MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? Comes to San Francisco Symphony

Quite looking forward to tonight’s San Francisco Symphony concert, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, which brings John Adams’s most-recent piano concerto to Davies Hall. Vikingur Ólafsson is the soloist, and on the basis of this morning’s open rehearsal, this should be a performance to remember.

We had a good one in January with the Seattle Symphony and Jeremy Denk, Adams himself guest conducting.

The rest of the program includes a beautiful work by the late Steven Stucky, Radical Light (also an SFS premiere), and Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony.

Filed under: Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Adams, San Francisco Symphony

John Corigliano’s Triathlon at San Francisco Symphony

In his programs this weekend with San Francisco Symphony, guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero will lead the world premiere of Triathlon by John Corigliano. Now 84, the composer has contributed a major work to the saxophone repertoire in this concerto for the remarkable Tim McAllister. I had the privilege of writing the program note for this world premiere. The rest of the program presents music by Adolphus Hailstork, Antonio Estévez, and Astor Piazzolla.

program notes

Filed under: commissions, John Corigliano, program notes, San Francisco Symphony

San Francisco Symphony Announces 2022-23 Season

San Francisco Symphony today announced the program for its 2022-23 season. Lots of great stuff is lined up. Esa-Pekka Salonen’s third season with SFS promises world premieres of works by Samuel Adams, Magnus Lindberg, and winner of the 2021 Emerging Black Composers Project Trevor Weston, as well as the U.S. premieres of Daniel Kidane’s Precipice Dances and works by Danny Elfman and Outi Tarkiainen, along with the West Coast premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Her Story.

There will be a two-week theme focus in October on music involving “myth, magic, and horror,” including the suite from Béla Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin, Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, HK Gruber’s Frankenstein!!, the suite from Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho, Franz Liszt’s Totentanz, and Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.

Some other highlights: Igor Levit will be Artist-in-Residence and will give a rare performance of Ferruccio Busoni’s wild, choral Piano Concerto. The orchestra will present Gabriel Kahane’s emergency shelter intake form, and Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas returns for four weeks of programs. The orchestra will tour in spring 2023 to Paris, Luxembourg, and Hamburg.

EPS and SFS are also undertaking a four-year partnership with Peter Sellars, launching in June 2022 with a staged production of Igor Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. Kaija Saariaho’s Adriana Mater comes in June 2023, and future seasons will present new Sellars-staged productions of Olivier Messiaen’s La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (2024) and Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (2025), the latter featuring SFS featuring Collaborative Partner Julia Bullock.

States Salonen: “I don’t believe in the concept of canon, especially canon as something finished or immovable. If you look back at concert programs from 150 years ago, what then was understood as canon is very different from today. We don’t need the concept of canon as long as music is a dynamic thing that keeps changing, because we keep changing. There’s a tradition of these works we love and want to take care of, there’s a sort of gardener’s duty that we have. We have to take care of the old trees, but we also have to make sure that there’s new growth everywhere, because without the new growth the trees actually won’t survive. Ultimately, it’s all about relevance. Every day that goes by stretches the virtual rubber band between, say, us and Beethoven. And the fear of course is that one day we come to the point where it snaps, and we no longer feel that it’s relevant, which would be a catastrophe in a way because it’s wonderful. The only way to keep that relevance and connection is to make sure that there’s new music. There’s new growth, new composers, new artists who keep this art form alive and take it places that we cannot even imagine. That’s the most important thing—the surprise, the new directions. I want to be part of that process. That’s why we want to commission works from young composers and support new artists. We want to engage new performers and expand the horizons of what we do.”

You can see the full listing for the 2022-23 season here.

Filed under: Esa-Pekka Salonen, music news, Peter Sellars, San Francisco Symphony

Opera in San Francisco

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Act III of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” with Heidi Stober as Gretel and Sasha Cooke as Hansel, production by Antony McDonald; photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The last few weeks have been so busy I forgot to post my coverage of a trip last month to the Bay Area. Here are links to my reviews for Musical America of two productions at San Francisco Opera (Hansel and Gretel and Manon Lescaut) and of a concert performance of the first act of Die Walküre by San Francisco Symphony.

