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Kremerata Baltica will return to Davies at the beginning of February

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At the beginning of next month, the Great Performers Series of the San Francisco Symphony will continue with a return engagement in Davies Symphony Hall by the Kremerata Baltica, led by their founder, violinist Gidon Kremer. As part of the Britten 100 celebration of the Benjamin Britten centenary, the program will feature one of that composer’s earliest major works, his Opus 10 set of variations on a theme by his teacher, Frank Bridge. The program will also give considerable attention to the Russian composer with whom Britten formed a close friendship, Dmitri Shostakovich

Of particular interest will be the performance of bass vocalist Alexei Mochalov in Shostakovich’s “Anti-Formalist Rayok.” This manuscript was only discovered after Shostakovich’s death … with good reason. The oppression of Joseph Stalin’s dictatorial rule of the Soviet Union did much to undermine, if not destroy, Shostakovich’s creativity and his very personality. “Anti-Formalist Rayok,” however, provides evidence that, even under the darkest of shadows that Stalin cast, Shostakovich could still muster that ironic wit that had characterized many of his early compositions.

“Rayok” is the Russian noun for “peep-show;” and Shostakovich composed this piece as a cantata for four voices, chorus, and piano. Kremerata Baltica will perform it with Mochalov in an arrangement prepared by Andrei Pushkarev. In addition, Kremer will perform as soloist in a version for string orchestra of Shostakovich’s Opus 134 violin sonata, in an arrangement that Pushkarev prepared in collaboration with David Zinman.

Of equal significance will be Kremer’s performance as soloist in a concertino for violin and strings, the Opus 42 of Mieczysław Weinberg. Weinberg was born into a Jewish family in Warsaw on December 8, 1919 and graduated from the Warsaw Conservatory in 1939. He fled to the Soviet Union at the outbreak of the Second World War, and most of his family died in the Holocaust. His music, unlike the works of Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev, did not run afoul of the notorious Zhdanov Doctrine of 1946; but he was arrested in February of 1953 on charges of “Jewish bourgeois nationalism.” Shostakovich tried to intercede for him, but he was probably saved as a result of Stalin’s death on March 5. The Opus 42 concertino was composed in 1948.

This concert will begin in Davies at 7 p.m. on Sunday, February 2. Ticket prices range from $15 to $96; 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.

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