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MTT, the San Francisco Symphony and Gil Shaham

Michael Tilson Thomas
Michael Tilson ThomasArt Streiber

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony are joined this week by one of the world’s leading violinists, Gil Shaham. Mr Shaham plays the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No 2 in a program which opens with a piece by the Gamelan Sekar Jaya ensemble, and ends with excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s ballet score for The Prince of the Pagodas.

Gil Shaham is widely known not only for his exceptional technique, but also for his natural warmth and generosity of spirit. He is much in demand throughout the world for appearances with leading conductors and orchestras, and regularly performs at the world’s most prestigious concert halls and festivals.

Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto is probably his best known, and most popular. Written in 1935, just prior to the composer’s return to Russia after a self-imposed 17-year exile, it represents the ‘new simplicity’ which started to characterize his work from the early 30s - a more melodic approach than that which had been inspired by composers such as Honegger and Hindemith, and mainly Stravinsky. [Source: www.linnrecords.com] The concerto was premiered by the French violinist Robert Soetens in Madrid, on December 1, 1935, with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra conducted by Enrique Fernández Arbós.

The Prince of the Pagodas was the only full-length ballet composed by Benjamin Britten, and it’s the first in a series of his works to be featured by MTT and the SF Symphony over the coming three weeks, bringing to a close the season in which they've been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

The score was commissioned from Britten for a ballet which was choreographed by John Cranko for the Sadler’s Wells company in 1957. It was subsequently revised in 1989 for The Royal Ballet by Kenneth MacMillan, who created the role of Princess Rose on the 19-year-old Darcy Bussell for her premiere in a principal role. To portray the magic of the Land of the Pagodas, Britten had the sounds of a gamelan orchestra - which he'd heard in Bali - transcribed for Western instruments. [Source: www.kennethmacmillan.com]

The opening work of this concert has a focus on Bali as well - a performance on traditional Balinese instruments by Gamelan Sekar Jaya, a company of musicians and dancers in the Bay Area who specialize in the performing arts of Bali.

The concert takes place at Davies Symphony Hall on Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14, at 8.00 pm and on Sunday June 15 at 2.00 pm. For more information about the program and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website where you can also watch video clips of Gil Shaham, of The Royal Ballet’s Darcy Bussell and Jonathan Cope in an excerpt from The Prince of the Pagodas, and Gamelan Sekar Jaya.