Symphony Silicon Valley gathers outdoors for “Strike Up the Band,” Sept. 4 and 5
Symphony Silicon Valley gathers outdoors for “Strike Up the Band,” Sept. 4 and 5

Symphony Silicon Valley is back in the California Theatre this season, with a set of concerts that will rely on the return of longtime artistic associates such as pianist Jon Nakamatsu and conductors John Nelson, Tito Muñoz, and Carlos Vieu.

The season begins, however, with a synergistic collaboration with Opera San José in free Labor Day concerts dubbed “Strike Up the Band.” Set outdoors on Tower Lawn at San José State University (San Fernando and 4th Streets in downtown San Jose), the Sept. 4 and 5 concerts will be conducted by Peter Jaffe and feature Nakamatsu playing Rhapsody in Blue. Soloists from OSJ will be featured in some of opera’s most iconic numbers. The program each day is slightly different, and guests will be asked to mask up or show vaccination cards, and eating and drinking will be prohibited.

That icebreaker will be followed by an opening concert, Oct. 2 and 3, conducted by the great JoAnn Falletta and featuring a world premiere by Gabriela Ortiz, one of Mexico’s preeminent contemporary composers. Her flute concerto will have Marisa Canales as soloist, and the orchestra will bring it home with Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony.

At the end of the month (Oct. 22 and 23), John Nelson conducts a now-familiar pairing, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (with soloist Christina Mok) and Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, with Lara St. John taking the violin solo. Nelson then returns Dec. 4 and 5, along with Nakamatsu to play Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto on an all-Beethoven concert that winds up with Symphony No. 5.

Jon Nakamatsu soloes in a couple of programs with the orchestra this season
Jon Nakamatsu solos in a couple of programs with the orchestra this season

Tito Muñoz celebrates American masters in the new year, on a program anchored, unusually for SSV, with Duke Ellington’s masterpiece Black, Brown, and Beige. Also on the schedule of the Jan. 22 and 23 concert are Dances from On the Town (Bernstein), Appalachian Spring (Copland) and Gershwin’s Cuban Overture.

The Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale makes its appearance for Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana (March 26 and 27), prefaced by Vieu leading the orchestra, bandoneonist Juan Pablo Jofre, and violinist Rachel Lee Priday in Jofre’s brand new Double Concerto for Bandoneon and Violin.

Then Nakamatsu is back for more Beethoven — the “Emperor” Concerto (No. 5) with Tatsuya Shimono leading the orchestra. The May 7 and 8 concerts also include Stravinsky’s spiky Symphony in Three Movements and two works by Ravel, the Mother Goose Suite and Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a dead princess).

More Beethoven is on the list for the orchestra’s final concert of the year, June 4 and 5. This time, it’s the Seventh Symphony, but conductor Tito Muñoz is also offering pianist Michelle Cann in Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement and Quinn Mason’s 10-minute Reflections on a Memorial, premiered online last year during the pandemic by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, which has received a slew of performances since then, including a pair in June by the San Francisco Symphony. The composer notes he was not writing of a specific memorial or tragic event, which is great, because I think we all have a few already in mind.

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