One factor that frequently makes programming by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP) appealing is a tendency to couple very recent compositions with a particular work considered adventurous when it was first performed in the last century (usually the second half of the last century). Such will be the case next month with the next concert in SFCMP’s 46th season. The “pioneering” composition on the program will be the chamber concerto that György Ligeti composed between 1969 and 1970. This is a relatively mature work, having been written after two decades of “experimental” activities at the Studio for Electronic Music, set up by West German Radio (WDR for Westdeutscher Rundfunk) in Cologne, where he worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gottfried Michael Koenig, and the Darmstadt School, where, like Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, and many others, he lectured on his approaches to composition.
The title page of the published score states that the chamber concerto is for thirteen instrumentalists (not “13 instruments” as specified on the Boosey & Hawkes Web page for this publication). Nine of those instrumentalists will be SFCMP members, Tod Brody (flute), Kyle Bruckmann (oboe), Peter Josheff (clarinet), Alex Camphouse (horn), Richard Worn (bass), Kate Campbell (piano doubling on celeste), Roy Malan (violin), Clio Tilton (viola), and Helen Newby (cello). The remaining four parts (bass clarinet, tenor trombone, harpsichord doubling on Hammond organ, and second violin) will be taken by students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM).
The most recent work on the program will be the world premiere of an SFCMP-commissioned piece written by San Francisco composer Richard Festinger. This is Festinger’s first composition for solo male voice; and the vocalist will be baritone Daniel Cilli performing with a chamber ensemble of clarinet (Josheff), horn (Camphouse), violin (Malan), viola (Susan Freier), cello (Stephen Harrison), and piano (Campbell). The piece is entitled Careless Love, and it is a song cycle that explores the darker side of love through setting of poems by the American poet A. E. Stallings.
The other vocal work on the program will be Kate Soper’s Door, composed in 2007 for soprano (Amy Foote), flutes (Brody), tenor saxophone (Kevin Stewart), accordion (Karen Hutchinson), and electric guitar (David Tanenbaum). This is a suite based on a collection of poems by Martha Collins published under the same title. On the European American Music Distributors Company Web page for the score, Soper (who sang in the premiere performance) describes her settings of Collins’ texts as an exploration of “various ways in which words communicate: as direct conveyers of real meaning, as imprecise yet eloquent expressions of the indescribable, as collections of pure sounds, and as vehicles for pure sensuous beauty.”
The remaining composition, Michael Pisaro’s “ricefall,” composed in 2010, may be described as more physical than instrumental. It situates sixteen performers on a stage arrayed with a wide variety of resonant media, including metal, wood, stone, paper, and ceramic objects. The performers then drop grains of rice, either individually or in continuous streams, onto these objects. Pisaro has described this piece as an invocation of the voices of nature. Nine SFCMP performers (Brody, Bruckmann, Josheff, Camphouse, Campbell, Malan, Freier, Harrison, and Worn) will be joined by seven SFCM students for the performance.
This concert will be presented in the SFCM Concert Hall, located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 20. Once again, ticket-holders may attend an informal pre-concert discussion with the musicians led by SFCMP Artistic Director Steven Schick. This will begin at 6:45 p.m. In addition there will be two events free and open to the general public during the afternoon, which will also take place in the SFCMP Concert Hall. The first will be an open dress rehearsal of “Careless Love,” beginning at 4 p.m. (also in the Atrium Theater). This will be followed by the second event at 4:30 p.m., when Festinger and Soper will discuss the topic “How Music is Made,” facilitated by Schick. General admission for the concert will be $35 with a $15 rate for students. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through an Eventbrite event page.