The first sign that May will be a busy month is that there will be a hard choice to make even before the first weekend. Indeed, two of the alternatives for the first Thursday of the month have already been accounted for through monthly summaries:
- 7:30 p.m.: Saxophonist Andrew Dixon leading a jazz quartet at the Red Poppy Art House to showcase his debut album
- 8 p.m.: Another showcase, this time at the Center for New Music, presenting graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley participating in Myra Melford’s composition seminar
Since we are barely past the middle of the current month, it is unclear how many alternatives will eventually accumulate. As of this writing, however, there are two of them:
7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre: San Francisco Performances (SFP) will present the final concert in its new Hear Now and Then Series. This series of four offerings was relatively divided between two “now” events and two for “then.” This will be the second “then” event; and it will feature the SFP debut of gamba player Jordi Savall. Savall has prepared a program entitled Celtic Universe, which will explore the musical traces left behind by the Celtic migration. He will be joined by his Hespèrion XXI ensemble (originally called Hespèrion XX when it was founded in 1974), which will also be making its SFP debut as a group. There will be a special guest artist also making his SFP debut: Carlos Núñez, who specializes in Galician bagpipes.
The entrance to Herbst is the the main entrance to the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue, located on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. The venue is excellent for public transportation, since that corner has Muni bus stops for both north-south and east-west travel. Ticket prices are $65 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.
8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall: As was observed at the beginning of this past March, the first set of subscription concerts for the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in May will feature the debut of violinist Ray Chen. Chen should not be a stranger to serious listeners in San Francisco, having given an impressive performance as both Guest Concertmaster and soloist with the New Century Chamber Orchestra in November of 2016. Working on the scale of a full orchestral ensemble, he will perform Johannes Brahms’ Opus 77 violin concerto in D major with returning visiting conductor Juraj Valčuha.
The full program will follow the usual overture-concerto-symphony formula; but the concerto is likely to be the only familiar element. The symphony will be Sergei Prokofiev’s Opus 44 (third) symphony in C minor, while the “overture” will be an SFS premiere. That composition will be Andrew Norman’s “Unstuck,” which has a double meaning. Norman conceived the piece as an autobiographical depiction of overcoming a creative block. However, the title was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five, whose protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, becomes “unstuck in time.”
This concert will be given only three performances, all at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5. There will be an Inside Music talk given by Laura Stanfield Prichard that will begin at 7 p.m. Doors to the Davies lobbies open at 6:45 p.m. 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 Davies Box Office, whose entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. The event page also has an embedded sound file of KDFC’s Rik Malone’s podcast about the Prokofiev symphony and sound clips of previous SFS performances of both that symphony and the Brahms concerto. In order to listen to SFS audio files, Flash must be enabled. The Box Office is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.