Friday, March 9, 2018

March 27, 2018: A Pair of Innovative Programs

The last Tuesday of this month will offer up two of the more innovative approaches to concert programming of the current season. Those who seek out such departures from the normative will be pleased to learn that one will be held in the early afternoon and the other in the evening. In other words this will not be one of those days requiring “hard choices.” It will be possible to attend both events with little difficulty or strain on one’s schedule. Here are the specifics:

12:30 p.m., Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral: MUSA, which is probably our youngest (and most adventurous) early music ensemble, will be returning to the Noontime Concerts series, which likes to call itself “San Francisco’s Musical Lunch Break.” They will present a program entitled Chinese Baroque. Selections will include Western music written in and for Chinese courts and Chinese music transcribed by European visitors during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The most extensive of those transcriptions will be Joseph-Marie Amiot’s “Divertissement Chinois,” composed in 1779. There will also be a violin sonata by Teodorico Pedrini and a transcription of the “Jasmine Flower” song by Charles d’Ambleville. The program will offer a compare-and-contrast performance of sacred chant, complementing selections from the Mass setting celebrated by the Jesuits based in Beijing with the incantation of the Monk Pu’an. Old St. Mary’s is located at 660 California Street, on the northeast corner of Grant Street. There is no charge for admission, but this concert series relies heavily on donations to continue offering its weekly programs.

7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre: The third recital in the 2017–2018 Piano Series presented by San Francisco Performances (SFP) will see the return of Lera Auerbach. As she has done in her past SFP appearances, Auerbach will assume the dual roles of both pianist and composer. Her program will also have a compare-and-contrast theme; but the content will be “something completely different.”

The first half will be devoted entirely to a performance of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition suite, as he originally wrote it for solo piano. The second half of the program will also consist of a single composition, this time by Auerbach herself. She composed “Labyrinth” as a personal response to Mussorgsky’s suite. However, while the earlier composition was inspired by a collection of drawings and watercolors by Viktor Hartmann, the inspiration for “Labyrinth” comes from the writings of Jorge Luis Borges with particular attention to his Book of Imaginary Beings. (Many of my generation had our “first contact” with English translations of Borges through a collection published by New Directions in 1962 under the title Labyrinths.) Auerbach’s description of her work will probably resonate with those familiar with Borges’ writings:
Labyrinth is an exploration of Time and its different prisms, mirrors, faces, games. The passages of the labyrinth are the passages of Time. Or, perhaps, Time itself takes of the form of a labyrinth in which the inner and outer sides are one and the same, infinitely expanding and infinitely contracting.
The entrance to Herbst is the main entrance to the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue, located on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. The venue is excellent for public transportation, since that corner has Muni bus stops for both north-south and east-west travel. Tickets prices are $70 for premium seating in the Orchestra and the front and center of the Dress Circle, $55 for the Side Boxes, the center rear of the Dress Circle, and the remainder of the Orchestra, and $40 for the remainder of the Dress Circle and the Balcony. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page.

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