For over 40 years the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra (SFCO) has been celebrating the transition into a new year with one of its free Main Stage Concerts. Each of the concerts in the current season has its own characteristic theme; and the theme for this season’s concert, which will take place at the end of the month, is The Virtuosi. Music Director Benjamin Simon has cleverly conceived a program in which that theme will apply to both composers and performers.
The most interesting portion of the program is likely to be the most unusual. During the nineteenth century Giovanni Bottesini was known as the Paganini of the double bass. His virtuosic skill on his instrument tended to shatter audience expectations regarding how much one could do with the bass; and, like Niccolò Paganini, Bottesini knew that the best way to show off his skills would be through music of his own composition. For this concert Simon has selected the second of his concertos in the key of B minor. The soloist will be the SFCO Debut Artist for the season, seventeen-year-old Jared Pabilona.
The other virtuoso soloist will be pianist Jon Nakamatsu, a past winner of the Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn Competition. Nakamatsu will perform a concerto by another composer who wrote to show off his own virtuosity, Camille Saint-Saëns. Of the five concertos that Saint-Saëns wrote, Nakamatsu has elected to perform his second, Opus 22 in G minor, the best known and usually recognized as the most flamboyant.
The program will begin with the overture Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (himself a keyboard virtuoso) composed for his opera The Marriage of Figaro.
The San Francisco performance of this Main Stage Concert will be given in the Nourse Theater at 275 Hayes Street, across the street from Davies Symphony Hall between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. The performance will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 29. As in the past, all concerts will be offered without any charge for admission. Doors open for seating 45 minutes before concert time; and seating is first come, first served. However, there is priority seating for Supporting Members and priority entrance 60 minutes before the program begins. The SFCO Web site has a Membership Web page, which outlines the different levels of membership and their associated benefits. It also provides a link to a secure site through which donations may be given.