Bennewitz Quartet
The Bennewitz Quartet performs Feb. 26–28 | Credit: Pavel Ovsík

If there is an upside to the pandemic, Daniel Levenstein has found it. The founder and director of Chamber Music San Francisco says:

“Because of rescheduling previously cancelled concerts, our 2022 season has the richest lineup of stars we’ve ever had: Sarah Chang, Emanuel Ax, Rafal Blechacz, Midori, and Mischa Maisky. It’s almost too much. Apparently, other concert series around the country are experiencing this as well.”

Daniel Levenstein
Daniel Levenstein | Credit: Tommyphoto

The organization’s 2020 season was cancelled midway by the pandemic — March 1 was the last event — but CMSF survived “through the generosity of our ticket holders, a good percentage of whom donated their tickets to us rather than asking for refunds,” Levenstein says. “We then responded in 2021, although we had no live concerts, with an online video season of five artists, taped in Prague, Paris, Japan, Amsterdam, and Brussels. The artists we chose for this included proven audience favorites, and the online season succeeded in keeping much of our loyal audience involved.”

Still, crises never cease these days, and the very first program of the season faced cancelation: “Our first artists this season, the Notos Piano Quartet, had the rest of their debut U.S. tour cancelled because of COVID, but they are very nobly still honoring their commitment to us. They are flying here from Germany, doing our three concerts, and then flying back to Germany!”

The 2022 season consists of 10 concerts in San Francisco (in the 892-seat Herbst Theatre), five concerts in Walnut Creek (in the 297-seat Margaret Lesher Theatre), and five concerts in Palo Alto (in the 330-seat theater at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center).

In San Francisco, the season begins on Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. with the San Francisco debut of the Notos Piano Quartet from Germany, performing Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47 and Brahms’s Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25. (Walnut Creek on Feb. 12 at 2:30 p.m.; Palo Alto, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m.)

Next, on Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. will be the local LaDeur-Tomkins Duo, performing cello sonatas by Chopin and Mendelssohn on fortepiano and period cello.

On Feb. 26 at 8 p.m., the Bennewitz Quartet from the Czech Republic will make its San Francisco debut, performing Haydn, Schumann, and Dvorák. (Walnut Creek on Feb. 27 at 2:30 p.m.; Palo Alto, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m.)

Russian pianist Nikolay Khozyainov returns on March 5 at 8 p.m. with a program yet to be announced.

Midori performs March 19–21 | Credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Kennedy Center honoree violinist Midori returns to CMSF on March 19 at 8 p.m. with a program including works by Bach, Mozart, Schumann, and Brahms. (Walnut Creek, March 20 at 2:30 p.m.; Palo Alto, March 21 at 7:30 p.m.)

Another returning artist, cellist Mischa Maisky performs on March 23 at 8 p.m., joined by his daughter Lily Maisky, playing piano, and his son Sascha Maisky, playing violin.

Maisky told Levenstein that “he is enduring many cancellations in this period, especially in Asia. His engagements in Russia are maintaining, however, and his dates in Europe with Martha Argerich also are continuing. He is grateful for every performance opportunity these days, but performing with his kids is especially meaningful to him, and he is really looking forward to their performance at Herbst on March 23.”

On April 3 at 3 p.m., Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz will make a return appearance with a program of works by Bach, Beethoven, Cesar Franck, and Chopin.

On April 12 at 8 p.m., Ukrainian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk, gold medalist at the Arthur Rubinstein Competition, performs works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Rachmaninov. (Walnut Creek, April 9 at 2:30 p.m.; Palo Alto, April 11 at 7:30 p.m.)

Emanuel Ax

On Sunday, April 24 at 3 p.m., pianist Emanuel Ax will make his debut in the series, playing a concert of works by Chopin. (Walnut Creek, April 23 at 2 p.m.; Palo Alto, April 25 at 7:30 p.m.)

The 2022 season ends in San Francisco on May 8 at 3 p.m. with violinist Sarah Chang and pianist Julio Elizalde in a program of works by Brahms, Bartók, and Franck.

Subscription packages (of four or more concerts) are available now for the San Francisco concerts, including the full Series (all 10 events for $360); single tickets are also available, ranging from $48 to $70 for the best seats. Purchases may be made by calling (415) 392-4400 or online at

When it comes to pandemic-time uncertainties, Levenstein understands the vagaries of “scheduling blind” or, at least, with limited vision:

“For 13 years I was the understudy for the band leader at Beach Blanket Babylon. I wore a beeper and was on call if needed, and was paid by Steve Silver to be available eight shows a week: That position was one of several in the show that were essential, such that a performance would be cancelled if the seat wasn’t filled.

“Having lived the understudy life, I had that concept in my toolchest when it came to dealing with the current uncertainty. For all our European artists I have engaged ‘understudies’ based in the U.S. and available in case the artists have problems getting here from abroad, as there are so many things that can go wrong these days.

“These understudies are prepared to fly to SFO as late as the morning of the performance here. We will pay the understudies for that service, which functions as insurance for our concerts. This helps me sleep at night.”