The new season is quickly coming up to speed; but, if my own iCal offers representative data, it looks as if October is going to be far busier than September. Indeed, the middle of next month will see two concert seasons getting under way in San Francisco on exactly the same date at exactly the same time. Furthermore, these two concert series overlapped in exactly the same way last year; and some of the subsequent concerts scheduled in both of the series will also be overlapping. I suppose there is nothing wrong with our having to face the hard decisions we shall have to make sooner, rather than later.
The first of the series is the 2018–19 season of the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS), which continues to distinguish itself by offering a thoroughly engaging blend of local and visiting talent. With one exception all concerts will take place on Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m.; and the venue will be St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, which is located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street. Single ticket prices will range between $56 and $12. In addition, there are membership and subscription options for attending three or more concerts with discounts of up to 25%. All information about ticketing options has been summarized on a single Web page. Programs are as follows:
- October 14: The El Mundo ensemble is directed by guitarist and lutenist Richard Savino. The title of the program will be Kingdoms of Castille. The program will take listeners on a musical journey from Castilian courts and cathedrals to Spanish-influenced Italian cities like Naples and on to the viceroyalties of Peru, Mexico, and Guatemala, where classical tradition blended with indigenous dances to create a unique Hispanic style that still exists today.
- December 2: The local a cappella choir Cappella SF, led by Director Ragnar Bohlin, will present a program entitled Neither from Heaven nor Earth: Works of Schütz, Josquin, Couperin, and Allegri. Schütz will receive the greatest attention with the three pieces that constitute his German Musikalische Exequien (funeral music, SWV 279–281) and his setting in Latin of the Magnificat canticle (SWV 468). The earliest work on the program will be the “Miserere” motet setting of Psalm 51 by Josquin des Prez.
- January 13: The Ars Lyrica Houston Chamber Players will visit SFEMS. This is a trio led by harpsichordist Matthew Dirst, whose other members are violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock and Mary Springfels on gamba. The title of the program will be Semper Phantasticus!; and it will survey the “fantastical style” explored by German composers during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
- February 10: Cut Circle is a vocal ensemble founded in 2003 by Jesse Rodin, who continues to serve as director. The group specializes in late medieval and Renaissance choral music. Thus, the title of their program will be To Love Another: Sacred and Secular Music from the Late 15th and Early 16th Centuries.
- Monday, April 8, 8 p.m.: This is the one San Francisco concert that will not be held on a Sunday afternoon. The Choir of New College Oxford, led by Director Robert Quinney, will be touring the United States. Its performance in San Francisco will be held at Grace Cathedral, located at the top of Nob Hill at 1100 California Street. The title of the program neatly summarizes the programming: I Heard a Voice: Palestrina, Victoria, Josquin, Guerrero, Lamb, Ludford, Taverner, Sheppard and Tallis.
- April 14: Ensemble Caprice, based in Montreal, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season. That celebration will include a tour that will take it to the Bay Area. The group is a quintet whose members are Matthias Maute and Sophie Larivière, both alternating between recorder and flute, cellist Susan Napper, guitarist David Jacques, and percussionist Ziya Tabassian. The program to be presented, Love Stories: Great Composers and their Loved Ones, will feature familiar names from the Baroque period.
- May 12: Based in the Bay Area, Antic Faces first performed this past summer as part of the Berkeley Festival Fringe. The group is a sextet with three gamba players, David Morris, Julie Jeffrey, and Peter Halifax, joined by violinist Shira Kammen, flutist Mindy Rosenfeld, and John Lenti on theorbo. The title of their program will be Joyne Hands: Elizabethan Entertainments for Mixed Consort.
As was the case last year, the launch of the SFEMS season will take place at exactly the same time that Noe Valley Chamber Music (NVCM) will launch its 2018–19 season. The occasion will mark the beginning of a tenure of new artistic leadership shared by Meena Bhasin, who performs regularly as a member of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and Owen Dalby, second violinist in the St. Lawrence String Quartet. New management means that the concert series now has its own name, Sundays at Four. Coincidentally, the season itself will consist of four programs as follows:
- October 14: After having given a delightfully engaging program of music for both two pianos and four hands on a single keyboard for the Chamber Music San Francisco Summer Series this past June, the duo of pianists Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe will return to San Francisco for a program of both their own innovative arrangements and piano compositions by Johannes Brahms and John Adams.
- December 2: Decoda is a chamber ensemble that plays music for woodwinds, strings, and soprano. They present programs that balance new works by emerging composers with masterworks of the past. Their Sundays at Four program will feature Sergei Prokofiev’s Opus 39 quintet.
- February 10: Dalby will perform with his St. Lawrence colleagues, violinist Geoff Nuttall, violist Lesley Robertson, and cellist Christopher Costanza. They will be joined by clarinetist Todd Palmer for a performance of Osvaldo Golijov’s “Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind.” They will also play “Tango all Zingarese,” composed by their colleague at Stanford, Jonathan Berger. The program will also include works by both Joseph Haydn and Haydn’s best-known student, Ludwig van Beethoven.
- May 12: Both Bhasin and Dalby will team up with violinist Tom Stone, cellist Tanya Tomkins, and pianist Eric Zivian for a special Mother’s Day concert. The featured work on the program will be Robert Schumann’s Opus 44 quintet in E-flat major. The festive occasion of the day will involve a hosted After Party at La Boulangerie de Noe, a short walk from the performance venue.
All concerts will take place at the Noe Valley Ministry, located in Noe Valley at 1021 Sanchez Street. Tickets are $40 at the door with a $35 rate for seniors and a $15 rate for students aged thirteen or older. All tickets for the St. Lawrence String Quartet concert will be $60. Subscriptions for the entire series will be sold for $135 and a VIP rate of $175, which includes priority seating and two guest passes for friends. NVCM has created a single Web page with hyperlinks for purchasing both single tickets and subscriptions. Tickets may also be purchased in advance by calling NVCM at 415-648-5236.