March 13, 2011
Spring Ahead: Our Critic's Picks
Vista/Vision at Oakland East Bay Symphony
The Oakland East Bay Symphony’s innovative series of commissions, called New Visions/New Vistas, reaches its conclusion on April 15, with a new work by one of the Bay Area’s busiest jazz and improv musicians, drummer Scott Amendola. The composer will be one of three soloists, holding down drums, percussion, and electronics, alongside two equally exciting musicians, Los Angeles avant-jazz figure (and Wilco lead guitarist) Nels Cline and bassist Trevor Dunn. The wide-ranging program includes Tchaikovsky’s dramatic Symphony No. 4 and a centennial tribute to one of the greatest of film composers, Bernard Herrmann, with his Suite from Vertigo.
Michael Morgan conducts the Oakland East Bay Symphony, April 15, 8 p.m., Paramount Theatre, $20-$65. (B.F.)
San Francisco Symphony: French Fire
Looking at the Symphony’s guest-conducted programs, the concerts of April 14-17, led by Charles Dutoit with the outstanding young French cellist Gautier Capuçon, stand out. They’ll be performing Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique as well as Henri Dutilleux’s 1970 cello concerto, Tout un Monde lointain. Berlioz and Dutilleux are among the great orchestrators of their respective eras, and Dutoit, a master of symphonic color and detail, should make the most of this program.
Charles Dutoit conducts the San Francisco Symphony, April 14, 17, 2 p.m.; April 15, 16, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, S.F., $15-$135. (B.F.)
If an ensemble I’d never heard of were to program Haydn’s quartet Op. 20/3, Mendelssohn’s Op. 13, and Schoenberg’s First Quartet on one concert, I think I’d show up just to find out whether they were nuts ... or geniuses. Given that it’s violinist Christian Tetzlaff’s recently founded string quartet, I’m leaning toward “geniuses.” The Haydn is a personal favorite, not least for one of the more gorgeous slow movements he ever wrote, yet the piece as a whole is too danged strange to have made it into the ordinary string quartet’s “Hey!-we-need-some-Haydn!” bin. And the Mendelssohn is teenage Felix smitten by late Beethoven — urgent, impassioned, and (again) not a little strange.
As for the Schoenberg, it’s the sort of vast undertaking that tends to be done well if done at all, because you just don’t try it unless you believe in the piece. And if you do believe in it (and have the requisite colossal chops), it comes startlingly alive. If you missed the Artemis Quartet’s jaw-droppingly-great performance four years ago, here’s another chance to visit the outskirts of tonality, and to understand why so many people found that neighborhood so fascinating.
San Francisco Performances presents the Tetzlaff Quartet, April 16, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, S.F., $35-$60. (M.D.T.)
California Bach Society:
Brahms and the German Legacy
Choral conductor Paul Flight and I must be on the same wavelength, because he seems to be putting together programs that are no-brainers to recommend. This Cal Bach Society concert, for instance, weds a lot of wonderful choral music by Brahms with the music that inspired him.
Brahms was an early early-music buff, collecting the first scholarly editions of the music of many Renaissance and Baroque composers, so it seems like an obvious move to put his music together with that of his musical forebears, like Heinrich Schütz. It’s not a history lesson, just an evening of fantastic melodies and lively contrasts.
April 29, 8 p.m., St. Mark's Lutheran Church, S.F.; April 30, 8 p.m., All Saints' Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; May 1, 4 p.m., St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Berkeley, $10-$25. (M.Z.)
Anthony Dean Griffey
Teaming up with his fellow North Carolinian pianist Warren Jones, Anthony Dean Griffey takes a road trip down South. Somewhere along the way, fiddler Paul Brown hops aboard. As they take a little detour west for a generous helping of Ruth Felt’s home-style fries, they also dive into new road songs by Kenneth Frazelle. With generous helpings of traditional American fare, as well as songs by Stephen Foster and Paul Bowles, these boys will have you longing for grits and black-eyed peas in no time.
San Francisco Performances presents Anthony Dean Griffey, May 4, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, S.F., $35-$60. (J.V.S.)
San Francisco Choral Artists:
With Strings Attached
The Choral Artists, a 24-voice chamber choir, joins forces with the esteemed Alexander String Quartet in a program of new music by Paul Seiko Chihara, Michael Gandolfi, and Veronika Krausas and new arrangements of music by Beethoven and Brahms.
May 7, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, S.F.; May 14, 8 p.m., St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oakland; May 15, TBD, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto, $20-$35. (M.Z.)
The Gurs Zuklus: Testimony From an Internment Camp
Stanford Lively Arts concludes its 2010/2011 season with the world premiere of The Gurs Zuklus (The Gurs cycle), a collaboration between Seattle-based inventor and sound-sculptor Trimpin and director-vocalist Rinde Eckert. The multimedia performance focuses on Gurs, the World War II internment camp near the French-Spanish border where Jews from Trimpin’s town, as well as his mentor, composer Conlon Nancarrow, were sent. Developed in connection with Stanford’s Center for Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), this premiere promises one of the season’s more unusual new works.
