Tuesday, January 21, 2014

SF Symphony Highlights for Winter/Spring 2014

The annual Winter Sale of discounted tickets for the remaining six months of the San Francisco Symphony starts on Tuesday, January 21st for subscribers, and Wednesday, January 22nd through January 31st for the public at large. It is one of the better cultural deals in the Bay Area, with $100+ orchestra seats marked down to $20-$40 for selected concerts, and you can order them online, by phone, or in person at the Davies Hall box office. Though not every scheduled concert is discounted, most of them are, so here are a few tips on what looks promising.

Osmo Vanska (above), the Finnish conductor who recently resigned from the Minnesota orchestra after its protracted labor dispute, is leading the symphony January 30th through February 1st. It looks like a great program, with Night Ride and Sunrise and Symphony No. 6 by Sibelius, Symphonies of Wind Instruments by Stravinsky, and Daniil Trifonov as piano soloist in Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Former SF Symphony Music Director Herbert Blomstedt above returns for two weeks of concerts in early April, and he seems to bring out the best in this orchestra. From April 3rd to 6th, he will be conducting Carl Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto with Carey Bell as soloist, and Schubert's Symphony in C Major, The Great.

Conductor James Conlon from the Los Angeles Opera returns from April 24th to 26th to conduct Shostakovich's wild, witty Piano Concerto No. 1 with Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6.

For two weeks in early May, the Dutch early music specialist Ton Koopman makes his San Francisco debut leading a reduced orchestra in two weeks of Bach, both C.P.E. and his father Johann Sebastian. Baroque music has a difficult time making itself felt in the large Davies Hall, but soloists such as soprano Carolyn Sampson, cellist Peter Wyrick, and trumpeter Mark Inouye, not to mention the magnificent Symphony Chorus, should make for some interesting concerts. If that's not enough Bach for you, the awesome Christian Tetzlaff above plays the complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin on May 11th, and then joins Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra for Bartok's Violin Concerto No. 2 from May 14th to May 17th.

The season winds up with a few extraordinary concerts, starting with Charles Dutoit conducting Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Faure's Requiem with full chorus on May 29th and May 30th. The following week Dutoit will be conducting Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Kirill Gerstein as soloist, along with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, which is described by John Mangum as "48 minutes of tragedy, despair, terror, and violence and two minutes of triumph." Can't wait.

Shostakovich reappears the following week along with his respected friend and composing colleague, Benjamin Britten (Dmitri on the left and Benjy on the right in the photo above). Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 along with excerpts from Britten's shamefully neglected full-length ballet, The Prince of the Pagodas, from June 12th to June 15th. The following week features Britten's beautiful Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings with tenor soloist Toby Spence and Shostakovich's final Symphony No. 15. The must-attend event of the season is a concert version of Britten's full-length opera Peter Grimes, with Stuart Skelton in the title role, Elza van den Heever as Ellen Orford, and a large contingent of local favorites such as Nancy Maultsby, Eugene Brancoveanu and John Relyea rounding out the cast. That will be taking place June 26th through June 29th while across the street the San Francisco Opera's summer season will be marking Britten's centenary with Verdi's La Traviata and Puccini's Madama Butterfly. And for a special treat on June 28th, Tilson Thomas will reprise The Prince of the Pagodas excerpts with Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes accompanied by Tal Rosner's video art.


Namastenancy said...

You write the best musical column in the Bay Area!

Michael Strickland said...

Thanks, Nancy. You should definitely check out some of these concerts.