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San Francisco Chamber Orchestra will end season with a program of fugues

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra with their Music Director, Benjamin Simon
The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra with their Music Director, Benjamin Simon
courtesy of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra

For the final Main Stage Concert of the 2013–2014 season of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra (SFCO), Music Director Benjamin Simon has prepared a program entitled The Great Fugue. The title is the English translation of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 133 (“Große Fuge”). This was originally planned to be the final movement of the Opus 130 string quartet in B-flat major; but, since the first five movements of this quartet had already consumed a significant duration of time, he prepared a much shorter (and more high-spirited) Allegro Finale to replace the fugue. The fugue was then published separately, still as a composition for string quartet, as Opus 133.

For the coming SFCO concert, Simon will conduct the string section in a performance of this fugue. In addition, because many have regarded this composition as virtually unfathomable (not only in Beethoven’s day but for at least a century after it was published), Simon’s performance will be accompanied by a “visual aid.” Using his Music Animation Machine software, Stephen Malinowski has been experimenting with visual representations of the performance of music for several years. (Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about how Malinowski had used his technology to visualize the entire score that Igor Stravinsky composed for the ballet “The Rite of Spring,” complete with a link to the video of that visualization.) Malinowski’s video of Opus 133 will be projected behind SFCO during their performance of this “great fugue.”

The concert will begin with two other compositions featuring fugues. The first is Felix Mendelssohn’s Opus 81, a fugue for string ensemble. This will be followed by Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1049 “Brandenburg” concerto in G major, whose final movement is a fugue. The solo instruments for this particular concerto are two flutes (to be performed by Stacey Pelinka and Laurie Camphouse) and violin (SFCO Concertmaster Robin Sharp).

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 8 p.m. on Friday, April 25. 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.