At the beginning of next month, the San Francisco Performances (SFP) Piano Series will get under way with a return visit from Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov:
This will be only the second appearance Melnikov has made under SFP auspices, the first having been his debut in 2011 when he gave a marathon performance of the 24 couplings of preludes and fugues collected by Dmitri Shostakovich as his Opus 87. This time the Russian side of his programming will reach back to the first half of the twentieth century with two sets of variations composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff, one composed in pre-Revolution Russia and the other after his move to the United States.
The earlier of these is a set of variations based on the C minor prelude from Frédéric Chopin’s Opus 28, which may be the best-known prelude from that cycle covering the 24 major and minor keys. This was Rachmaninoff’s Opus 22, and it happens to consist of 22 variations of Chopin’s theme. Rachmaninoff composed it between 1902 and 1903.
More familiar is his Opus 42, composed in 1931. In this case Rachmaninoff identified the theme as having been composed by Arcangelo Corelli. We now know that the theme itself was far older than Corelli. It was of Spanish origin and known as the “Folia.” Corelli had composed his own set of variations as the last of the twelve violin sonatas he had collected in his Opus 5.
For the second half of his program, Melnikov will shift his attention from Russia to France. He will perform Claude Debussy’s second book of solo piano preludes, each based on an evocative image. Curiously, this set was composed between 1912 and 1913, meaning that, chronologically, these twelve preludes are situated between Rachmaninoff’s two sets of variations. It may also be that Melnikov chose to include these pieces on his program because he will be playing them almost a year prior to the 100th anniversary of Debussy’s death.
Melnikov’s recital will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 2. The venue will be Herbst Theatre, located at 401 Van Ness Avenue, on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Ticket prices will be $70 for premium seating in the Orchestra and the front and center of the Dress Circle, $55 for the Side Boxes, the center rear of the Dress Circle, and the remainder of the Orchestra, and $40 for the remainder of the Dress Circle and the Balcony. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page.