Musical Gems Sparkle in S.F. Symphony's Next Season

Janos Gereben on February 29, 2016
Michael Tilson Thomas, with Dan Carlson, principal second violin, on his right (Photo by Stefan Cohen)
Michael Tilson Thomas, with Dan Carlson, principal second violin, on his right (Photo by Stefan Cohen)

From the opening gala on Sept. 7, with Renée Fleming and Susan Graham, to the closing concert on July 1, 2017, of Berlioz's glorious Roméo et Juliette, the San Francisco Symphony's next season is replete with gems.

With more than 200 concerts in subscription series, special events, and an extensive tour of Asia with Yuja Wang, the S.F. Symphony has a busy time coming. The orchestra also will travel East, to Chapel Hill, NC, and two Carnegie Hall concerts with works by Cage, Bartók, Mahler, and Shostakovich.

Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas returns for his 22nd season, presenting a result of his composing sabbatical last fall through spring, namely Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (June 23-25).

In a return to the bolder programming of his earlier seasons here, MTT also features contemporary and American composers, including three round-numbered birthday celebrations of the conductor's long-time collaborators: John Adams at 70, Steve Reich at 80, and the centennial of the late Lou Harrison.

First S.F. Symphony performances include works by Adams, Gregorio Allegri, Mikhail Glinka, Mikhail Gnesin, Haydn, Hindemith, Robin Holloway, Alessandro Marcello, Mussorgsky, Rossini, Verdi, and Franz Schreker.

Among numerous new-music offerings is the world premiere of Bright Sheng’s Overture to Dream of the Red Chamber, Sept. 28-Oct. 1 (the premiere of the entire opera will be presented by the San Francisco Opera Sept. 10-29). Besides the Sheng Overture, that S.F. Symphony series also includes Stravinsky's Le Chant du rossignol and The Firebird Suite, in addition to Shostakovich's First Piano Concerto, with Yuja Wang as soloist.

Visiting Davies Hall during the orchestra's 105th season is a famous and somewhat older colleague, the Berlin Philharmonic (born as an independent organization in 1882). Under the baton of Simon Rattle, the Philharmonic performs on Nov. 22 and 23, featuring Mahler's Symphony No. 7 on Tuesday and Brahms' Symphony No. 2 on Wednesday, among other works.

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic coming to  Davies Hall (Photo by Mark Allan)
Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic coming to Davies Hall (Photo by Mark Allan)

The parade of guests includes the China Philharmonic, led by Yu Long, with violinist Julian Rachlin; the Danish National Orchestra with conductor Fabio Luisi in two programs with violinist Arabella Steinbacher and soprano Deborah Voigt; Gustavo Dudamel leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Emmanuel Villaume conducts the Prague Philharmonia Orchestra, with cellist Gautier Capuçon; the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Yuri Temirkanov, with violinist Sayaka Shoji, and pianist Garrick Ohlsson; and conductor Jacek Kaspszyk makes his Davies Symphony Hall debut with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and pianist Yulianna Avdeeva.

Pianists Lang Lang, Murray Perahia and András Schiff, and violinists Anne-Sophie Mutter and Itzhak Perlman are among recitalists.

A special project is a series of semi-staged performances of Mahler’s rarely-performed Das klagende Lied with new staging conceived by MTT, directed by James Darrah with video design by Adam Larsen, featuring soprano Joélle Harvey, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, and baritone Brian Mulligan.

Good news about prominent maestros returning to lead the S.F. Symphony: Pablo Heras-Casado (Oct. 19-22); the orchestra's former assistant conductor, James Gaffigan (Jan. 19-22); Lionel Bringuier (Jan. 26-28); Marek Janowski (March 9-12); Juraj Valؤچuha (March 16-18); Susanna Mälkki (June 9-11), Vasily Petrenko (June 15-18).

Subscription packages season go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, March 7; single tickets for individual 2016-17 concerts will go on sale Monday, July 18.