Composer Steve Reich will celebrate his 80th birthday this coming October 3. The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) will get the jump on this occasion by honoring Reich one month in advance. During the first week of the 2016–17 season, MTT has included Reich’s music on the first three programs to be performed, the last of which will consist entirely of Reich compositions. Those performances will include guest appearances by Eighth Blackbird, the Kronos Quartet, guitarist Derek Johnson, and students of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Reich will be the leading composer at the 2016 Opening Night Gala concert with MTT conducting “Three Movements,” composed in 1986 and scored for full orchestra. Reich will keep interesting company on this program, since the only other composer announced thus far will be Gioachino Rossini with excerpts from his opera William Tell, the popular overture and the first SFS performance of ballet music included in the full score. The guest artists for this program will be soprano Renée Fleming and mezzo Susan Graham. As of the present, however, their contributions are being listed only as “Selection of American songs” and “Selection of Italian songs.” (The American songs will follow Reich, and the Italian songs will follow Rossini.)
The performance of this program will begin at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 7. Prices for concert tickets range from $180 to $300. They include a complimentary pre-concert wine reception and access to the after-party in the Tent Pavilion set up on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. In addition there will be four unique Dinner Packages that include premium seating for the concert. The event page on the SFS Web site provides hyperlinks for the purchase of both concert tickets and Dinner Packages. Each of the four options has its own Web page describing both the offering and the prices. One can also learn more about these options by contacting the Volunteer Council at 415-503-5500. Tickets will also be available by calling the Box Office at 415-864-6000 or by visiting it at the Grove Street entrance to Davies Symphony Hall at 201 Van Ness Avenue, on the south side of the street (again between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street). Box Office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Reich will share the second program with Aaron Copland. The first half of the program will present his suite from the music he composed for the ballet “Billy the Kid” and a selection of his songs featuring soprano Susannah Phillips. “Three Movements” will be performed again during the second half, preceded by Reich’s double sextet, for which SFS members will perform with the Eight Blackbird sextet. This concert will be given two performances, both at 8 p.m., on Friday, September 9, and Saturday, September 10.
The title of the all-Reich concert will be Steve Reich: An American Maverick. It will conclude with a second performance of the double sextet. The other works on the program will be “Six Marimbas,” “Electric Counterpoint,” and “WTC 9/11.” Three SFCM students will join Principal Percussion Jacob Nissly, former Principal Percussion Jack Van Geem, and Acting Principal Percussion James Lee Wyatt, III (Trey Wyatt), for the performance of “Six Marimbas.” Johnson will perform “Electric Counterpoint,” performing against a tape recording of seven electric guitars and two electric bass guitars. Finally, the Kronos will perform “WTC 9/11,” their third major commission for Reich, which they first performed on March 19, 2011. This concert will be performed only once, at 7 p.m. on Sunday, September 11.
Prices for tickets for the second concert will be between $15 and $162. Those for the final concert will be between $15 and $94. However, these tickets will not go on sale until tomorrow, July 18. At that time they will be available from the Box Office and for online purchase from the event pages for the second and third programs. Box Office hours are the same as previously stated, but the Box Office will also be open two hours prior to the Sunday concert (5 p.m.).