't possibly be that old. I must have seen that poster in a show. Beatles haircut and love beads. Never heard of them.