Filed under: Engelbert Humperdinck, Musical America, Puccini, review, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Wagner

New from John Adams: I Still Dance

John Adams’s latest composition was recently given its world premiere by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. Here’s my program note introducing I Still Dance:

The unique creative exchange between John Adams and the San Francisco Symphony spans four decades and represents one of the most significant success stories in the collaboration among contemporary American composers, orchestras, and audiences.

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Filed under: John Adams, Michael Tilson Thomas, program notes, San Francisco Symphony

San Francisco Symphony’s 2019-20 Season

Here it is: Michael Tilson Thomas’s farewell season with the San Francisco Symphony has just been announced.

MTT concludes his quarter-century tenure with the orchestra with a season that features a notably more diverse lineup of contemporary composers than has been the case with his usual programming. The season will include commissions and world premieres of works by John Adams, Julia Wolfe, MTT, Ghiannon Giddens, Mason Bates, Camille Norment, Adam Schoenberg, Pamela Z, and Aaron Zigman. There will also be first SFS performances of music by Tania León, Allison Loggins-Hull, Wynton Marsalis, Jessie Montgomery, Steven Stucky, and MTT. All of this is folded into a programmatic theme called “celebrating the American Sound.” MTT’s beloved Mavericks will also be heard from again: Copland, Ives, Ruggles …

Also exciting is the announcement of season-long artist residencies by soprano Julia Bullock, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter (which include not only at SFS concerts but events such as recitals, SoundBox shows, and community initiatives).

Of course there will be Mahler: MTT will conduct the ultra-bleak Sixth, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny), and — as the grand finale to the MTT era, leading us upward: the Faustian Eighth.

Oh, and did you forget it’s the “Beethoven Year”? Which means, for SFS, the Second, Fifth, and Seventh Symphonies and the Second Piano Concerto and the Violin Concerto, plus some all-Beethoven recitals (Yefim Bronfman, Igor Levit, and Anne-Sophie Mutter).

And Esa-Pekka Salonen will give a foretaste of his upcoming directorship over two weeks of concerts.

Complete press release here.

Filed under: programming, San Francisco Symphony

Happy 70th Birthday, John Adams!

Today John Adams celebrates his 70th birthday. We have countless reasons to be grateful for what he’s already given the world. And he has so much left to say, as works of more recent vintage like The Gospel According to the Other Mary demonstrate.

Here’s a bit on JA’s ongoing relationship with San Francisco Symphony, which gives the Bay area premiere of this masterpiece starting Thursday:

You would be forgiven for imagining a clever director had coached a miniature army of body doubles, or that a music-mad bioengineer had disseminated a few clones: John Adams seems to be intercontinentally omnipresent this season—in London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles. This month, when he actually reaches the biblical milestone of 70 (February 15), he is right back home, with his music as the centerpiece of a three-weekend celebration by the San Francisco Symphony.

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San Francisco Symphony on JOHN ADAMS: CELEBRATING 70 YEARS

 

Filed under: John Adams, San Francisco Symphony

Charles Ives: Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day

Filed under: American music, Charles Ives, San Francisco Symphony

Brahms 1

This is going to be a good concert:

Filed under: Brahms, Michael Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Symphony

New from Mason Bates: Auditorium

A day in the life of Mason Bates: after this morning’s Santa Fe Opera season announcement, with a foretaste of The (R)Evolution of Steve Jobs, the San Francisco Symphony tonight unveils his latest orchestral piece, Auditorium. Here’s my introduction:

The relationship between Mason Bates and the San Francisco Symphony has played a pivotal role in the emergence of one of the most frequently performed American composers at work today. It began in 2009 with the first SFS commission of an orchestral work by Bates, The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra and Electronica (dedicated to Michael Tilson Thomas), and has continued through this most recent collaboration, which receives its world premiere on this program.

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Filed under: commissions, Mason Bates, new music, program notes, San Francisco Symphony

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