The San Francisco Symphony is back at Davies Symphony Hall this week, with guest conductor, James Conlon - and soloists Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Symphony’s Principal Trumpet, Mark Inouye, in the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 1. The concert also features the the Scherzo from the Symphony No 5 by Czech-born composer, Erwin Schulhoff, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6.
James Conlon has a particular interest in music by composers who were silenced by the Nazi regime. Erwin Schulhoff’s music was blacklisted by the Nazi party in the 1930s - because of his Jewish descent and his radical politics - and he was deported to the Wülzburg Concentration Camp where he died in 1942. These performances are the first of Schulhoff’s Symphony No 5 by the SF Symphony.
James Conlon has held the position of Music Director of Los Angeles Opera since 2006, the Ravinia Festival since 2005, and of the Cincinnati May Festival since 1979 - having also served as principal conductor of the Paris National Opera, general music director of the City of Cologne, and music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Currently engaged in a three-year performance cycle of the works of Benjamin Britten in the US and Europe, Mr Conlon is heading the Britten 100/LA: A Celebration - a year-long citywide festival in Los Angeles.
French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet - described by the New York Sun as “one of the best pianists in the world” - is a frequent guest of the San Francisco Symphony, having made his debut here in 1994. His 2013-14 season has included performances in Asia, Australia and Europe, duo recitals with mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager in Spain and at London’s Wigmore Hall, two all-Debussy recitals in France and a seven-city tour of the US.
Having recorded more than 50 albums, Jean-Yves Thibaudet has been awarded the Schallplattenpreis, the Diapason d'Or, Choc du Monde de la Musique, a Gramophone Award, two Echo awards, and the Edison Prize, and was the soloist on the award-winning soundtracks to the films Atonement, Pride and Prejudice and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
The Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 1 has the official title of Concerto in C minor for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra. It’s a rarely performed work (although, interestingly, it recently featured in San Francisco Ballet’s presentation of Alexei Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy). Joining M Thibaudet is the Symphony’s Principal Trumpet, Mark Inouye, most recently featured with the orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No 3. He will be a soloist in J S Bach’s Cantata No 51 in the forthcoming SF Symphony Bach concerts, which will be led by Ton Koopman, from May 1 to 4.
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6 was premiered on October 28, 1893, in the Hall of Nobles, Saint Petersburg, and conducted by the composer, nine days before his death. It’s hard to believe that this performance of the poignant Pathétique was described by the composer as “not exactly a failure, but it was received with some hesitation”. Various theories have been put forward about why its reception should have been less than enthusiastic, however, it has become, as we know, one of his best-loved works - powerful, passionate and agonizingly beautiful, in true Tchaikovsky style.
James Conlon conducts the San Francisco Symphony, with soloists Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Mark Inouye, at Davies Symphony Hall on April 24 at 2.00 pm, and on April 25 and 26 at 8.00 pm. Further information and details of ticketing can be found on the Symphony website.