Thursday, November 10, 2016

The First Sunday in December, 2016 Offers Four Diverse Choices

As we get closer to the end of the year, we get a bit of a break in concert activity. However, that does not prevent the beginning of December from being a busy time. Yesterday reported three overlapping Christmas concerts on the first Friday of the month. One of those will give a second performance on Sunday (December 4); but that date will have a new Christmas offering of its own, as well as three secular options. Not all four events will overlap, but anyone determined to take in the entirety of two of them will definitely be kept hopping. Here is a chronological ordering of the options:

3 p.m., San Francisco State University: The Morrison Chamber Music Center will present the third concert in this season’s annual Morrison Artists Series. The performers will be the members of the Peabody Trio, violinists Violaine Melançon, cellist Natasha Brofsky, and pianist Seth Knopp. They form the resident faculty ensemble at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. They have prepared a program of three piano trios from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, respectively. The program will begin with the third (in C minor) of the three piano trios composed in 1793 and published by Ludwig van Beethoven as his Opus 1. This will be followed by Charles Ives’ only piano trio, initially completed in 1911 but subsequently revised between 1914 and 1915. The intermission will be followed by Antonín Dvořák’s Opus 65 (third) trio in F minor.

This concert will take place in the McKenna Theatre in the Creative Arts Building at San Francisco State University, a short walk from the SFSU Muni stop at the corner of 19th Avenue and Holloway Avenue. Tickets are free but advance registration is highly desirable. An event page has been created showing which seats in the McKenna Theatre are currently available. As usual, there will be a pre-concert talk at 2 p.m. given by Richard Festinger, Artistic Director of the Morrison Artists Series; and the Trio musicians will give a collective Master Class at 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 3. This two-hour session will also take place in the McKenna Theatre and will be open to the general public at no charge and with no requirements for tickets.

4:30 p.m., St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church: This will be the San Francisco performance of the first program prepared by the Bay Choral Guild (BCG) for its 2016–2017 season. The entire season will focus on supporting contemporary composers and introducing their works to audiences. The title of this first program will be Christmas Jubilations, but it will take a sobering approach to the coming holiday. The major work will be the world premiere of a composition by Henry Mollicone, who lives in Saratoga. The full title of Mollicone’s piece is Missa Brevis for the Refugees of War. The title of the program is also that of one of the shorter pieces to be presented in which Daniel Pinkham set a collection of out-of-the-ordinary Christmas texts. Another departure from convention will be Gaudete, an arrangement of traditional Swedish Christmas melodies by the Swedish composer Anders Ohrwall. The performance will also feature accompaniment by the Frequency 49 woodwind quintet.

St. Gregory of Nyssa is located at 500 De Haro Street at the foot of Potrero Hill. General admission will be $25 with a $20 rate for seniors and $5 for students. BCG has is own Web page for the advance purchase of tickets. Artistic Director Sanford Dole will give a preview lecture beginning at 4 p.m., and the doors will open at 3:45 p.m.

7:30 p.m., The Women’s Building: The emphasis on new works by contemporary composers will also be found in the next concert to be given by the Friction Quartet of violinists Kevin Rogers and Otis Harriel, violist Taija Warbelow, and cellist Doug Machiz. This will actually be a “three-fold” quartet recital. Friction will be joined by the vocal quartet of soprano Amy Foote, mezzo Molly Mahoney, tenor Michael Desnoyers, and bass Sidney Chen; and the program will premiere new works by four Bay Area composers, each of which was inspired by an artist that died young. As of this writing the program has been arranged in the alphabetical order of those composers’ last names.

The opening composition, therefore, will be “Trying to play clean,” written in memory of the legendary bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker by Nick Benavides. The piece is a mediation on the dying Parker dreaming of music he has yet to make. This will be followed by “no more darkness,” described by composer Danny Clay as a “musical séance for Hank Williams,” in which a record player serves as the “medium” for summoning the spirit of the departed. Noah Luna’s “On this coast without a shore” sets the poetry of Joe Bolton, who committed suicide shortly after submitting his Master’s thesis. The program will then conclude with “The Moon Dreams of Jacqueline” by Mark Winges. The piece is named for cellist Jacqueline du Pré and imagines the eternal resonances of her iconic performance of Edward Elgar’s Opus 85 cello concerto in E minor.

The Women’s Building is located at 3543 18th Street #8 in the Mission Dolores sector. Tickets will be sold at the door for $20 (general admission) and $10 (for those under 30). However, if purchased in advance, the prices will be $18 and $9, respectively. Brown Paper Tickets has set up an event page for advance purchase online.

8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall: Finally, the Great Performers series of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) will host a concert by the China Philharmonic conducted by Music Director Long Yu. The soloist will be the young, rising-star pianist Serene Wang playing Beethoven’s Opus 15 (first) piano concerto in C major. The “overture” that will precede this concerto performance will be Qigang Chen’s “Enchantments oubliés.” The symphony offering for the second half of the program will be Dvořák’s Opus 95 (ninth) symphony in E minor, best known as “From the New World.”

The Box Office entrance to Davies is located on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.  Ticket prices range from $35 to $102. They may be purchased online through the event page for this program on the SFS Web site, by calling 415-864-6000, or by visiting the Box Office. The Box Office is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday. It will also open at 6 p.m. prior to the Sunday concert. Finally, the event page also includes hyperlinks for listening a free podcast about the Beethoven concerto hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone. There are also links for sound clips from both of this and the Dvořák symphony.

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