Daniel Stewart on the SFSYO podium (photograph by Stefan Cohen, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony)
Next month will see the first performance in the 37th season of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (SFSYO). This will also mark the beginning of Daniel Stewart’s tenure as Wattis Foundation Music Director, succeeding Christian Reif, who concluded his tenure at the end of last season. All performances will take place at Davies Symphony Hall at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoons with two exceptions. For the first time in more than twenty years, SFSYO will present a Music for Families program entitled “Meet the Orchestra” on Saturday, April 4, at 2 p.m. SFSYO will also participate in the annual Bay Area Youth Orchestra Festival, which will begin at 3 p.m. in Davies on Sunday, January 19. As usual, details about this multi-ensemble presentation will be announced closer to the date of performance.
Ticket prices for “Meet the Orchestra” will be between $20 and $65, and those for the Festival will be between $25 and $70. Ticket prices for all but one of the other concerts are $55 for reserved seats in the Loge and Side Boxes and $20 for general admission. The one exception will be the annual Youth Orchestra Holiday Concert on December 15, whose prices will be between $10 and $42.50. All tickets in Davies may be purchased through the Calendar Web page on the SFS Web site, by calling 415-864-6000, or by visiting the Box Office in Davies Symphony Hall, 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, from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and two hours before the beginning of the concerts on Sunday.
The Holiday Concert will feature the annual performance of Serge Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” This year the narrator will be Dulcé Sloan, best known as one of the correspondents for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central. Additional programming has not yet been announced, but singing carols with the audience is another part of the tradition. That leaves the four “principal” concerts, whose programming details are as follows:
November 17: The 2019 SFSYO Concerto Competition winner Roger Xia will be featured as soloist in a performance of Edvard Grieg’s A minor piano concerto. The program will begin with the first SFSYO performance of “Agnegram,” composed by Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) in 1998 to celebrated the 90th birthday of SFS. The title honors Agnes Albert, who inspired the creation of SFSYO. The program will conclude with selections from the music that Sergei Prokofiev composed for the ballet Romeo and Juliet.
March 15: SFSYO will perform the Davies premiere of Mason Bates’ “Mothership,” commissioned by MTT for the second (and, to the best of my knowledge, last) performance by the YouTube Symphony in Carnegie Hall. This will be a “four centuries” program with compositions from the preceding three: the twentieth (Benjamin Britten’s Opus 35 “The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra”), nineteenth (Bedřich Smetana’s evocation of the Moldau River, “Vltava,” from his Má vlast cycle honoring his homeland), and eighteenth (Jospeh Haydn’s Hoboken I/104 “London” symphony in D major). (These compositions will not be performed in chronological order.)
May 10: This program will be framed by two major symphonies from the nineteenth century. It will begin with Franz Schubert’s D. 759 (“Unfinished”) two-movement symphony in B minor and conclude with Johannes Brahms’ Opus 73 (second) symphony in D major. These symphonies will frame a performance of Steven Mackey’s “Eating Greens,” composed, in Mackey’s words, in “a spirit of rugged individualism and a healthy irreverence for the European masterpiece syndrome.”