One of the most valuable sources of free chamber music within the San Francisco city limits is the Morrison Chamber Music Center, which is affiliated with the College of Liberal & Creative Arts at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Every season the Center provides funding to invite major chamber music ensembles to perform in the McKenna Theatre of the Creative Arts Building for the annual Morrison Artists Series. The Center’s Artistic Director is Richard Festinger, who also arranges for a pre-concert talk one hour prior to each performance. In addition each performing group holds a master class for students in the SFSU School of Music, and the general public is invited to observe.
The schedule for this season’s concert performances is as follows:
- Sunday, September 18, 3 p.m., Alexander String Quartet (ASQ): This is the one event that does not involve visitors. ASQ is the resident string quartet at SFSU. They have recorded complete cycles of the strings quartets of both Ludwig van Beethoven and Dmitri Shostakovich, and they will perform one quartet by each of these composers. They will also begin the program with music by Beethoven’s best-known teacher, Joseph Haydn.
- Sunday, November 6, 3 p.m., Inscape: This is an ensemble of chamber musicians founded in 2004 and based in Washington, DC. Four of the members will visit, performing as a quartet of clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. They will perform the composition best associated with this instrumentation, Olivier Messiaen’s “Quatuor pour le fin du temps” (quartet for the end of time). They will also play a more recent work requiring the same instruments, Paul Moravec’s “Tempest Fantasy,” which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
- Sunday, December 4, 3 p.m., Peabody Trio: This piano trio of violinist Violaine Melançon, cellist Natasha Brofsky, and pianist Seth Knopp is resident faculty ensemble at the Peabody Conservatory and, during the summer, ensemble-in-residence at the Yellow Barn Music School and Festival; they will perform a program of trios by Beethoven, Antonín Dvořák, and Charles Ives.
- Friday, February 10, 8 p.m., Juilliard Quartet: This group has been a frequent visitor to the Morrison Artists Series. This season they are touring to give premiere performances of “Fragments,” the sixth string quartet by the Argentine-American composer Mario Davidovsky. His music will be flanked on either side by Beethoven quartets from the middle and late periods, respectively.
- Wednesday, March 15, 8 p.m., Daedalus Quartet: This group won the Banff International String Quartet Competition in 2001. Since 2006 they have been serving as Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania. They will also bring a premiere to their Morrison recital. Louis Karchin’s first string quartet was commissioned by the Morrison Artists Series explicitly for the ensemble, and they will present its world premiere at this concert. The program will also include the first (“Kreutzer Sonata”) quartet by Leoš Janáček and the third, and last, quartet by Johannes Brahms (Opus 67 in B-flat major).
- Friday, April 7, 8 p.m., Van Kuijk Quartet: Currently on the BBC New Generation Artists roster, this string quartet will be making its San Francisco debut with a chronologically-ordered program of quartets by Haydn, Franz Schubert, and Maurice Ravel.
- Friday, April 28, 8 p.m., Calmus: This is an a cappella quintet consisting of one soprano and four male vocalists with ranges from countertenor to bass, all graduates of the Choir School at the Thomasschule zu Leipzig, whose most famous teacher was Johann Sebastian Bach.
The home page for the Morrison Chamber Music Center provides the full summary of these performances. The name of each group has a hyperlink, which provides additional information about the pre-concert talk and master class. The Creative Arts Building is a short walk from the SFSU Muni stop at the corner of 19th Avenue and Holloway Avenue.