When the concert schedule starts to fill up, particularly on weekends, I find it useful to lay out all of the options in a single article. My intention is to help individual concert-goers make the best-informed decisions that are likely to appeal to their particular tastes (whatever my own may be). In past seasons I have found that I start to do this towards the end of winter and the beginning of spring, while the overall “density” of the performance calendar remains more manageable when the season is just beginning in the fall. However, as the number of options increase, particularly for smaller groups finding venues from which they can compete for “audience share,” fall has become a more active phase of the season. As a result, the first of my compare-and-choose articles for the current season involves the options available for the first week of November beyond the “mainstream” offerings at Davies Symphony Hall and the War Memorial Opera House.
The first option I wish to announce is the next concert performance by Friction Quartet, following almost immediately after their run of performances with Garrett + Moulton Productions, in which they provide the music, composed by Dan Becker, for “A Show of Hands.” The title of the event will be Transmediation, and it will feature the world premieres of three pieces commissioned specifically for the concert. The composers are Daniel Felsenfeld, Rafael Hernandez, and Noah Luna. All of these compositions will be given multi-media treatment, including films and other real-time technologies. In addition, for Luna’s contribution, “The Highwayman,” tenor Brian Thorsett will perform with Friction. The program will also include premiere performances of new pieces by Mark Ackerley and Erik DeLuca.
This concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 1. The venue will be the Unitarian Universalist Church at 1187 Franklin Street, between O’Farrell Street and Geary Boulevard. All tickets are $10, and they may be purchased through an event page on the Brown Paper Tickets Web site.
Ironically, the next recital in the San Francisco Performances (SFP) Guitar Series, presented in association with the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts, will take place at the same time on the other side of O’Farrell Street, The recitalists will be the identical twin brothers Peter and Zoltán Katona, born in Hungary and currently based in Liverpool. In 2009 the Katona Twins were SFP Guitar Artists-in-Residence, having given previous SFP performances in 2002 and 2006.
These brothers are accomplished not only as performers but also as composers and arrangers. As a result, their programs are always imaginative blends of original and arranged music. This season’s program will conclude with an original work composed jointly by both brothers entitled “Scarlatti’s Metamorphosis,” which has been described as “a set of audacious variations” based on the keyboard music of Domenico Scarlatti. The program will also include a piece by brother Peter entitled “Meditation and Passacaglia,” inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Their arrangements will include the final movement of Luigi Boccherini’s D major string quintet (Opus 40, Number 2), originally arranged by Boccherini himself for guitar and string quartet, a suite of four excerpts from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, “Córdoba,” the fourth movement of Isaac Albéniz Opus 232 piano suite Chants d’Espagne (songs of Spain), and Freddie Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The original compositions will be a waltz by Agustín Barrios and Joaquín Rodrigo’s “Invocation et Danse,” composed in homage to Manuel de Falla.
This recital will take place at 7:30 p.m. in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (1111 O’Farrell Street just west of the corner with Franklin Street) on Friday, November 1. Ticket prices are $45 and $30. Tickets may be purchased through the event page on the SFP Web site. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 415-392-2545.
Also at the same time Humanities West will begin their 30th anniversary season with a two-day symposium entitled Verdi’s Masterwork: Opera and the Birth of Modern Italy. Over the course of one evening and the following day, this program will explore both the musical and political dimensions of Verdi’s creative career. As may be expected, the lectures to be presented will be supplemented with musical performances. Friday evening will feature soprano Hope Briggs performing “Ritorna vincitor” and “O patria mia” from Aida. Saturday will feature the first encounter between Violetta (soprano Cheryl Cain) and Alfredo (tenor Chris Coyne) concluding with “Sempre libra” in the first act of La Traviata. Piano accompaniment for all vocal performances will be provided by Ron Valentino. The participating lecturers will be Philip Gossett, Giovanna Ceserani, and Clifford Cranna.
All activities will take place at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre at 609 Sutter Street, just off of Union Square. The evening event, on Friday, November 1, will run from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The all-day session on Saturday, November 2, will begin at 10 a.m. and run until 4 p.m. Tickets are being sold by City Box Office. There is an event page for the “COMBO” ticket for both days. Balcony seats are $75, and those in the Orchestra are $120. There are then separate pages for the individual events. Tickets for Friday evening are, respectively $45 and $55; and those for Saturday are $55 and $80. There is also a resource page for the symposium on the Humanities West Web site. Further information is also available by calling 415-391-9700.
Saturday afternoon will also be a special time at Davies. This will be the presentation of the sixth annual Día de los Muertos (day of the dead) community concert. Once again, Donato Cabrera will be conduction the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), as well as the men of the SFS Chorus. This year the program will feature a Spanish language performance of Nathaniel Stookey’s “The Composer is Dead,” commissioned by SFS. For this special occasion Stookey himself will narrate. The choral performance will be Arvo Pärt’s “de profundis” (accompanied only by organ and percussion), which will provide the accompaniment for a performance by Aztec dancers. As a result, this year’s festivities will be more cross-cultural than they have been in the past.
Activities begin when the doors to the Davies lobby open at 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 2, for the usual wide variety of family-friendly activities. The concert itself begins at 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $20 to $88 and may be purchased through the event page on the Symphony Web site. Those aged seventeen and under will be charged half price, and the entire event is recommended for children aged seven and older. Tickets may also be purchased at the Davies Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street or by calling 415-864-6000.
That evening will then offer the second concert in the current season of the Conservatory Orchestra of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). The program will feature Jean Françaix’ concerto for guitar and string orchestra, with soloist (and SFCM graduate) John Charles Britton. The program will also include the first two of Claude Debussy’s orchestral nocturnes, “Nuages” (clouds) and “Fêtes” (festivals), and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Opus 45, Symphonic Dances. Conducting student Tyler Catin will conduct one of the selections, and the remainder of the program will be led by Alasdair Neale.
This program will be given two performances in the SFCM Concert Hall at 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 2, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 3. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Box Office at 415-503-6275. (Box Office hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday through Friday.) The price is $20 for general admission, with a $15 rate for students, seniors, and Friends of the Conservatory. It is also possible to visit the Box Office in the lobby of the SFCM building at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. Further information may be found on the event pages for Saturday and Sunday posted on the SFCM Web site.
Sunday also will see the first concert of the season to be given by Symphony Parnassus. They will be the first full orchestra to perform in the Nourse, recently refurbished by City Arts & Lectures, in over 30 years. The highlight of this inaugural concert will be a performance of Igor Stravinsky’s score for the ballet “The Rite of Spring” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its first performance. The Russian origins of Stravinsky’s music will be complemented with a presentation of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Opus 35 violin concerto in D major. The soloist will be Kevin Zhu, who, at the age of eleven, won the First Prize in the junior division of the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists in April of 2012. The program will begin with Gustav Holst’s “Fugue à la Gigue,” his orchestration of Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 577 organ fugue in G major.
This recital will take place at 3 p.m. in the Nourse (275 Hayes Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, just across the street from Davies) on Sunday, November 1. Ticket prices are $25 with a $20 rate for seniors aged 65 and over and student. Tickets may be purchased through the event page on the City Box Office Web site. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 415-392-4400.
Later that afternoon the program series of the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) will continue with a recital by the Archetti Baroque String Ensemble, founded in 2009 by violinist Carla Moore and gambist John Dornenburg. They will present a program entitled Masters of the Italian Concerto in England. The “masters” whose music will be performed will be Arcangelo Corelli, Francesco Geminiani, George Frideric Handel, and Pieter Hellendaal. The program will also include an A major concerto grosso that Charles Avison composed based on thematic material from Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard music.