Skip to main content

See also:

SFS will present two weeks of programming celebrating Johann Sebastian Bach

SFS soloists Peter Wyrick (cello) and Mark Inouye (trumpet)
SFS soloists Peter Wyrick (cello) and Mark Inouye (trumpet)
courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony

The end of this month will see the beginning of a two-week series of concerts organized by the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and performed in Davies Symphony Hall. Four separate programs have been prepared to celebrate the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, his legacy, and one of his influences. Bach specialist Ton Koopman will return to the Davies podium for this occasion, and the soloists will include both major visiting artists and SFS members.

The series will get under way on Sunday, April 27, with a solo recital by the Austrian organist Martin Haselböck. His program will include the one Bach composition explicitly based on the music of another composer, the BWV 593 organ concerto in A minor, which is an arrangement of a concerto for two violins and strings (also in A minor) by Antonio Vivaldi, the eighth concerto in his Opus 3 collection, L’Estro Armonico (harmonic inspiration). Bach’s original organ music will be represented by his BWV 564 toccata in C major (in three movements, beginning with the toccata, followed by an Adagio, and concluding with a fugue) and the six chorale preludes of BWV 645–650, known as the “Schübler” chorales. The first of these is well known as the organ version of a movement from the BWV 140 cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (sleepers wake, the hour strikes).

Bach’s legacy will then be explored, primarily through the organ music of Franz Liszt. First Haselböck will perform Liszt’s arrangement of the opening Sinfonia for the BWV 21 cantata Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (I have much distress). This will be followed by Liszt’s set of variations on the passacaglia theme from the BWV 12 cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing), which Bach himself later repurposed for the setting of the “Crucifixus” text in his BWV 232 setting of the Mass in B minor. Finally, because both Bach and Liszt were skilled improvisers, Haselböck will conclude his recital with his own improvisations of Bach themes.

This recital will take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 27. The demand for this recital has been high; and, as of this writing, the only available tickets are in the Premier section of First Tier for $20. (Tickets are not being sold for the Second Tier.) They may be purchased through the event page for this concert on the San Francisco Symphony Web site. 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.

The week will then continue with the first of Koopman’s two SFS subscription concerts. This will explore the legacy relationship between Bach and his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. (As many readers probably know already, this is the 300th anniversary year of Emanuel’s birth, which took place on March 8, 1714.) The music of “Bach the father” will both begin and conclude the program. The opening selection with be the BWV 1069 orchestral suite (also called an “overture”) in D major; and the concert will conclude with BWV 51, one of the most virtuoso cantatas, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (praise God in all lands), with ambitious solo work for both soprano (Carolyn Sampson) and trumpet (SFS Principal Mark Inouye). Between these two selections will be two compositions displaying the virtuosity of “Bach the son,” the Wq 172 cello concerto in A major (featuring Associate Principal Peter Wyrick) and the Wq 183/4 G major symphony.

This concert will be given four performances, at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, and Sunday, May 4, and at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3. Tickets are priced from $15 to $156. They may be purchased through the event page for this concert on the San Francisco Symphony Web site. 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. The Inside Music talk will be given by James Keller, beginning one hour prior to each of these concerts. Finally, a podcast about BWV 1069 prepared by KDFC’s Rik Malone will be available on the Program Note Podcasts Web page prior to the first concert.

Koopman’s second subscription concert will be devoted entirely to vocal music that Bach composed during his tenure as Cantor of the Thomasschule in Leipzig. This will include the Kyrie and Gloria sections from the BWV 232 Mass setting, which Bach composed in 1733 (BWV 232 was not composed as a single composition but only compiled as such towards the end of Bach’s life), and the BWV 207a secular cantata Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten (come, blithesome trumpets’ blare). The SFS Chorus (Ragnar Bohlin, Director) will be joined by four vocal soloists: soprano Teresa Wakim, mezzo Bogna Bartosz, tenor Tilman Lichdi, and bass Klaus Mertens.

This concert will be given three performances, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, and Saturday, May 10, and at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 9. Tickets are again priced from $15 to $156. They may be purchased through the event page for this concert on the San Francisco Symphony Web site. 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. The Inside Music talk will be given by Laura Stanfield Prichard, beginning one hour prior to each of these concerts. Finally, a podcast about BWV 232 prepared by KDFC’s Rik Malone will be available on the Program Note Podcasts Web page prior to the first concert.

There will also be an open rehearsal for this concert. As usual, these begin at 10 a.m. and run for about two hours. It will be given on the morning of Thursday, May 8. Tickets are $22 for general admission and $40 for reserved seats. They may be purchased through a separate event page, at the Davies Box Office, or by calling 415-864-6000.

The series will then conclude, as it began, with a solo recital. The soloist will be violinist Christian Tetzlaff. He will perform the complete set of sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin, BWV 1001–1006. They will be presented in the order in which they are listed in Wolfgang Schmieder’s catalog, alternating the sonatas and the partitas.

This recital will take place at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 11. Tickets will be available in all sections and will be priced from $15 to $150. They may be purchased through the event page for this concert on the San Francisco Symphony Web site. 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.