Subscription ticket packages for the 2013–14 season of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) went on sale this morning for both renewing subscribers and the general public. The motto for the new season is “Live Musically;” and a subscription information page has been set up on the SFS Web site. This page has an abundant supply of hyperlinks for placing subscriptions. Since the process begins by asking if you are already a subscriber, matters may be simplified if you have your Patron ID number ready. This year the season brochure is available online as an interactive digital document based on Überflip technology. With so much information readily available at the click of a hyperlink, I would like to use this space to address some of the key themes of the new season (as I did last year).
An All-American Opening: The Opening Gala concert on Tuesday, September 3, will offer a program of works by American composers. This will include George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and George Antheil’s “Jazz Symphony.” The soloist will be soprano Audra McDonald, who will join SFS in selections from the American songbook. The Gershwin and Antheil selections will also be performed at the All-San Francisco concert on September 5. For that performance, violinist James Ehnes will join SFS to perform Samuel Barber’s violin concerto. Finally, the concert for the general public on September 6 will repeat the All-San Francisco program. Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) will conduct all concerts.
The Benjamin Britten Centenary: Benjamin Britten was born on November 22, 1913. Five weeks of the season will focus on Britten’s work:
- On November 27 and 30 Semyon Bychkov will conduct Britten’s Opus 66 War Requiem with soloists Christine Brewer (soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor), and Roderick Williams (baritone); the SFS Chorus will be joined by the Pacific Boychoir.
- Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik’s “chamber orchestra” program, during the week of January 22 will feature Britten’s Opus 4 “Simple Symphony.”
- During the week of June 12, MTT will conduct excerpts from Britten’s Opus 57 ballet, The Prince of the Pagodas. The score calls for a gamelan ensemble, which will join SFS. The program will also include the first (Opus 77) violin concerto by Britten’s close friend and colleague, Dmitri Shostakovich. Janine Jansen will be the soloist.
- The week of June 19 will feature Britten's Opus 31 serenade. This was composed for a chamber orchestra of strings with solos for tenor (Toby Spence) and horn (Robert Ward). This concert will also include Shostakovich's final symphony, his Opus 141 in A major.
- The season will conclude with a semi-staged concert performance of Britten’s most famous opera, his Opus 33 Peter Grimes with tenor Stuart Skelton in the title role. There will also be one instrumental concert that final week at which the four “sea interludes” will be performed along with a video designed by Tal Rosner. This concert will also include a repeat performance of Shostakovich’s Opus 141.
Mason Bates encounters Ludwig van Beethoven: MTT has arranged three weeks of concerts in which the music of former composer-in-residence Bates will be coupled with Beethoven compositions:
- Bates’ “Alternative Energy,” composed during his residency with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will be performed with Beethoven’s first symphony and his two romances for violin and orchestra (with Barantschik as soloist).
- Bates’ “Liquid Interface” will be performed with Beethoven’s C major mass setting, as well as excerpts from his incidental music for King Stephen.
- “The B-Sides,” which Bates composed on an SFS commission, will begin a program that will feature both Beethoven’s seventh symphony and Sergei Prokofiev’s second violin concerto (with Gil Shaham as soloist).
New Voices: This is a new collaborative composer development initiative. It is a joint effort involving SFS, the New World Symphony, and the publisher Boosey & Hawkes. The first composer to be supported is Zosha Di Castri, a doctoral student of composition with Fred Lerdahl at Columbia University. Her new orchestral work, “Lineage,” will receive its West Coast premiere in September. (The world premiere will be given by the New World Symphony next month.) Her music will also be performed at one of the SFS chamber music concerts.
Thomas Adès encounters Felix Mendelssohn: Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado will visit for two weeks in October. Both of his concerts will involve pairing the recent Adès composition with the music of Mendelssohn:
- Mendelssohn’s Opus 56 “Scottish” symphony will be “introduced” by Adès’ “Three Studies from Couperin” (along with Igor Stravinsky’s violin concerto with Leila Josefowicz as soloist).
- Scenes from Adès’ opera The Tempest (recently performed by the Metropolitan Opera) will be preceded by excerpts from the incidental music Mendelssohn composed for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and followed by the Opus 60 cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht.
Project San Francisco: Mason Bates will return as composer-in-residence. His music will be featured in MTT’s Beethoven project. Pianist Yuja Wang will return as artist-in-residence, performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s fourth piano concerto with MTT conducting and giving a recital of the music of Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, and Franz Liszt. She will also perform Rachmaninoff’s first concerto with Gustavo Dudamel when the Los Angeles Philharmonic visits as part of the Great Performers Series. Finally, András Schiff will complete his Project San Francisco residency with two recitals in October:
- A performance of the six keyboard partitas of Johann Sebastian Bach
- A performance of Bach’s “Goldberg” variations coupled with Beethoven’s “Diabelli” variations
A new organist: Martin Haselböck will make his debut in the organ recital series with an all-Bach program; the other two organists in the series will be Oliver Latry and Paul Jacobs.