Those who have been reading my articles for some time probably already know why Henry Miller had a profound effect on the state of mind I bring to every new season. For those who think the connection is an odd one, it has to do with a profile he wrote about the composer Edgard Varèse, which I first encountered in Miller’s essay collection The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. The entire volume is based on profiles of those with highly creative talents in different areas, all of whom found themselves sidelined by “mainstream” thinking. The punch line in the Varèse piece is thus not so much about Varèse himself as it is directed to those ignoring him:
No one asks you to throw Mozart out the window. Keep Mozart. Cherish him. Keep Moses too, and Buddha and Laotse and Christ. Keep them in your heart. But make room for the others, the coming ones, the ones who are already scratching on the window-panes.
Every season I look forward to the Young Masters Series organized by San Francisco Performances (SFP) because it provides a platform for those “scratching on the window-panes.” Those of us living in San Francisco are fortunate in having institutions such as SFP, the San Francisco Symphony, and the San Francisco Opera upon which we can count for opportunities to enjoy “the best of the best” through performance, rather than through any of those popular media of reproduction. However, the Young Masters Series cultivates our awareness of what the coming generation is doing.
Traditionally, the Young Masters Series has focused on chamber music offerings. However, in the 2017–2018 season, the first of the three concerts in this series will be devoted to jazz. This constitutes at least some compensation for the fact that this season will not include a Jazz Series, as past seasons have done.
As in the past, all three of the Young Masters concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). SFCM is located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. All of the performances will take place on a Friday evening. The specific dates and their related performers are as follows:
December 15: The Series will begin with Cuban jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, whose formal training in the classical genre is as solid as are his skills at playing jazz. Born in Havana in 1985, he left Cuba for Los Angeles in 2009, where he was fortunate enough to have Quincy Jones as a mentor. He signed with the Detroit-based jazz label Mack Avenue Records in 2011 and can already claim the distinction of a GRAMMY nomination. Details about the program he has prepared for SFP have not yet been announced.
February 16: Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan also claims a distinguished mentor, Mstislav Rostropovich. He made his move to the United States in conjunction with beginning his studies at the New England Conservatory. 2011 was also a landmark year for him, because it was when he won Cello First Prize and Gold Medal at the fourteenth International Tchaikovsky competition. He was 22 at the time.
His program will consist of original compositions and arrangements. Nineteenth-century romanticism will be represented by both Robert Schumann’s Opus 70 coupling of Adagio and Allegro movements and Johannes Brahms’ Opus 99 (second) sonata in F major. He will play an arrangement (probably the one by Jules Delsart) of the “Meditation” music from the second act of Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs. He will also play an arrangement of the opening prelude (also known as both “Asturias” and “Leyenda”) from Isaac Albéniz’ Opus 232 suite Cantos de España (songs of Spain). This will be coupled with Rodion Shchedrin’s “In the Style of Albeniz,” which he originally composed for violin and piano in 1973. Also from the twentieth century will be Gaspar Cassadó’s Requiebros” (complements), which was dedicated to Pablo Casals.
Those who have been following the Young Masters Series may recall that, when cellist David Requiro gave his performance in this series in March of 2014, he concluded with a fascinating encore selection. This was “Sachidao,” the third of the set Five Pieces on Folk Themes by the Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze. Hakhnazaryan’s recital will include all five pieces in this set as the most recent selection on his program.
March 16: The final recitalist will be violinist Simone Porter. Last season the nineteenth-year-old Porter performed as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. She is currently studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn Conservatory of music in Los Angeles. Details of her program have not yet been announced, but her most recent offering will be by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Her program will also include more traditional works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ernest Chausson, and Leoš Janáček.
Subscriptions are now on sale for $105 for all seating in the SFCM Concert Hall. Subscriptions may be purchased online in advance through a City Box Office event page. Orders may also be placed by calling the SFP subscriber hotline at 415-677-0325, which is open for receiving calls between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Single tickets will go on sale on July 31.