The following is not a "Best of The Bay" list because there were a few concerts I did not attend where subsequent reports from trusted friends made me feel like I had missed out. No, this is a list to make you
feel like you have missed out. The dozen favorite performances are in chronological order, featuring a huge range of artists, starting with the 94-year-old conductor Herbert Blomstedt returning to Davies Hall last February. Blomstedt somehow seems to be getting better with age as he demonstrated leading the San Francisco Symphony in Carl Nielsen's Fourth Symphony
and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
. More at this link.
The next week at Davies Hall the young guest conductor Perry So had programmed a remarkable assortment of music by Asian composers working with Western classical forms. The exception was Western gay hippie Lou Harrison's 1997 Concerto for Pipa and String Orchestra
performed by Wu Man, for whom it was written. It was a daring, wholly successful program of music that had never been played at the SF Symphony before. More at this link.
Mozart's La Clemenza de Tito
, was given the best production I have ever seen of that problematic opera in a wildly creative production at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, which was co-directed by young genius James Darrah. More at this link.
In May, pianist Sarah Cahill joined up with the adventurous Friction Quartet for a Noe Valley Ministry chamber music concert of contemporary music sandwiching Dvorak's "American" String Quartet.
A young violist, Mitso Floor, was filling in and was sensational. It's good to read that he recently, officially joined the quartet permanently. More at this link.
In June, SF Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and stage director Peter Sellars revived their production of Stravinsky's oratorio Oedipus Rex
with the composer's Symphony of Psalms
added on as an epilogue. The Symphony Men's Chorus was superb throughout, and so were the cast of soloists. Plus, it was lovely seeing tenor Sean Panikkar in the title role finally having the career he deserves. More at this link.
The SF Symphony finished their 2021-22 season in July with a thrilling concert that featured the local premiere of Berkeley composer John Adams's piano concerto Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?
The fiendishly complex work was written for pianist Yuja Wang but performed at these concerts by Víkingur Ólafsson, who was extraordinary. More at this link.
The annual American Bach Soloists Academy was canceled this summer on account of the Omnicron outbreak but the group still held a series of concerts at Herbst Theatre in August, including a surprisingly excellent performance of Handel's obscure oratorio, Belshazzar
. The entire cast was wonderful and so was the pickup chorus, but pride of place went to soprano Maya Kherani sailing through some impossibly difficult music with apparent ease. More at this link.
The San Francisco Opera was celebrating its centennial and commissioned famous local composer John Adams to write another opera. The result was a brilliant distillation of Shakespeare's strange, sprawling play, Antony and Cleopatra
. It's a major work and it was exciting to be part of the world premiere. More at this link.
The New Century Chamber Orchestra under its Music Director Daniel Hope offered an odd amalgam of radio play, jazz/cabaret/classical music concert, focusing chronologically on Berlin and the U.S. in 1938 when Hitler was ramping up to the Final Solution. The September performance was at the Presidio Theater, a gorgeously restored Art Deco style movie theater dating from World War Two. Operatic baritone Thomas Hampson was joined by "chansonnier" Horst Maria Merz, who was riveting. More at this link.
The pianist Yuja Wang gave the premiere of yet another piano concerto written for her, this time by Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg. The October concert, conducted brilliantly by Music Director Salonen, also featured a fabulous performance of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra
. More at this link.
The San Francisco Opera had a banner fall season this year with more successes and fewer stinkers than the usual batting average for an opera company. The first new company production of Verdi's La Traviata
in close to 30 years was one of the happiest surprises. The production was colorful, traditional without being dull, and the two leads, South African soprano Pretty Yende as Violetta and American tenor Jonathan Tetelman as Alfredo, worked beautifully together. More at this link
The unexpected stunner of the season was Gluck's spare, beautiful 1762 opera Orpheus and Eurydice
with a star turn by the young Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński in a creative marvel of a production by director Matthew Ozawa and his production collaborators. More at this link.