Saturday, June 1, 2019

SFS Summer Programming for Serious Listeners

The San Francisco Symphony performing at Stern Grove (from the event page for this summer’s performance on the SFS Web site)

This is the month in which the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) will conclude its 2018–19 season, which means that next month will see the beginning of the annual Summer with the Symphony series of concerts. This series has always been planned to appeal to a broader audience base that goes beyond those of us that are more disposed to take their listening seriously. Last year the series presented only three concerts for those of our ilk, so I am happy to report that this number has not declined. Furthermore, one of those events is the annual visit to Stern Grove; and, as in the past, that one will be free. That leaves the two indoor offerings at Davies Symphony Hall, both of which will introduce new conductors and new soloists.

The first of these will feature the young Canadian violinist Blake Pouliot. He will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s Opus 64 violin concerto in E minor under the baton of Brett Mitchell. The rest of the music that Mitchell has prepared for the program will be by Hector Berlioz. The “overture” for the program will be the “Marche hongroise” (Hungarian march) that concludes the first part of his Opus 24 “légende dramatique” (dramatic legend), La damnation de Faust (the damnation of Faust). The second half of the program will present the first of the two extended works that Berlioz grouped under the title Épisodes de la vie d’un artiste (episodes in the life of an artist). This is his Opus 14, published under the title “Symphonie fantastique” (fantastical symphony).

This concert will be given only one performance in Davies Symphony Hall, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 18. Ticket prices range from $20 to $89. 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 second concert offering will return to a past tradition of devoting an entire evening to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. The concerto soloist will be pianist Rodolfo Leone performing the Opus 73 (“Emperor”) concerto in E-flat major. [updated 7/19, 3:20 p.m.: Leone has withdrawn from the all-Beethoven concert. He will be replaced by pianist Andrew von Oeyen, who will perform the Opus 37 (third) concerto in C minor. His last appearance with SFS was a year ago in the Summer in the Symphony concerts, when he played George Gershwin’s “Rhapsopdy in Blue.”] Like Mitchell, conductor Nimrod David Pfeffer will follow the traditional overture-concerto-symphony program structure. The overture will be taken from Opus 84, the incidental music that Beethoven composed for a performance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play Egmont. The symphony will be the Opus 67 (fifth) in C minor, which has been a long-standing favorite in the Summer with the Symphony repertoire. This concert will also be given only one performance in Davies at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 25. Ticket prices are the same and may again be purchased online through an event page.

The free SFS appearance at the Stern Grove Festival will be conducted by Edwin Outwater. The featured soloist will be contralto Lauren Decker, performing Edward Elgar’s Opus 37 orchestral song cycle Sea Pictures. (If the wind is blowing in the right direction, listeners may be able to enjoy the salt smell of the Pacific Ocean during this performance, even if it is not the sea that Elgar had in mind.) The rest of the program will have an overture but no symphony. The overture will be Felix Mendelssohn’s Opus 26, entitled “The Hebrides.” (Yes, this is the same overture that Christian Reif selected to conclude his final season of leading the SFS Youth Orchestra in Davies last month.) For the remainder of the program, Outwater has selected Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Opus 31 orchestral tone poem “Marche slave,” followed by Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.

This concert will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 7. The entrance to Stern Grove is on the northwest corner where 19th Avenue crosses Sloat Boulevard. No tickets are required. Those planning to attend need to know that there will be no public parking area at Stern Grove for this event. Finding parking is extremely difficult, so all are encouraged to use public transportation. The 19th Avenue bus lines (23 and 28) both stop right at the entrance to Stern Grove. The K and M Muni lines stop one block to the east, where Sloat Boulevard meets St. Francis Circle. The home page for the Stern Grove Festival provides further information, including the new option of making a donation that will provide “VIP perks,” which include reserved seats at a picnic table for ten (full table) or five (half table), reserved parking, and complimentary wine, beer, water, and juices. Parking will be in the Vale Avenue lot.

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