Visiting pianist Emanuel Ax, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony
Next month will see only two subscription concerts by the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), both of which will be led by Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT); but each will be unique in its own way.
The first concert will see the return of pianist Emanuel Ax as concerto soloist. However, this will be a particularly special occasion, since Ax will perform two concertos, one on either side of the intermission. The concerto in the first half will be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 449 concerto in E-flat major. The intermission will then be followed by Arnold Schoenberg’s Opus 42 concerto. This is one of his most accessible twelve-tone compositions, since the overall structure is a single movement in four sections with a neoclassical rhetoric that reflects back on Mozart. The program will begin with the third of Ludwig van Beethoven’s so-called “Leonore” overtures (Opus 72b). In place of a symphony, the program will conclude with a Richard Strauss tone poem, his Opus 28 “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.”
This concert will be given three performances, all at 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 11, Friday, January 12, and Saturday, January 13. The Inside Music talk will be given by Laura Stanfield Prichard. The talk will begin one hour before the performance, and doors to the lobbies open fifteen minutes before the talk begins. Ticket prices range from $15 to $159. 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 in Davies Symphony Hall, whose entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. In addition the Program Note Podcasts Web page has a free podcast about “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks” hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone.
In addition, the Thursday performance will be preceded by a Katherine Hanrahan Open Rehearsal. This special behind-the-scenes experience begins at 8:30 a.m. with coffee and complimentary doughnuts, followed by a half-hour introductory talk by Prichard at 9 a.m. The rehearsal itself begins at 10 a.m.; and, of course, the pieces rehearsed are at the conductor’s discretion. General admission is $30 with $40 for reserved seats in the Premiere Orchestra section, the Side and Rear Boxes, and the Loge. Tickets may be purchased online through a separate event page.
The following week will see the continuation of the season-long celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s birth centennial with a full concert version of the musical Candide, for which Bernstein composed the music. MTT will conduct from a score that was adapted for the Scottish Opera by John Wells and John Mauceri, which was first performed in 1988. This version was previously performed by SFS in April of 1993 when David Zinman conducted it.
The title role will be sung by tenor Andrew Stenson with soprano Meghan Picerno singing his sweetheart Cunegonde and baritone Hadleigh Adams singing her brother Maximillian. Baritone Michael Todd Simpson will sing the role of Pangloss and also adopt the persona of Voltaire in serving as narrator. Soprano Vanessa Becerra will sing Paquette, and Sheri Greenawald will be the “easily assimilated” old lady with one buttock. The SFS Chorus will be prepared by Director Ragnar Bohlin.
This concert will be given four performances, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 18, Friday, January 19, and Saturday, January 20, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, January 21. In lieu of the regular Inside Music talk, there will be a special pre-concert “Informance.” Bernstein’s daughter, Nina Bernstein Simmons and George Steele have prepared a presentation with piano accompaniment for an informative and entertaining approach to background. The pianist for this event will be Peter Grunberg. The material itself will be presented by Bernstein’s son Alexander on Thursday and Friday and by Simmons on Saturday and Sunday. Like the Inside Music talks, this event will begin one hour before the performance, and doors to the lobbies open fifteen minutes before the talk begins. Ticket prices range from $35 to $159. 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 in Davies Symphony Hall, whose entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.