Stanford Lively Arts presents The Gurs Zyklus, May 14, 8 p.m., Memorial Auditorium, Stanford University, $38-$42. (G.R.)
The program so far is a little vague (promising “Lindberg and Stravinsky”), but anything involving Magnus Lindberg, Jennifer Koh, and Anssi Karttunen is bound to be worth hearing. Koh, the violinist, is an extraordinary player, brimful of energy and game for the most exhausting projects, yet remarkably savvy at picking them; I’ve never seen her pour her enthusiasm into bad music. Karttunen, the cellist, is a one-man concerto-inspiring magnet. We haven’t had much opportunity to sample Lindberg’s pianism, but his fertile compositional imagination has been proven in the test.
San Francisco Performances is also sponsoring this trio for a free concert event at the San Francisco Community Music Center following the main concert.
San Francisco Performances presents the Lindberg/Koh/Karttunen Trio, May 15, 2 p.m., S.F. Conservatory of Music, $30-$50. Free hour-long concert; Jennifer Koh in solo recital, May 13, 6 p.m., San Francisco Community Music Center. (M.D.T)
New Century Chamber Orchestra Elevates Itself
Concluding its third season under the leadership of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the New Century Chamber Orchestra presents the world premiere of Elevations by this season’s resident composer, Mark O’Connor. The string ensemble’s stellar abilities should find an ideal match in O’Connor, one of the more inventive violinists around. The program is rounded out with some of Elgar’s loveliest music, plus rarities by Frank Bridge and Alfred Schnittke.
NCCO presents a Mark O’Connor world premiere, May 19, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; May 20, 8 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto; May 21, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, S.F.; May 22, 5 p.m., Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael, $29-$49.
Cantare con Vivo:
I, Too, Sing America
Cantare con Vivo explores another classic repertory, African-American spirituals and gospel, with the help of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. There’s a multimedia part that helps to tell the story of these songs, but with 150-plus voices and a rhythm section, the music threatens to knock down the walls — and not just at Jericho.
May 21, 7:30 p.m., Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church; May 22, 4:00 p.m., First Congregational Church, Oakland, $10-$40. (M.Z.)
In her last San Francisco Performances recital, lyric soprano Kate Royal sang beautifully. This time, her repertoire consists of love songs. With Chris Glynn on piano, she becomes the third major singer this year to tackle songs by Gabriel Fauré, The very thought of the music of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Debussy, Frank Bridge, and Britten in the throat of such a fine singer enraptures.
San Francisco Performances presents Kate Royal, May 24, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, S.F., $35-$60.(J.V.S.)
San Francisco Girls Chorus: Beyond Boundaries
The San Francisco Girls Chorus also goes in for multimedia —along with staging, lighting, and musical partners the Cypress String Quartet and Sonos Handbell Choir — in a concert that really shows what the girls can do. Chen Yi’s Angel Island Passages, a reprise of a commission from last year, comes with a film by Felicia Lowe. There is also a newly commissioned work by the famous composer Tania Leòn, along with music by Libby Larsen, and much more.
June 9-10, 8 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, S.F., $18-$35. (M.Z.)
Desperate Lovers’ Double Feature
Leave it to West Bay Opera’s José Luis Moscovich to pair two quite different love stories — one English Baroque, the other 20th-century Spanish. Both feature dying female protagonists and great music. Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve is rarely performed in full, and Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas is often presented in concert format, so this should be a night of striking colors and contrasts.
West Bay Opera presents Dido and Aeneas and La Vida Breve, May 20, 28, 8 p.m., and May 22, 29, 2 p.m., Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto, $35-$60. (J.V.S.)
San Francisco Opera: Wagner’s Ring Cycle
Guaranteed to move you to the core (and perhaps strain your finances), San Francisco Opera’s pricey mounting of Francesco Zambello’s American take on Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung will draw Ringophiles from around the world. A major undertaking, preceded by a host of educational opportunities offered by Osher Lifelong Learning (San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley), San Francisco Opera, the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, and other entities, San Francisco Opera’s Ring cycle will put the international spotlight on the War Memorial Opera House. Three complete cycles will be given, from June 14 through July 3.
San Francisco Opera presents The Ring of the Nibelung, June 14-19 (Cycle 1); June 21-26 (Cycle 2); June 28-July 3 (Cycle 3); War Memorial Opera House, S.F. $380-$1,440. (J.V.S.)
Ojai North! With Dawn Upshaw
Now in its sixth decade, the Ojai Music Festival is one of the highlights of the Southern California music calendar. Under Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris, the festival brings its innovative, adventurous programming to the Bay Area for the first time this year as part of a multiyear partnership with Cal Performances. With details still to be announced, Ojai North! will feature a premiere by composer Maria Schneider, a new production by director Peter Sellars starring Dawn Upshaw (who also serves as Ojai’s 2011 music director), and performances by the Maria Schneider and Australian Chamber orchestras.