Charles Dutoit returns to Davies Symphony Hall this week, to lead the San Francisco Symphony in a program of music by Beethoven and Shostakovich - Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 2, with pianist Kirill Gerstein as guest soloist, and the Shostakovich Symphony No 10.
Maestro Dutoit is regarded as one of today’s foremost conductors. He has appeared with many of the world’s major orchestras, having also headed up the Bern Symphony Orchestra, directed the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico and the Symphony Orchestra of Göteborg. He has also served as music director of the Orchestre National de France. In 1977 he took up the major appointment of his career - Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra - a role which he held for 25 years.
Charles Dutoit became Music Director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra in 2009, and - following a 30-year collaboration with the Philadelphia Orchestra - was recently honored with the title of Conductor Laureate. Maestro Dutoit is presently the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director Emeritus of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.
Russian-born pianist, Kirill Gerstein, came to the United States to study jazz piano at the age of 14 - the youngest student ever to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music. His early studies included classical music as well, and although he now focuses on the classical repertoire, his jazz training is credited with the inspiration for his distinctive classical style.
Gerstein’s honours include First Prize at the 2001 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Tel Aviv, a Gilmore Young Artist Award in 2002, an Avery Fisher Grant in 2010, and - in the same year - the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, presented every four years to an exceptional pianist and major international concert artist.
His latest recording - Imaginary Pictures (Mussorgsky & Schumann) - is to be released this week, to coincide with his appearance at Davies Symphony Hall, and he will be signing CDs following his performances with the San Francisco Symphony.
Beethoven started writing his Second Piano Concerto in 1790 - although it underwent a few revisions before it was finally published in 1801. The composer is thought to have intended it for the demonstration of his skills as a performer when he moved from Bonn to Vienna in 1792, and he was the soloist at his first public performance at the city’s Burgtheater on March 29, 1795.
Shostakovich is widely thought to have written his Symphony No 10 as a depiction of the years in Russia under Stalin’s rule. Conductor Kurt Sanderling - who was present during the preparation of this work and at its premiere - was quoted in 1995 as saying that “it was indeed a portrait of Stalin for all of us who had lived through the horrors of that time. But for the listener of today, it is perhaps more like a portrait of a dictatorship in general, of a system of oppression”. Whatever the actuality, the work continues to attract descriptions such as “monumental” and “devastating” - amply illustrating the defiance for which Shostakovich was known.
Charles Dutoit conducts Beethoven and Shostakovich at Davies Symphony Hall on June 4, 6 and 7, and at Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, on June 5.
Follow this link for further information, for tickets, and to watch an interview with Charles Dutoit recorded at the 2012 Verbier Festival.
San Francisco Symphony program notes
Charles Dutoit biography