2008 photograph of Susanna Mälkki conducting the Ensemble intercontemporain (photograph by MITO SettembreMusica, from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)
Next month will begin with the season’s last appearance of a visiting conductor on the podium of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). That conductor will be a frequent visitor to Davies Symphony Hall, Susanna Mälkki. During this season Mälkki began a three-year contract to serve as Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the first woman to hold that position. She is also the first woman to serve as Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, another three-year contract that began in the fall of 2016.
Mälkki made her SFS debut in 2012, and she has consistently prepared programs covering a broad base of music history, which have been both imaginative and stimulating. Her most recent visit was in June of last year, when she presented a program that was a “sandwich,” which situated Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 15 (first) piano concerto in C major between very early music by Igor Stravinsky (the Opus 3 “Scherzo fantastique”) and his much better-known score for Vaslav Nijinsky’s ballet “The Rite of Spring.” Next month’s program will again contrast a “traditional” concerto with two modern selections, this time from the present and the preceding centuries. The concerto will be Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Opus 35 violin concerto in D major, with the solo part being performed by Nikolaj Znaider. The second half of the program will begin with Kaija Saariaho’s “Laterna Magica,” which was composed in 2008, followed by Alexander Scriabin’s Opus 54, the symphonic poem he called “The Poem of Ecstasy,” written between 1905 and 1908.
This concert will be given only three performances, all at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, Friday, June 8, and Saturday, June 9. There will be an Inside Music talk given by Elizabeth Seitz 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 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, June 7, with coffee and complimentary doughnuts, followed by a half-hour introductory talk by Seitz 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.