Wednesday, March 29, 2023

SFS and Salonen Announce 2023–24 Season

Yesterday afternoon the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) released its announcement of plans for the next season, which will began, as usual, this coming September. As usual, this involves more than a generous supply of content; and, as I observed a year ago, I am never quite sure how to deal with saying too much or saying too little. To some extent, however, my quandary has been somewhat alleviated with the creation of what amounts to a “home page” for the new season embedded into the SFS Web site.

In all fairness, however, that site is somewhat limited in the information provides. Furthermore, it is still too early for program specifics for the new season to appear on the online Calendar. For example, the music to be performed for the Opening Night Gala in Davies Symphony Hall on September 22 is not yet online; and the same holds for the All San Francisco Concert on September 23, which gives free admission to members of local social service and neighborhood organizations. As expected, both of these performances will be led by Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Salonen will also lead SFS in the first three subscription programs of the season, for which the programs seem to have been finalized:

  • September 29–October 1: The concerto soloist will be Leonidas Kavakos, performing Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Opus 35 violin concerto in D major. The program will begin with the first SFS performances of “Herald, Holler and Hallelujah!” by Wynton Marsalis, first performed by the New Jersey Symphony in November of 2022. The second half of the program will be devoted entirely to Richard Strauss’ tone poem “An Alpine Symphony.”
  • October 6–7: The second week will also feature a violin concerto, but it will be “something completely different.” “Convergence” is a violin concerto by Jesper Nordin, whose performance also involves Nordin’s invention Reactional Music, an electronic instrument that Salonen will play while conducting. Portions of this piece were showcased at last February’s SoundBox program, but this will be the world premiere performance. The violinist will be Pekka Kuusisto. The program will also include John Adams’ “Naive and Sentimental Music.”
  • October 12–14: Pianist Emanuel Ax will return to Davies for another concerto receiving its world premiere. The composer will be Anders Hillborg, one of Salonen’s longtime collaborators. The new concerto will be framed by two more traditional composers. The program will begin with Johannes Brahms’ Opus 56a, the orchestral version of his “Variations on a Theme by Haydn.” The second half of the program will be devoted to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 36 (second) symphony in D major.

Salonen and SFS will also contribute to the two-week California Festival in which they will share performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel and the San Diego Symphony led by Music Director Rafael Payare. The SFS contribution to this festival will be previewed in Davies on November 11 and 12. Principal Clarinet Carey Bell will be soloist in a performance of Salonen’s “Kínēma.” The program will also feature “Drowned in Light,” a world premiere performance of music by Jens Ibsen, which won the 2022 Emerging Black Composers Project competition.

Director Peter Sellars will return to Davies to provide staging for a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s one-act opera “Ewartung.” The cast consists of a single person, whose role will be sung by soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams. The program will also include the one-act ballet version of Maurice Ravel’s “Ma mère l’Oye” (Mother Goose). The choreography will be created and performed by the Alonzo King LINES Ballet.

Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas will again return to provide four weeks of programs. The selections will include three symphonies: Beethoven’s Opus 125 (ninth, “Choral”) in D minor, Gustav Mahler’s fifth, and Tchaikovsky’s Opus 36 (fourth) in F minor. He will also present the complete score that Igor Stravinsky prepared for Léonide Massine’s one-act ballet “Pulcinella.”

Mind you, all this is still the tip of what is a very promising iceberg. In addition, the Shenson Spotlight Series, conceived to feature debut performances by rising artists, will present four programs:

  1. Violinist Stella Chen and pianist George Li
  2. Violinist Alexandra Conunova
  3. Pianist Eric Lu
  4. Cellist Gabriel Martins and pianist Victor Santiago Asunción

More seasoned performers will be featured in the Great Performers Series. These will include pianists Yefim Bronfman, Evgeny Kissin, Daniil Trifonov, and Yuja Wang, violinist Ray Chen, Joshua Bell leading the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, San Francisco Symphony Brass, and the trio of violinist Lisa Batiashvili, cellist Gautier Capuçon, and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Finally, this will mark the tenth season of SoundBox. As usual, there will be four programs, each with its own unique curator, including Salonen making his first appearance in that capacity.

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