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(To What) Shall We Dance? Music for the S.F. Ballet Season

January 21, 2014

Pascal Molat in Yuri Possokhov's <em>Firebird</em> to the Stravinsky score Photos by Erik TomassonSan Francisco Ballet Music Director Martin West says, with justifiable pride, that his orchestra will perform "the most diverse repertoire of any company I know."

The Ballet season of new works and classics features a variety that certainly compares favorably with that of many symphony orchestras, never mind ballet companies.

West singles out "the Shostakovich 'tryptich' — three exceptional pieces of Shostakovich to show off the different styles of his art. For Stravinsky, both Firebird and Rite of Spring in the same season — is an impressive amount for the orchestra play. Rite of Spring calls for the largest orchestra ever assembled by the ballet. 

After the season-opening gala on Wednesday and then from Jan. 25-Feb. 2 Giselle on the first program, here's what's coming:

John Neumeier's A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Feb. 12-13) is set on music by Mendelssohn and Ligeti; Program 2 (Feb. 18-March 1) offers Moritz Moszkowski's music for Alexei Ratmansky's From Foreign Lands and music by Joel Cadbury and Paul Stoney for Wayne McGregor's Borderlands. The world premiere on the program, by the musically always adventurous Val Caniparoli, is Steve Reich's Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards, commissioned and first performed by the San Francisco Symphony in 1980.

Program 3 (Feb. 20-March 2) will have the Yuri Possokhov Firebird to the Stravinsky score, Christopher Wheeldon's Ghosts to music by C.F. Kip Winger, and Act 2 of the Minkus Bayadère, set on Leon Minkus' music.

Scene from Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella Wheeldon's Cinderella is to Prokofiev's score in Program 4 (March 11-23), followed by Program 5 and Alexei Ratmansky's Trilogy to Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony, Piano Concerto No. 1, and the Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor.

Stravinsky returns to Program 6 (March 11-23), with The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Possokhov, Mark Morris' Maelstrom, with Beethoven's music, and a world premiere by Helgi Tomasson, Symphonic Caprice, to Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 2, plus the Adagio from Symphony No. 3.

Program 7 (April 29-May 10) is especially varied: a world premiere by Liam Scarlett, to Philip Glass' Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra; Tomasson's The Fifth Season to a Karl Jenkins score; and Serge Lifar's classic Suite en Blanc, set to music excerpted from the 1882 ballet Namouna by Èdouard Lalo.

The season-closer Program 8 (May 1-11) has two music-identifying titles: George Balanchine's Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet and Jerome Robbins' (Philip) Glass Pieces, plus Balanchine's Agon to the Stravinsky score.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].