February 14, 2013
S.F. Symphony Mixtape
The San Francisco Symphony just won its 15th Grammy award since 1992, and fifth in the category of Best Orchestral Performance. Here’s a salute to this great ensemble, showcasing some of their award-winning recordings and some favorite pieces of the orchestral repertoire. Bad speakers will be overwhelmed by a lot of this music, so take that as your impetus to bring the kids to hear the orchestra live.
1. The Call of Ktulu; with Metallica, conducted by Michael Kamen
This heavy-metal instrumental, featuring some stellar lead guitar from Kirk Hammett, comes from the band’s album S&M, which was recorded live with the Symphony in 1999. It won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental in 2001. Send the grandparents out of the room for this one.
2. “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, from Peer Gynt Suite (Edvard Grieg), conducted by Herbert Blomstedt.
One of the most common classical pieces in popular culture, Grieg’s comic little piece is played by the orchestra from a 1991 recording under Blomstedt, their previous music director, who just owns the Scandinavian repertoire.
3. Short Ride in a Fast Machine (John Adams), conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
Classical head-banging at its best. This is from the latest SFS Grammy-winning album, recorded live on tour. Send the grandparents out of the room — again.
4. Symphony No. 2, fourth movement (Jean Sibelius), conducted by Herbert Blomstedt
An exciting finale to a great piece, and every time the main tune sings out you may need to give the romantics in the room some space.
5 and 6. Two excerpts from The Firebird (Igor Stravinsky): Plea of the Firebird, Apparition of the 13 Princesses, Final tableau (Rejoicing), conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
Time for a little breather: The first excerpt from Stravinsky’s beloved ballet floats on muted strings playing a gorgeous melody. And then, the grand finale, with its thrilling (and loud!) conclusion. This album won three Grammys, including Best Engineering.
7. Symphony No. 2, third movement (Gustav Mahler), conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
Back to drama: An abrupt opening, a mysterious and winding theme with characterful wind instrument commentaries. There are so many different moods in this movement, it’s like an 11-minute symphony on its own. The orchestra has become famous for its Mahler playing under Tilson Thomas, and their cycle of Mahler orchestral works together has won seven Grammys.
8. “Hoe-Down”, from Rodeo (Aaron Copland), conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
Here’s one of the most popular encore pieces in the repertory. A little dessert, post Mahler. It’s off the album Copland the Populist.
Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.