Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony (by Stefan Cohen, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony)
One of the major focal points that Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) has brought to his tenure with the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) has been the repertoire of composer Igor Stravinsky. MTT has presented performances of seldom-heard compositions, combining those presentations with insights into the more familiar favorites. The final two weeks of September will be devoted to two subscription concerts, which will survey Stravinsky’s early ballet scores, his neoclassical violin concerto, and a dramatic composition (which he called a mélodrame) that receives far less attention than those more familiar pieces.
That mélodrame, “Perséphone,” will lead off the first of the two concerts in this all-Stravinsky series. The piece was scored for speaker, solo voices, chorus, dancers, and orchestra, using a libretto by André Gide and unfolding in a single uninterrupted act. Choral resources will include not only the SFS Chorus (Ragnar Bohlin, Director) but also both the San Francisco Girls Chorus (Valérie Sainte-Agathe, Director) and the Pacific Boychoir (Andrew Brown, Director). The primary vocal soloist will be tenor Nicholas Phan. The performance will not involve any choreography. However, the narrator will be Leslie Caron, who (prior to being “discovered” by Gene Kelly) began her career as a ballerina, performing with Roland Petit’s Ballet des Champs Elysées. The first half of the concert will present “Perséphone,” followed, after the intermission, by the complete score for Michel Fokine’s one-act ballet “The Firebird,” which marked the beginning of Stravinsky’s career with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.
This concert will be given three performances, at 8 p.m. on Friday, September 21, and Saturday, September 22, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 23. The Inside Music talk will be given by Peter Grunberg, beginning one hour before each performance. Doors to the Davies lobbies open fifteen minutes prior to the talk.
Ticket prices range from $32 to $156. 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. The event page also has an embedded sound file of KDFC’s Rik Malone’s podcast about “The Firebird” and sound clips of previous SFS performances of the piece. Flash is required to play these sound files.
The second week of programming will feature the two ballet scores that Stravinsky composed for Diaghilev following the success of “The Firebird.” These were Fokine’s “Petrushka” and Vaslav Nijinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” The second of these remains best known for the riot that broke out when the ballet was first performed. Between these two offerings, violinist Leonidas Kavakos will be the soloist in a performance of Stravinsky’s only violin concerto.
This concert will be given four performances, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, Friday, September 28, and Saturday, September 29, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 30. Instead of the Inside Music talk there will be a screening of Keeping Score – Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring. Because of the duration of this background analysis prepared by MTT, the presentation will begin 90 minutes before each performance. Doors to the Davies lobbies open fifteen minutes prior to the screening.
Ticket prices range from $15 to $166. 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. The event page also has embedded sound files of KDFC’s Rik Malone’s podcasts about both of the ballets and sound clips of previous SFS performances all three of the pieces on the program. Flash is required to play these sound files.