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Alexander Barantschik to lead SFS in a program spanning three centuries

SFS Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik
SFS Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik
courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony

In what has become an anticipated annual tradition, Alexander Barantschik, Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), will lead and perform as soloist with his colleagues in an ensemble scaled down to chamber orchestra resources. Note the verb “lead,” rather than “conduct.” Barantschik will direct from the concertmaster’s chair except when he is also performing as concerto soloist. The concerto selection is relatively unfamiliar, a violin concerto in D minor that Felix Mendelssohn composed in 1822 at the age of thirteen. (This would have been the time-frame when Mendelssohn wrote his twelve string symphonies.) The concerto was never published; and, after his death, his widow gave the manuscript to Ferdinand David (for whom Barantschik’s 1742 Guarnerius del Gesù is now named, being the instrument on which David gave the first performance of Mendelssohn’s Opus 64 concerto in E minor). In the spring of 1951 the manuscript of the D minor concerto came to the attention of Albi Rosenthal, a rare books dealer (and amateur violinist); and he showed it Yehudi Menuhin, who edited it for performance and had it published by Peters Edition, the version that will be used for this program.

The Mendelssohn concerto will be complemented by a symphony with similar “youthful origins.” While Benjamin Britten’s Opus 4, which he called “Simple Symphony,” was completed at the age of twenty in February of 1934, the thematic material had its origins in piano music that Britten wrote as a teenager between 1923 and 1926. Britten’s Opus 4 will reflect not only on the Mendelssohn concerto but also the opening selection of the program Barantschik has prepared, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 138 divertimento for strings in F major, composed during his teenaged years in Salzburg in 1772. The program will conclude with two pieces by Astor Piazzolla, “Melodia” and “Libertango,” in arrangements that Jeremy Cohen originally prepared for the string quartet he founded, Quartet San Francisco.

This concert will be given four performances in Davies Symphony Hall, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22, and Saturday, January 25, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, January 24, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, January 26. The Inside Music talk will be given by Laura Stanfield Prichard and, as usual, will begin one hour prior to the concert and last about half an hour. Admission is free to all ticket holders. Ticket prices for this concert range from $15 to $156; and tickets may be purchased online through the hyperlinks on the event page for this program. Tickets are also available for purchase at the Davies Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street or by calling 415-864-6000.

In addition there will be a working rehearsal for this program open to the general public as a Katharine Hanrahan Open Rehearsal. This will take place in Davies at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 22. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. for coffee and complimentary donuts, followed by a half-hour talk at 9 a.m., which will also be delivered by Prichard. Tickets are $22 for unreserved general admission and $40 for reserved seating in the Loge, Side Boxes, Rear Boxes, and Premiere Orchestra sections. This rehearsal has its own event page with its own hyperlink for the advance sale of tickets, which may also be purchased by phone or by visiting the Box Office.