It has already been established that next month will get off to a very busy start. The options for the choices that will have to be made include the return of Juraj Valčuha as visiting conductor of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). However, all four of the remaining subscription concerts that will begin in May will also be led by visiting conductors. So it is worth taking stock of what lies in store for Davies Symphony Hall for the rest of May.
May 10–12: Stéphane Denève will return to the SFS podium to lead a program that will be heavily influenced by French composers. His concerto soloist will also be French: Gautier Capuçon will play Camille Saint-Saëns’s Opus 33 (first) cello concerto in A minor. The second half of the program will feature the first SFS performances of Guillaume Connesson’s “E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare” (the river appears clear in the valley), written as a tribute to the culture and music of Italy. This will be coupled, appropriately enough, with Ottorino Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” tone poem. However, the international tone of the program will be established by beginning with a similar tone poem by French composer Jacques Ibert. “Escales” (ports of call) is structured as three colorful Mediterranean postcards from Rome, Tunis, and Valencia, respectively.
This concert will be given only three performances, all at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12. There will be an Inside Music talk given by Peter Susskind that will begin at 7 p.m. Doors to the Davies lobbies open at 6:45 p.m. Ticket prices range from $15 to $155. 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 “Pines of Rome” and sound clips of previous SFS performances of that composition. 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.
In addition, these performances will be preceded by a Katherine Hanrahan Open Rehearsal. This special behind-the-scenes experience begins at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 10, with coffee and complimentary doughnuts, followed by a half-hour introductory talk by Susskind 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.
May 17–20: Itzhak Perlman will return, once again serving as both conductor and violin soloist. He will share solo work with SFS Principal Oboe Eugene Izotov in a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1060 concerto in C minor. This will be followed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Opus 48 C major serenade, which will be played entirely by the string section. For the second half of the program, the full ensemble will present Edward Elgar’s Opus 36 set of variations, which he called “Enigma,” since each of the variations has the title that needs to be “decoded.”
This concert will be given only three performances, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, and Saturday, May 19, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 20. The Inside Music talk will be given by Alexandra D. Amati one hour prior to each concert. Ticket prices range from $26 to $185, and an event page has been created for online purchase. The event page also has an embedded sound file of KDFC’s Rik Malone’s podcast about Elgar’s Opus 36 and sound clips of previous SFS performances of that composition.
May 25–26: The next conductor to return to the SFS podium will be David Robertson. His soloist will be Kirill Gerstein performing Johannes Brahms’ Opus 15 (first) piano concerto in D minor. This concerto is of imposing length; so the overture-concerto-symphony format will be reordered. The concerto will be the only selection after the intermission, which will be preceded by the symphony. That symphony will be Joseph Haydn’s Hoboken I/102 in B-flat major, the tenth of the twelve symphonies he wrote for performance in London, sometimes known as the “Miracle.” The overture for this program will be Brett Dean’s “Engelsflügel” (angel’s flight).
This concert will be given only two performances, both at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 25, and Saturday, May 26. The Inside Music talk will be given by John Palmer one hour prior to each concert. Ticket prices range from $15 to $99, and an event page has been created for online purchase. The event page also has an embedded sound file of KDFC’s Rik Malone’s podcast about the Brahms concerto and sound clips of previous SFS performances of that composition.
May 31–June 2: The month will conclude with the return of yet another familiar visiting conductor, Semyon Bychkov. This will be the program that conforms most explicitly to the overture-concerto-symphony format; but the works themselves will offer a significant departure from the usual bill of fare. The concerto will be Max Bruch’s Opus 88a in A-flat minor, composed for two pianos and orchestra. The two pianists will be the Labèque sisters, Katia and Marielle. The overture will be given its first SFS performances, even though it is about twenty years older than the concerto. It is the overture that Sergei Taneyev composed for his Opus 6, his only opera, Oresteia, with a Russian libretto adapted from Aeschylus. The symphony will be Tchaikovsky’s Opus 17 (second) in C minor, known as the “Little Russian.”
This concert will be given three performances, at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, and at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2. The Inside Music talk will be given by Laura Stanfield Prichard one hour prior to each concert. Ticket prices range from $15 to $159, and an event page has been created for online purchase.