Symphony's 'New and Unusual' in All But Name

Janos Gereben on October 2, 2012
Jessica Valeri, chamber music series star Photo by Stefan Cohen
Jessica Valeri, chamber music series star
Photo by Stefan Cohen

Would you like to hear prominent musicians perform the music of Jacques Castérède, Ysaÿe, Harbison, Bruce Broughton, Iosif Andriasov, and Dalit Warshaw... at Davies Symphony Hall? Sounds unlikely, but it's possible.

Once upon a time, a quarter century ago, San Francisco Symphony had an intriguing, challenging "New and Unusual Music Series," led by 40-year-old John Adams. The SFS of today is far away from that sort of thing, excepting three or four token newbies each season on subscription concerts, but there is a way to hear other than Beethoven at Davies Hall.

SFS musicians program and perform music of living composers and works rarely found in the regular season of any big orchestra; the opportunity is offered by the Chamber Music Series in Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. On top of attractive programing, even admission prices are lower than usual: $36 for all seats. Usually that means all the premium places in the hall as attendance is still growing, filling only a third of the house or so.

The series begins on Oct. 14, with Jacques Castérède's Prélude et Danse (Timothy Higgins, trombone; Paul Welcomer, trombone; John Engelkes, bass trombone; Jeffrey Anderson, tuba; James Lee Wyatt III; Raymond Froehlich, percussion; Keisuke Nakagoshi, piano); Ysaÿe's Sonata in C for Two Violins (Chen Zhao and Florin Parvulescu, violin); and Schubert's Piano Quintet in A Major (Trout) (Diane Nicholeris, violin; Yun Jie Liu, viola; David Goldblatt, cello; Charles Chandler, bass; Gwendolyn Mok, piano).

Amos Yang
Amos Yang

On Dec. 9, John Harbison's Twilight Music Trio for Horn, Violin, Piano opens the program (Nicole Cash, horn; Dan Carlson, violin; Marc Shapiro, piano); Dohnányi (whose chamber music should be performed more often) is represented with Serenade in C major for String Trio, Op. 10 (Yukiko Kurakata, violin; Katie Kadarauch, viola; Sébastien Gingras, cello); and Brahms' Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34 (Nadya Tichman, Dan Nobuhiko Smiley, violin; Jonathan Vinocour, viola; Amos Yang, cello — the pianist is Yefim Bronfman).

Feb. 3 will bring Bruce Broughton's Hornworks — Theme and Variations for 2 Descant Horns, 3 Horns in F, and Tuba (Robert Ward, Nicole Cash, Jonathan Ring, Bruce Roberts, Jessica Valeri, horns; Peter Wahrhaftig, tuba); Ravel's String Quartet in F Major (Polina Sedukh, David Chernyavsky, violin; Wayne Roden, viola; David Goldblatt, cello); and Brahms' Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 60 (Sarn Oliver, violin; Matthew Young, viola; Sébastien Gingras, cello; Akimi Fukuhara, piano).

The April 7 concert features Iosif Andriasov's Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, Opus 7 (Victor Romasevich, violin; Jill Brindel, cello; Marilyn Thompson, piano), George Crumb's Madrigals, Books I-IV (Catherine Payne, piccolo; Scott Pingel, bass; Douglas Rioth, harp; James Lee Wyatt, percussion); Bruch's Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano (David Neuman, clarinet; Wayne Roden, viola; June Oh, piano); and Hindemith's Octet, 1958 (Dan Carlson, violin; Jonathan Vinocour and David Kim, viola; Peter Wyrick, cello; Mark Wright, bass; David Neuman, clarinet; Steven Dibner, bassoon; Bruce Roberts, horn).

Did I say no Beethoven? Nothing but Beethoven on the series' May 12 concert, which is part of the orchestra's Beethoven festival. The program includes String Quartet in G Major, Op. 18, No. 2 (Yun Chu, Amy Hiraga, violin; Nanci Severance, viola; Peter Wyrick, cello); String Quartet in E-flat Major, Opus 74, (Harp) (Dan Carlson, Melissa Kleinbart, violin; Katie Kadarauch, viola; Amos Yang, cello); String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 127 (Mariko Smiley, Kelly Leon-Pearce, violin; Gina Feinauer, viola; Margaret Tait, cello).

The series concludes on June 23, with Dalit Warshaw's Transformations for String Quartet and Theremin (John Chishom, Chunming Mo, violin; Yun Jie Liu, viola; Barbara Bogatin, cello; Warshaw, theremin); Warshaw's Nizk’Orah for Cello, Piano, and Theremin (Barbara Bogatin, cello; Robin Sutherland, piano; Warshaw, theremin); Martinu's Fantasia for String Quartet, Piano, Oboe, and Theremin (Jonathan D. Fischer, oboe; John Chisholm, Chunming Mo, violin; Yun Jie Liu, viola; Barbara Bogatin, cello; Robin Sutherland, piano; Warshaw, theremin); and Brahms' Piano Quartet in A Major, Op. 26 (Nadya Tichman, violin; Katie Kadarauch, viola; Michael Grebanier, cello; Marc Shapiro, piano).