Concert-goers will be delighted to learn that British conductor, Michael Francis, will once more lead the Symphony in a program of delights which includes music by Lèhar, Strauss Jr, Lortzing, Gershwin, Lerner and Lowe, Kurt Weill, and Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Guest artists are mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and baritone Kelly Markgraf.
Michael Francis - who is currently the Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor for the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra in Sweden - has been a favorite with San Francisco concert audiences from his first appearance here in 2010. Since then, he’s led the 2011 and 2012 Summer Season concerts, and the 2011 and 2012 New Year’s Eve performances.
If Michael is warmly welcomed in San Francisco, he just loves coming here, too. When asked why, he answers without hesitation.
“I think this musical partnership with the San Francisco Symphony has been one of the most enjoyable I’ve had," he says. "I have a history with the Symphony, and worked with them in many different concerts and styles. Since my first jump-in (with Rufus Wainwright in 2010), I’ve got to know them. I think I’m right in saying that it’s the orchestra I’ve conducted the most times, and it’s always a great pleasure to come back to a place and to people I know well."
He describes the Symphony as “a fantastic orchestra - truly world class, with talented musicians in all positions. I love them. They’re very fast, very flexible, and they’re lovely people. I have some great friendships within the orchestra. The programs are always great, and so are the audiences. They’re very knowledgeable, whatever the program.”
He loves the city of San Francisco too. “It’s one of the most European of American cities,” he says, by way of explanation. “You can walk anywhere and there are so many hidden treasures - small restaurants, bars - it’s a city that unfolds itself as you get to know it. It’s much more subtle than New York, I think. There are great people here and I love the unique neighbourhoods and different characters that you come across. It’s also a very beautiful city - the Bay, the bridge - and it’s not cold,” he adds with a laugh!
The 2013 New Year’s Eve concert is what Michael refers to as “a program with a split personality"- the first half is Viennese, the second devoted to show tunes - with "a few hidden treasures" at the end! "I wanted to do something different this year,” he says, “and to play to the strengths of our guest artists, Kelly and Sasha - to find a balance between the soprano and baritone. They’re both very versatile artists and as comfortable with show tunes as they are with classics, so I thought it would be fun to do two different halves - to give the audience something quite different.”
After the concert, the dancing begins, and guests can see in the New Year and dance the night away to the music of the Peter Mintun Orchestra on the stage of Symphony Hall, or to Hit Waves on the First Tier.
Michael Francis conducts the San Francisco Symphony in the New Year’s Eve concert at Davies Symphony Hall on Tuesday, December 31, at 9.00 pm, a performance which will be followed by a dazzling after-party. For further information and tickets, please visit the San Francisco Symphony website.