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Valentine’s Day weekend will be the first major ‘weekend of choices’ in 2014

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The second half of the 2013–2014 season is now well under way, and once again I have to start worrying about situations in which multiple events of interest will be happening at the same time. Ironically, the first weekend for this to arise will be the one that begins with Valentine’s Day. As one who has long believed that concert tickets show greater affection than a box of chocolates, it seems all the more important to review the options for this particular weekend.

I have already discussed that virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile will be returning to San Francisco Performances (SFP) on the evening of Friday, February 14; but, as of this writing, there are two other options for two decidedly different tastes.

The first of these is the fourth concert in the Best Coast Jazz Composers Series, curated by Lisa Mezzacappa at the Center for New Music (CNM). This will feature the Ben Goldberg School, led by clarinetist Ben Goldberg. The “school” is a quintet whose other members are Kasey Knudsen on alto saxophone, Jeff Cressman on trombone, David Ewell on acoustic bass, and Hamir Atwal on drums. The program is entitled Come Back Elliott Smith, named for the indie songwriter who died in 2003 at the age of 34. The program will be a collection of individual compositions by Goldberg named for, inspired by, and based upon his study of Smith’s songs.

This concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Center for New Music. This is located at 55 Taylor Street, about half a block north of the intersection with Market Street. General admission will be $15 with a $12 rate for members. Further information is available on the event page on the CNM Web site.

The second alternative for Valentine’s Day is the debut of a new chamber ensemble that calls itself Phonochrome. While the group is based here in the Bay Area, it emerged from a series of conversations among friends at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), whose backgrounds included Carnegie Mellon University, Yale University, and The Juilliard School. The founding members are pianist Allegra Chapman, cellist Laura Gaynon, and flutist Elizabeth Talbert. For their debut concert they will be joined by violinists Cassandra Bequary and Joseph Maile, clarinetist Sophie Huet, and cellist Jerry Liu.

The title of Phonochrome’s debut program will be Love at the End of the World. The major work to be performed will be Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time.” The program will begin with Claude Debussy’s only sonata for violin (in the key of G major), completed in 1917, only months before his death in 1918, and dedicated to his wife. In addition, the founding members of Phonochrome will perform the three Aquarelles (watercolors), composed by Philippe Gaubert in 1926.

This concert will begin at 8 p.m. in the SFCM Concert Hall at 50 Oak Street. Tickets are free, and a reception will follow. Further information is available by calling the Box Office at 415-503-6275. (Box Office hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday through Friday.)

Making a choice for the following evening is likely to be equally difficult. Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova will return to SFP with her usual accompanist, pianist Cédric Tiberghien. She has prepared a program that involves an ingenious interleaving of the classical with the modern. In the former category she will perform two violin sonatas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, K. 30 in G major and K. 304 in E minor, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 47 (“Kreutzer”) sonata in A major. Between the two Mozart sonatas, she and Tiberghien will perform John Cage’s “Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard,” composed in 1950. This is one of Cage’s pieces that deals with varying sonorities in meticulous detail, giving the specific string for each of the notes in the violin part. Then, the Beethoven sonata will be preceded by the four pieces of Anton Webern’s Opus 7, composed in 1910 with just as much attention to details of sonority.

This concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 15, at the SFJAZZ Center. This is located at 201 Franklin Street, at the northwest corner of Fell Street. Ticket prices range from $38 to $65. Tickets may be purchased from the event page on the SFP Web site.

The same evening is also the next San Francisco performance by the New Century Chamber Orchestra (NCCO) under the leadership of Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. The program has been conceived to feature the talents of three of the Adler Fellows of the San Francisco Opera, soprano Maria Valdes, baritone Efraín Solís, and tenor Thomas Glenn. They will participate in a performance of “Rita,” a one-act operatic comedy of domestic strife by Gaetano Donizetti. Staging will be by Eugene Brancoveanu, and Peter Grunberg has arranged Donizetti’s score for NCCO resources.

The first half of the program will also feature arrangements. Clarice Assad has rescored both the intermezzo from Pietro Mascagni’s one-act opera “Cavalleria Rusticana” and the “Meditation” from Jules Massenet’s Thaïs, which will feature a violin solo taken by Salerno-Sonnenberg. The overture for the evening will be Mats Lidström’s all-string arrangement of the overture to Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus; and the NCCO strings will also perform the Prestissimo movement from Giuseppe Verdi’s E minor string quartet.

The San Francisco performance of this concert will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 15, in Kanbar Hall at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. This is located at 3200 California Street on the northwest corner of Presidio Avenue. Single tickets range in price from $29 to $59 and are now on sale through the City Box Office Web site, with an event page in place for this concert, or at 415-392-4400. Discounted single tickets will be available at $15 for patrons under 35. Further information is available by calling 415-392-4400.

In addition there will be an open rehearsal of this program that will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, February 11. The venue is the Kanbar Performing Arts Center, located at 44 Page Street. All tickets for this event are $8; and they, too, may be purchased from their own City Box Office event page.

Finally, there will be two concerts on Sunday; but in this case the timing will be such that the die-hard enthusiast will be able to attend both.

In the afternoon Paul Jacobs will return to the console of the Ruffatti organ in Davies Symphony Hall. He will begin with an “overture,” the sinfonia that Johann Sebastian Bach composed for his BWV 29 cantata Wir danken dir, Gott, performed as an organ solo. He will also use the organ to perform an Andante in F major that Mozart originally composed for a mechanical organ. The remainder of the program will be devoted to music originally composed for solo organ performance, a D minor sonata by Alexandre Guilamant (his first) and Max Reger’s “Introduction, Variations, and Fugue on an Original Theme.”

This recital will be given in Davies Symphony Hall at 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 16. Ticket prices range from $20 to $30 and are only available on the Orchestra and Loge Levels. They may be purchased through an event page on the San Francisco Symphony Web site, at the Davies Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, or by calling 415-864-6000.

This will be followed by the return of German pianist Christian Zacharias to SFP in the evening. Zacharias has decided to frame his program with two Beethoven sonatas, beginning with Opus 26 in A-flat major and concluding with Opus 14, Number 2 in G major. The “interior” of the recital will consist of Franz Schubert’s D. 780 collection Moments Musicaux and Robert Schumann’s Opus 16 “Kreisleriana.”

This concert will begin at 7 p.m. on Sunday, February 16, at the SFJAZZ Center. This is located at 201 Franklin Street, at the northwest corner of Fell Street. Ticket prices range from $38 to $68. Tickets may be purchased from the event page on the SFP Web site.

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