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Season Preview: In the Wings for Spring 2018

January 16, 2018

Artistic life in the Bay Area is humming along and the new classical music season is so heavy with must-see events that even listing them, much less seeing them all is exhausting. Here’s a partial list to help you mark your calendars and keep your New Year’s resolution to “live life to the fullest” and get out more. If your resolution was to stop spending so much money on concerts, I feel your pain. But keep checking SFCV: we’ll review or preview almost all the following concerts.

Anderson and Roe, Jan. 21, Schroeder Hall, Green Center

You can start the party this weekend with the most exciting duo-pianist act of recent years appearing this weekend up at the Green Center. Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Roe tackle all sorts of genres, and they do it with imaginative theatricality and precision choreography.

PIVOT, Jan. 24-27, S.F. Performances, ACT Strand Theater

One of the events on this series, which focuses on cutting edge performers, the L.A. Dance Project, is already sold out. But you can still see pianist/composer Timo Andres’s recital of music by Janacek, and new-generation composers Caroline Shaw, Christopher Cerrone, and Eric Shanfield, or pianist Sarah Cahill’s tribute to the music of Lou Harrison, or the high-velocity Joe Goode Performance Group. And after you PIVOT, remember to start dating your documents “2018.”

The Sleeping Beauty, Jan. 23–Feb. 4, S.F. Ballet

Why do we have a major ballet company around that performs with a full orchestra if not to do the greatest classical ballet of all time? S.F. Ballet is fulfilling that brief with their incredible roster of dancers and their great orchestra. ‘Nuff said.

ZOFO Piano Duet, ZOFOMOMA, Jan. 27, S.F. Conservatory of Music

Speaking of piano duets, the 20-finger orchestra of Keisuke Nakagoshi and Eva-Marie Zimmermann create their own Pictures at an Exhibition, with new works by 15 younger composers responding to artworks of their choice. The list of composers is impressive and spans a good bit of the world, so this should be a lively concert.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Feb. 2-4, SFJAZZ

This famous jazz collective is not just dedicated to New Orleans classics. In their latest iteration, they are embracing contemporary New Orleans as well, and they’re a hot ticket.

Circa – Il ritorno, Feb. 3-4, Cal Performances

Circus and Monteverdi? We’re wide open over here, and can’t wait to see Australian troupe Circa take on Monteverdi’s opera based on Homer’s Odyssey, with four musicians and two singers, plus aerialists and other performers.

Oakland Symphony: Notes from LGBQ, Feb. 9, Paramount Theatre

No, this concert is not being singled out for its political message, although props to Michael Morgan for the work he’s doing this season. But as a piece of programming, weaving Samuel Barber’s first Essay for Orchestra, together with Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2, and Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral, there’s not a better thought-out orchestral concert this season.

Trouble in Tahiti/At the Statue of Venus, Feb. 14-18, Opera Parallele at SFJAZZ’s Miner Auditorium

One of the best of the small, local opera companies takes on Bernstein’s funny and poignant one act and then pairs it with Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s lyrical monologue about dating. It’s a match made in heaven, to coin a phrase.

St. John Passion, Feb. 23-26, American Bach Soloists

You know the drill: Bach vocal works, performed by the spectacular ABS choir and orchestra under Music Director Jeffrey Thomas. If you love Bach, you have to be there. If you don’t, well, maybe an episode of Grey’s Anatomy?

Michael Schade/ Livia Sohn/ Kevin Murphy February 24, Chamber Music San Francisco

The admired German tenor partners with violinist Sohn in repertoire that you don’t hear every day, including arrangements by Fritz Kreisler for tenor, violin, and piano.

Kronos Quartet, My Lai, March 4, Cal Performances

The new music wizards are joined by vocalist Rinde Eckart, Vân-Ành Võ on dan bau and other Vietnamese instruments and an electronic soundscape of helicopters, voices, and snippets of American blues in a specially commissioned work by Stanford composer Jonathan Berger about the shocking massacre during the Vietnam War.

San Francisco Symphony, American Optimism, March 15-17, Davies Hall

A world premiere by modernist icon Charles Wuorinen shares the bill with Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3, while Behzod Abduraimov plays Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner (Photo by Jürgen Frank)

Jennifer Koh/ Shai Wosner Bridge to Beethoven, March 17, Green Center

The violinist and pianist explore more new music inspired by Beethoven in another installment of Koh’s multi-year project.

