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A busy week for the San Francisco Symphony

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The San Francisco Symphony has an interesting week scheduled - hosting two exciting French guests, conductor Lionel Bringuier and pianist Hélène Grimaud - followed by the Symphony’s annual Chinese New Year Concert on Saturday, and on Sunday, there’s an afternoon of chamber music by members of the Symphony.

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Lionel Bringuier makes his debut with the Symphony this week - in a season which also sees his first appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw and the Vienna Symphony orchestras. Chief Conductor designate and Music Director of the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zürich, as of the 2014-15 season, M Bringuier leads the San Francisco Symphony in a program which opens with Brahms’ First Piano Concerto.

This is a particular favorite of Ms Grimaud, who’s quoted in The New Yorker as saying that one of the passages she likes best is “a moment in the recapitulation when the thunderous agitation that the piano has declared dissolves into something wistful, almost ghostly—a moody wanderer looking for comfort."

The Brahms is followed by Henri Dutilleux’s Métaboles, a work which was commissioned by the Cleveland Musical Arts Association for the 40th anniversary of the Cleveland Orchestra. Dedicated to George Szell, Métaboles was premiered by the Orchestra on January 14, 1965, in a performance conducted by Szell himself.

Ravel’s La Valse was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev, but when the composer played it for him, Diaghilev dismissed it as having no dance possibilities at all. Highly offended, Ravel never collaborated with the impressario again. A number of choreographers have, however, since found the work to be an inspiration, amongst whom was George Balanchine who used it - together with the composer’s Valses nobles et sentimentales - as the musical setting for his ballet La Valse.

The Bringuier/Grimaud concert takes place at Davies Symphony Hall from February 5 to 7. For concert times and tickets, please see the San Francisco Symphony website.

The San Francisco Symphony’s Chinese New Year celebration is based around music, family and tradition, and in this, the Year of the Horse, the concert is preceded by a Festival Reception. The foyers of Davies Symphony Hall will come alive with lion dancing, Chinese calligraphy, ribbon dancing, tea bars, children’s entertainment and ‘lucky’ red envelopes.

The Symphony will be conducted by Lan Shui, with violinist Alina Ming Kobialka and pianist David Fung, in a performance of works which includes the traditional Chinese Dragon Dance, Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Overture, Strauss Jr’s Voices of Spring, Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy, Chen Qigang’s concerto for piano and orchestra, Er huang, and other traditional pieces.

The Chinese New Year concert, followed by the Imperial Dinner, takes place at Davies Symphony Hall on Saturday, February 8, at 4.00 pm. Ticket availability is limited, but for further information please visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

The Sunday afternoon concert features musicians from the Symphony in a program of chamber music by Nathaniel Stookey, Mozart and Schoenberg. Featuring Stookey’s Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major, K.581, and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Opus 4, the program - described as “music musicians love to play” - takes place at Davies Symphony Hall at 2.00 pm. More information is available on the San Francisco Symphony website.

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