Chamber Music San Francisco Announces a Varied, Ambitious Lineup

Janos Gereben on January 23, 2018
Tenor Michael Schade | Credit: Harald Hoffmann

Daniel Levenstein has announced Chamber Music San Francisco’s 15th season, an impressive recital series with 10 world-renowned artists. These are San Francisco concert dates, all in Herbst Theater (see the CMSF website for complete season information, with additional events in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto):

  • Violinist James Ehnes opens the season on Feb. 11, accompanied by the acclaimed pianist Orion Weiss, performing sonatas by Beethoven, Poulenc, Richard Strauss, and promising “other works announced from the stage.”

  • Tenor Michael Schade — whose Meistersinger David in San Francisco is still treasured 18 years later  — is due on Feb. 24, to perform lieder by Schubert, Mozart and Strauss; selections from Wagner operas and Handel oratorios; and featuring Livia Sohn with “violin solos based on operatic themes.” Schade’s accompanist, Kevin Murphy, joins him and Sohn in performing Fritz Kreisler arrangements for tenor, violin and piano.

  • Midori, accompanied by pianist Özgür Aydin will perform sonatas by Mozart, César Franck, Schubert, and Ottorino Respighi on April 22.

  • There is an important series of current great and up-and-coming pianists: Seong-Jin Cho (March 4), Angela Hewitt (March 11), Yeol Eum Son (May 5), and Alexander Gavrylyuk (May 20).

  • Ensembles range from the Israeli Chamber Project (March 17), the Artemis String Quartet, and “Brandenburg Concertos” by the Archetti Baroque String Orchestra.

Violinist Livia Sohn will perform with tenor Michael Schade and pianist Kevin Murphy, Feb. 24 in San Francisco, Feb. 25 in Walnut Creek, Feb. 26 in Palo Alto | Credit: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

This impressive roster invites the question: How does Levenstein do it? As large performing arts organizations everywhere struggle with funding and attendance, here’s a one-man band going strong, year in, year out, and actually picking up steam. 

The secret of CMSF’s success: Levenstein’s decades of involvement with performing arts in and around San Francisco (and “globally”), and the multitude of contacts with artists and managers. He says his career is not merely checkered: “You would need stacks of checkerboards to do it justice.” But, he firmly believes, “each step of the way has been an essential step toward doing what I do today.”

Those steps included operating a music software and equipment distributorship, running a music-booking service, and directing a school of musical theater. Levenstein wrote and produced shows for the S.F. Conservatory of Music, the S.F. Convention & Visitors Bureau, and such corporate clients as Toshiba, Seagram Classics, and Silicon Graphics.

A composer of works performed by artists ranging from the Mommies to the Kronos Quartet, Levenstein has produced soundtracks for clients including blues singers, a Charles Schulz ice show, country bands, Hartford Ballet, and a ventriloquist. He served as associate musical director of Beach Blanket Babylon for 13 years.

Daniel Levenstein | Credit: Tommyphoto

In 1993, after working with the late choreographer Michael Smuin on dozens of projects (including Anything Goes on Broadway, the Geena Davis film Angie, and even a show for Siegfried and Roy), Levenstein co-founded Smuin Ballet and served as its executive director until 2001.

With his can-do versatility, Levenstein handled marketing, fundraising, and touring logistics, and even served as Smuin Ballet’s music director. In 2003 he embarked on the project that was his greatest challenge, creating an organization to present chamber music — music that by its name suggests performances in small venues  — by famous artists in halls as large as the 900-seat Herbst Theater. Somehow it all worked.