San Francisco Symphony, Mahler’s Fifth, March 22-25, Davies Hall

Gil Shaham is a gifted, sensitive violinist, exactly the right person to play Alban Berg’s gorgeous Violin Concerto with the fervor to convince skeptics. It’s a great piece in the right hands and really sounds like it came out of Mahler’s sound world, which is why it’s such a fine pairing for MTT’s reading of the Fifth Symphony.

The Kronos Quartet (Photo by Jay Blakesberg)

Kronos Quartet, 50 for the Future, Stanford Live, April 4

The great quartet continues their project to provide a newly-composed learning repertory of string quartet compositions for young chamber musicians and string quartets yet-to-be.

Seattle Symphony, Cal Performances Apr. 7-8

Ludovic Morlot is leading the orchestra on a last tour as their music director, but the other part of the story is the local premiere of John Luther Adams’s Become Desert, a companion to the highly-praised Become Ocean which Seattle also commissioned and recorded. In a very cool programming connection, the orchestra has also put Sibelius’ The Oceanides and Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes on the playlist as well.

Sir Andras Schiff, S.F. Symphony/ S.F. Performances, April 15-17

In two major recitals, the famous pianist takes on last works by a range of classical greats from Bach to Brahms.

The Triplets of Belleville, film screening with live orchestra, Stanford Live, April 17-18

Benoît Charest leads Le Terrible Orchestre de Belleville in a live performance of his original score for the film, including his Academy Award–winning best song.

Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Apollo’s Fire, Cal Performances, April 20

Depending on how much Monteverdi you want in your life you can check out this and American Bach Soloists’ Vespers of 1610 (April 6-9), but if I were going to put only one in an article about what you should make time for, Apollo’s Fire would get the nod. Jeanette Sorrell’s group is a major force in early music and here’s a chance to hear them live.

San Francisco Ballet, Unbound, April 20-29

The most ambitious festival of new work, in fact the only festival of new work in the company’s history, this three-program extravaganza brings in many of ballet’s most successful choreographers and forces them to work with great soloists and a finely tuned corps de ballet. My life should be so difficult.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Beethoven Unleashed, April 25-29

Not the least of Nicholas McGegan’s many talents is his ability to bring in first-rate soloists. And in contralto Avery Amereau he’s picking up a star-to-be with a rich voice and strong interpretive skills. She’s singing in an unusual program of early Beethoven that includes the Mass in C Major and the Choral Fantasy, as well as Luigi Cherubini’s seldom-heard Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn.

S.F. Symphony with Ray Chen, May 3-5, Davis Hall

The young, celebrated violinist plays Brahms’ Violin Concerto and Juraj Valcuha conducts Prokofiev’s Third Symphony and a fun concert opener in Andrew Norman’s Unstuck.

eco ensemble, Cal Performances, May 6

MORE film music! This time it’s the U.S. premiere of Argentine composer Martin Matalon's film score for Ernst Lubitsch's The Oyster Princess, a 1919 silent comedy of mistaken identities. Matalon has already scored classic films by Fritz Lang and Luis Buñuel, but this will be his first foray into mollusks.

Dido and Aeneas, Voices of Music and S.F. Girls Chorus, First Congregational Church, Berkeley, June 9

The Berkeley Festival and Exhibition returns in 2018, and as always there will be a lot to see and hear. If you’re a true devotee, then you won’t mind the 10:30 start time for this cool nugget: Purcell’s famous English opera performed by soloists from the S.F. Girls Chorus in a re-imagining of one of the first known performances, at Josiah Priest’s Girls School. How many chances are you going to get to see that?

The Ring of the Nibelungs, S.F. Opera, June 12–July 1

The four-opera, 15-hour, all-hands-on-deck ultimate operatic challenge is back under the baton of Donald Runnicles with an excellent cast in Francesca Zambello’s popular “American Ring” production. Yes, tickets will sell out, and if you’re thinking of going, remember famed soprano Birgit Nilsson’s tip to a singer about to embark on her first Isolde (in Tristan und Isolde): wear comfortable shoes.

Ojai at Berkeley, The Music of Michael Hersch, Cal Performances, June 15

Award-winning soprano Kiera Duffy and soprano Ah Young Hong star in I hope we get a chance to visit soon, a dramatic cantata co-commissioned by Cal Peformances.

S.F. Symphony, Boris Gudonov, June 14-17

For a man who won’t pick up the baton in an opera house, Michael Tilson Thomas is a remarkably strong opera conductor and he will have his hands full with Mussorgsky’s epic. The orchestra is playing the 1869 version, which doesn’t have the Polish scenes, and is rawer in many ways. 


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.