Thursday, September 7, 2017

The First Weekend of Choices Comes Early This Season

I only had to look at the “Month” view of my iCal to appreciate that this was going to be a busy month. However, I cannot remember having to write about a “weekend of choices” in September in the past, either on this site or for Nevertheless, concert-goers will be confronted with such choices in two weeks, which means that now is a good time to start making plans (if they have not already been made). Options will be listed in chronological order. In addition, some of the events involve launching a new season; so, where appropriate, a brief summary of the remainder of the season will be provided. The same will hold for alternatives to opening night at the San Francisco Opera. Take a deep breath, and prepare to examine the following specifics!

Saturday, September 23, 4 p.m., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church: The New Esterházy Quartet (NEQ) will open their eleventh season with a program of music by three Italian composers: Luigi Boccherini, Giuseppe Cambini, and Pietro Nardini. The ensemble consists of violinists Lisa Weiss and Kati Kyme (who share leadership responsibilities), violist Anthony Martin, and cellist William Skeen; and the title of the program will be Italy, 1766: The Tuscan Quartet. The title refers to what has come to be recognized as the first professional string quartet, in which all three of the composers were members, playing together with violinist Filippo Manfredi. This group did, indeed, play in Tuscany. However, they existed as an ensemble for only six months of that year, after which both Manfredi and Boccherini found more profitable support from the nobility in Genoa.

The entire NEQ season will be devoted to this early history of string quartet performance, giving as much attention to the ensembles as to the music that they played. All San Francisco performances will take place in St. Mark’s on Saturday afternoons, beginning at 4 p.m. Here is a brief summary of the upcoming concerts:
  • November 18: Vienna, 1784: Quartet Party at Storace will honor the best known of those ensembles. This was the group in which Joseph Haydn played second violin to Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf in the first chair. The violist was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the cellist was Johann Baptist Wanhal. Music by all four of these players will be included on the program.
  • January 27: Paris, 1822: The Baillot Quartet will recognize the first chamber music group of professional musicians in France. The program will include quartets by Haydn, Mozart, and Boccherini, as well as Ludwig van Beethoven. Prior to the formation of the Baillot Quartet, this repertoire was unknown in France.
  • April 14: London, 1845: Gratitude to Haydn will conclude the season. Haydn died in 1809, but the impact of his visits to England continued well into the nineteenth century. This program will consist entirely of Haydn’s music in an effort to recreate a concert conceived in his memory.
St. Mark’s is located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street. Tickets are sold only for individual concerts, so there is no special rate for subscriptions. General admission is $30. Seniors, the disabled, and members of the San Francisco Early Music Society will be admitted for $25; and there is a $10 rate for students with valid identification. A Web page on the NEQ Web site has been set up for all ticket purchases. However, as of this writing, tickets are only being sold for September 23 and November 18.

Saturday, September 23, 7:30 p.m., War Memorial Opera House: This will be the opening night for the third opera in the 2017–18 season of the San Francisco Opera. The opera will be Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata in a revival of the staging created by John Copley, which will be directed by Shawna Lucey. (However, I have been informed that Copley will be present for this occasion.) Music Director Nicola Luisotti will conduct. All three of the leading roles will feature artists making their respective SFO debuts. The title role will be taken by Romanian soprano Aurelia Florian, who will be performing in the United States for the first time. Her lover Alfredo Germont will be sung by Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan; and his father, Giorgio, will be sung by Polish baritone Artur Ruciński.

Following the opening night, this opera will be given another nine performances, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. on September 26 and 28 and October 3, 6, 11, 14, and 17 and at 2 p.m. on October 1 and 8. The libretto will be sung in Italian with English supertitles. The approximate running time will be three hours with two intermissions.

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, on the northwest corner of Grove Street. Single tickets are priced from $26 to $398. Tickets may be purchased online through an event page on the SFO Web site. Tickets may also be purchased at the Box Office in the outer lobby of the Opera House. The Box Office may also be reached by telephoning 415-864-3330. Standing room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance. They are sold for $10, cash only.

Saturday, September 23, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre: This will be the second of the two performances opening the 2017–2018 season of the New Century Chamber Orchestra, whose details were provided this past Tuesday.

Saturday, September 23, 8 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM): The a cappella vocal ensemble Clerestory, which focuses on one-to-a-part singing, will present the first of the three concerts in their twelfth season. The program will be a reprise of one of their favorite offerings, o sweet spontaneous earth (lower-case letters because this is the first line of a poem by E. E. Cummings). The selections will explore myriad poetic and musical depictions of nature. The musical sources will draw upon Renaissance polyphony, British ballads, and American folk tunes. Each of the remaining two concerts of the season in San Francisco will have a different venue as follows:
  • Saturday, December 1, 8 p.m., St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church: Night of Snow will be this season’s Christmas program. Geographical sources will be Spain, France, Portugal, and the Basque territory. The featured composer will be Francis Poulenc with a performance of his cantata Un soir de neige, the inspiration for the program’s title, setting a text by Paul Éluard. There will also be a diverse selection of carols including “Patapan” and “Gabriel’s Message.”
  • Sunday, March 18, 4 p.m., St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church: The title of the final program will be Dream States. The repertoire has been described as “songs of daring and whimsy.” Details have not yet been announced.
Tickets are currently only on sale for this month’s concert. SFCM is located at 50 Oak Street. This is on the block between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. General admission will be $25 with a $15 rate for students. Tickets are available in advance online through an Eventbrite event page.

Sunday, September 24, 2 p.m., War Memorial Opera House: This will be the fifth of this month’s six performances of the SFO production of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. It will also be the only matinee performance. Details about this production were announced last month.

Sunday, September 24, 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., The Lab: This will be a concert to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Stranded record label. The celebration will consist of performances by two guest artists, each with her own individual set. One set will be taken by Liz Harris, performing as Grouper. She works with her voice, one instrument, and the ambience of her surroundings. The objective behind her performance is to provide the listener with a meditative and restorative experience. The other set will offer the electronic and electroacoustic music of Sarah Davachi, through which she explores unfamiliar sounds produced by familiar instruments.

The Lab is located in the Mission at 2948 16th Street. This is a short walk from the corner of Mission Street. This is particularly good for those using public transportation, since that corner provides bus stops for both north-south and east-west travel as well as a BART station.

Admission will be $18, and the sale of tickets is being handled by Stranded. A single Web page has been created for purchasing tickets online to both the early and late shows. However, a limited number of tickets will be available for members of The Lab at the reduced rate of $12. These must be reserved in advance by sending electronic mail to The Lab. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., half an hour before each of the two performances is scheduled to begin. Events at The Lab tend to attract a large turnout, so early arrival is almost always highly recommended.

Sunday, September 24, 6 p.m., Swedenborgian Church of San Francisco: Finally, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble (LCCE) will host a gala celebration of this group’s 25th anniversary season. The music for this occasion will be a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 581 clarinet quintet in A major. This will feature LCCE clarinetist Jerome Simas performing with a string quartet of his colleagues.

The music will begin at 7 p.m., but it will be preceded by a wine reception. Desserts will be provided following the performance. There will also be both a silent auction and a live auction to raise money for LCCE.

Admission will require a minimum donation of $150. A Web page has been created for making donations online. However, donations will also be accepted at the door with a preference for checks. The Swedenborgian Church is located in the “border area” between Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. The address is 2107 Lyon Street, near the northwest corner of Washington Street.

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