Wednesday, January 04, 2012

3 Cool Concerts Coming Up at the SF Symphony

The next three weeks at Davies Hall with the San Francisco Symphony have all kinds of interesting goodies on paper. Starting Friday, January 6th through 8th, music director Michael Tilson Thomas leads the orchestra in the 1993 violin concerto by György Ligeti with soloist Christian Tetzlaff (pictured above left, with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes).

According to the BBC's Stephen Johnson, the concerto is "a kind of cornucopia of effects and techniques, a wild collage of atmospheres and colors. Among other effects, it uses microtonality, rapidly changing textures, comic juxtapositions...Hungarian folk melodies, Bulgarian dance rhythms, references to medieval and Renaissance music and solo violin writing that ranges from the slow-paced and sweet-toned to the angular and fiery."

Ligeti isn't somebody to listen to at home unless you have musical tastes way more advanced than mine, but his music live in the concert hall is invariably amazing. The second half of the concert is Tchaikovsky's first symphony, called Winter Daydreams, and it's one of his loveliest, most Russki scores.

The following week, January 12-14, is worth attending if only because MTT conducts Leoš Janáček's Sinfonietta, which will make you cry when you hear it live. The rest of the concert is devoted to Le martyre de Saint Sébastien, incidental music written by Debussy in 1911 to a mystery play about the famously pierced saint.

According to Wikipedia, "The first Gabriel Astruc production was attended by scandal (the Archbishop of Paris requested Catholics not attend because the dancer playing St. Sebastian was a woman and a Jew), the work was not successful and did not enter the repertoire; thanks to Debussy's score, however, it has been recorded in abridged and adapted versions several times."

There's a huge orchestra involved, along with a chorus and soloists such as the awesome soprano Sasha Cooke (above in red), and narrating the spectacle is the straight-out-of-retirement Frederica von Stade. The Symphony also promises that the concert "will be accompanied by a newly created multi-media treatment by imaginative, critically acclaimed director-designer Anne Patterson that features projected visuals and staged elements meant to bring the pageant-like, gothic, nature of the work to life," and let's hope it's fabulous rather than stupid.

The third week, January 19-21, will bring back the young Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado (above left) conducting Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks, Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, and Dallapicolla's Piccola musica notturna. Best of all is the final piece, a warhorse I have never heard live, Manuel de Falla's El Amor Brujo, a gypsy ballet with "flamenco singer" Marina Heredia performing as soloist.

Click here to buy tickets at the San Francisco Symphony website, and if you're feeling poor, the day-of-purchase phone number for $20 rush tickets is (415) 503-5577.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Agree with every word! Looking forward. (Although Sasha Cook is a mezzo. :)

Civic Center said...

Dear Lisa: Thanks for the correction about Sasha. I'd go back and change it except I'm going to plead that my usage of "soprano" was generic/sloppy since "mezzo-soprano" is the usual usage.