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‘Alternative Energy’ will return to Davies with a new orchestra and conductor

Featured artists at this concert: composer Mason Bates and pianst Leif Ove Andsnes
Featured artists at this concert: composer Mason Bates and pianst Leif Ove Andsnes
courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony

Regular readers may recall that one of the high points of the Centennial Season of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) took place when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), conducted by their Music Director Ricardo Muti, visited Davies Symphony Hall and performed the West Coast premiere of Mason Bates’ “Alternative Energy,” which the composer described as an “energy symphony.” This performance took place only weeks after the composition had received its world premiere in the Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center in Chicago, a performance that was recorded and subsequently released on the ensemble’s CSO-Resound label. While most readers know that Bates is based in the Bay Area, “Alternative Energy” was composed on a CSO commission during his tenure as CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence.

One of Bates’ principal champions, however, has been Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT). During that same Centennial Season, MTT conducted the San Francisco Symphony, along with Ragnar Bohlin’s SFS Chorus, in the world premiere of Bates’ “Mass Transmission;” and he also included the suite The B-Sides in his first performance with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Next month MTT will bring his own interpretation of “Alternative Energy” to the Davies podium; and, to Bates’ advantage, his performance will also be recorded for future release on SFS Media.

“Alternative Energy” will be, as Bates described it, the symphony portion of a traditional overture-concerto-symphony program. However, because of their respective lengths, the concerto will be performed following the intermission; and “Alternative Energy” will follow the overture. The concerto will be Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 15 piano concerto in C major, the first piano concerto that he published (even though the second such concerto he would publish was completed before this one), making this another program in which MTT has decided to present Bates in a “Beethoven context.” The soloist will be Leif Ove Andsnes, who is familiar to San Francisco audiences as both a recitalist and an accompanist. The overture for the program will be the one Gioacchino Rossini composed for his opera La gazza ladra (the thieving magpie).

This program will be given four performances in Davies, at 8 p.m., on Wednesday, September 10, Friday, September 12, and Saturday, September 13, and at 2 p.m. on Thursday, September 11. As usual, there will be an Inside Music talk given one hour prior to each performance, free to all ticket holders. In addition a free podcast about the Beethoven concerto, hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone, is available real-time streaming from the event page for this concert on the SFS Web site. Ticket prices range from $15 to $158. Tickets may be purchased online through that same event page. They are also being sold at the Davies Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, which may also be reached by calling 415-864-6000.