Saturday, April 15, 2017

Contrasting Offerings on Different Sides of the City

Yesterday I wrote about how the last Thursday in this month, April 27, will require serious concert-goers to make a hard choice. As might be expected, a choice will also have to be made for Friday, April 28. This will be an evening of alternatives that are not only substantially different in content but also situated on opposite sides of the city, as if the only way to deal with a wide aesthetic difference is with an equally wide geographical one. The alternatives for Friday, April 28 are as follows:

7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre: The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra (SFCO) will conclude its 2016–2017 Main Stage Concerts season with a program entitled The Lighter Side. The program will be framed by the creative (so to speak) efforts of Peter Schickele. In his persona as Very Full Professor of musicolology (sic) and musical pathology at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, Schickele has devoted his research to the study of the life and works of P.D.Q. Bach, the “youngest and the oddest of the twenty-odd children” of Johann Sebastian Bach. The program will begin with Schickele’s “Unbegun” symphony, which has only a third and a fourth movement. The end of the program will be a live performance of “New Horizons in Music Appreciation: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,” which Schickele delivered as a sportscast on his album Report from Hoople: P. D. Q. Bach on the Air, a “live” air-check from radio station WOOF, based on the campus of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.

Between these extremes, as it were, SFCO will play Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 522 divertimento for two horns and string quartet, best known under the title “A Musical Joke.” Mozart seems to have it in for inept amateur performers who insist on playing music of their own creation. The comedic devices come fast and furious (without any assistance from Vin Diesel), coming to a head in the final measures of the last (fourth) movement, when none of the players seem to agree about the key of the composition:
Final measures of K. 522 (digitization by PuzzletChung), from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

This will be followed by the set of variations on “Happy Birthday to You” composed by Peter Heidrich (who happens to have been born in the same year as Schickele). The variations cover a variety of dance forms but also take on the styles of composers such as Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Johannes Brahms. Finally, SFCO Music Director Benjamin Simon has prepared a string orchestra arrangement of the final movement of Haydn’s Hoboken III/38 string quartet in E-flat major, nicknamed “The Joke” for the way in which Haydn endowed that concluding Presto with false endings.

Herbst Theatre is located at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. As is always the case, there is no admission charge for all SFCO Main Stage Concerts. The doors will open at 6:45 p.m. for general admission on a first-come-first-served basis.

7:30 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM): For those who like to have a bit of the sublime mixed in with the ridiculous, students from the Voice Department and the Historical Performance Department at SFCM will join forces for an evening of two fully-staged productions. The ridiculous side will be covered by Igor Stravinsky’s one-act opera “Mavra,” which is probably the closest he ever got to traditional Russian farce. This performance will be staged by Heather Mathews, and the conductor will be Curt Pajer. By way of contrast, Corey Jamason will conduct a performance of Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” staged by Jose Maria Condemi.

This production will be free, and neither reservations nor tickets will be required. It will also be given a second performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 30. Both performances will take place in the SFCM Concert Hall, which is located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station.

8 p.m., McKenna Theatre: On the other side of town, the Morrison Artists Series, presented by the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at San Francisco State University (SFSU), will offer its season finale with a visit from Leipzig by the a cappella Calmus ensemble of five vocalists. The group has prepared a program entitled A Vocal Journey, and the journey will travel through different historical periods, as well as European countries. Thus, the association of countries with composers will be as follows: England (Purcell), Estonia (Arvo Pärt), France (Francis Poulenc), Germany (Joseph Gabriel Rheinberger, as well as Bach), Finland (Jaakko Mäntyjärvi and Jussi Chydenius), and Spain (Mateo Felcha).

The McKenna Theatre is in the Creative Arts Building at SFSU, 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. Reservations may be made through the event page for this concert. As usual, Richard Festinger will give a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.; and the five musicians will give a collective Master Class at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 27. This two-hour session will take place in Knuth Hall, also in the Creative Arts Building, and will be open to the general public at no charge and with no requirements for tickets.

[added 4/26, 9:50 a.m.:

9 p.m., DNA Lounge: For those who are into late nights at the club scene, Mercury Soul will be hosting California Mystics. This will be a four-set evening with DJ performances between the sets. As a result, the whole affair is likely to run about five hours. The first set will present Steve Reich's "Drumming," which, on its own and depending on the moods of the participating drummers, can run for an uninterrupted hour by itself. The second set will couple Reich's "Nagoya Marimbas" with "Estampie," the third of the five movements in Lou Harrison's "String Quartet Set." This latter piece will be performed by the Del Sol String Quartet. The third set will be a solo performance by cellist Zoe Keating, who works with imaginative looping technology. In the final set all participating performers assemble for a mass presentation to Terry Riley's "In C." In what may be the most unique aspect of this performance of the piece, the ensemble will include Mason Bates in his DJ Masonic persona on turntables.

The DNA Lounge is located in SoMa at 375 Eleventh Street, between Folsom Street and Harrison Street (closer to Harrison). Those coming by car should know that parking will be available across the street in the parking lot for Costco. Tickets are currently on sale for $25 through an event page on the DNA Lounge Web site. The price will go up to $30 on the day of the show.]

Finally, if these alternatives are not satisfying enough, readers should remember that Touch Bass will be getting its second performance at the ODC Theater!

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