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Charles Dutoit will return to conduct two weeks of SFS concerts

Conductor Charles Dutoit
Conductor Charles Dutoitcourtesy of the San Francisco Symphony

At the end of this month, Charles Dutoit will appear, once again, as guest conductor of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). This season he has prepared two programs for performance, the first of which is all choral, featuring the SFS Chorus prepared by its Director, Ragnar Bohlin, and the second all instrumental. His guest soloists for the first concert will be soprano Susanna Phillips and bass-baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann, and at the second concert he will be joined by pianist Kirill Gerstein.

The vocal program will provide a profile of modernism during the first half of the twentieth century. Indeed, the publication of the version of the oldest work to be performed took place in 1900. That composition was the full-orchestra (and final) version of Gabriel Fauré’s Opus 48 setting of the Requiem text in D minor with vocal solos for soprano and baritone. The most recent composition will also draw upon the Catholic liturgy, Francis Poulenc’s setting of the Gloria section of the Mass, composed in 1959 and, like his setting of the Stabat Mater hymn, calls for full chorus and soprano solo. Between these two works, Dutoit will lead SFS and the SFS Chorus in a performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms,” setting the Latin texts of passages from three of the Psalms (39, 40, and 150).

This program will be given only two performances in Davies Symphony Hall, both at 8 p.m., on Thursday, May 29, and Friday, May 30. The Inside Music talk will be given by James Keller one hour prior to each performance, free to all ticket holders. In addition a free podcast about the Fauré selection, hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone, will be available for download from the Podcast page. Ticket prices range from $37 to $152. Tickets may be purchased online through an event page on the SFS Web site. 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.

There will also be an open rehearsal for this concert. As usual, these begin at 10 a.m. and run for about two hours. Serving of coffee and complimentary donuts begins at 8:30 a.m., followed by a half-hour talk at 9 a.m. This event will take place on the morning of Thursday, May 29. Tickets are $22 for general admission and $40 for reserved seats. They may be purchased through a separate event page, at the Davies Box Office, or by calling 415-864-6000.

The instrumental program will couple one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s concertos with a symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich that I have previously described as “bleakly introspective,” composed during the period of his second denunciation by Soviet authorities following the Second World War. Gerstein will perform as soloist in Beethoven’s Opus 19 in B-flat major (called his second but composed before the one called his first). The symphony will be Shostakovich’s tenth (Opus 93 in E minor).

This program will be given three performances in Davies Symphony Hall, all at 8 p.m., on Wednesday, June 4, Friday, June 6, and Saturday, June 7. The Inside Music talk will be given by John Palmer one hour prior to each performance, free to all ticket holders. In addition a free podcast about the Shostakovich symphony, hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone, will be available for download from the Podcast page. Ticket prices range from $15 to $156. Tickets may be purchased online through an event page on the SFS Web site. 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.