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Recession be damned: for the second week, new, complex, "heavy" music and Ravel have filled the 2,743-seat Davies Symphony Hall. Last week, it was Gubaidulina's Second Violin Concerto and Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales; tonight, György Ligeti Requiem and Martha Argerich, playing Ravel’s G Major Piano Concerto, were San Francisco's American Idol winners.
The North American premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s 2007 Violin Concerto No. 2, In tempus praesens (In the present time), arrived Thursday as an important musical event, revealing a strong, compelling, unusual, and rewarding work.
The soloist, Anne-Sophie Mutter (who had commissioned the concerto), gave a stunningly brilliant performance, with the highest of notes (some close to scraping the instrument’s bridge) coming across rock solid, overtones swirling in the air … all without visible or audible effort.
The upcoming spring season, ODC/Dance Downtown, takes place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, March 12-29. It offers new music, new choreography, and a repertory of five recent favorites.
Way (winner of an American Academy in Rome Residency) is the choreographer for the world premiere of Memory of the Forest, to a score by Jay Cloidt, and Co-Artistic Director KT Nelson is introducing another premiere: Grassland, to music by Marcelo Zarvos.
Memory of the Forest is inspired by the life of Way's late mother-in-law, Iza Erlich. As a teenager in 1941, she walked away from the Warsaw Ghetto, traversing Poland, Germany, and Russia to find her future husband who had departed months earlier.
Erlich recorded her memories on a set of four audiotapes and always imagined that her story might be material for a dance. "Iza, a social worker by trade, believed in the power of art to communicate emotional experience," says Way. "Her story of intrigue, grit, and humor offers a hopeful note in our own tumultuous times." Working with Way are video artists David and Ha-Jin Hodge, and lighting designer and visual artist Elaine Buckholtz.
Creating the piece, Way says, has been "both a personal journey and an invigorating choreographic exploration. Working with dancers who put their amazing capacity on the line every day is a powerful way to explore meaning in my life."
Zarvos's score for Nelson's abstract Grassland is performed live by violinist Ren Mandel (long associated with dance, having married San Francisco Ballet star Joanna Berman), former Los Angeles Philharmonic cellist Gianna Abondolo, Berkeley Symphony concertmaster Franklyn D'Antonio, San Francisco Opera Orchestra violist Joy Fellows, with Zarvos on piano.
Works repeated from the last season include Way's Unintended Consequences: A Meditation, set on music by Laurie Anderson, and Origins of Flight, to music by Heinrich Biber, Arcangelo Corelli, and Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. Also on the program is Way's 1996 Weird Weather, to music by the Hohner Percussion Ensemble.Also scheduled: Nelson's 2008 Hunting and Gathering, to music by Bryan Eno and David Byrne, and They've Lost Their Footing to music by the Swedish rock-folk group Hoven Droven.
A $20 "Small Plates" event is offered on March 19 at 6:30 p.m., featuring an hour-long performance, with complimentary drinks and appetizers.
The company consists of 11 dancers: Daniel Santos, Anne Zivolich, Yayoi Kambara, Corey Brady, Quilet Rarang, Elizabeth Farotte, Jeremy Smith, Aaron Perlstein, Vanessa Thiessen, Robert Dekkers, and Dennis Adams (apprentice).
On Sunday, at Alek Shrader's Schwabacher Debut Recital in Temple Emanu-El, presented by the San Francisco Opera, I was wondering about the tenor's response if Barbara Walters should ask him what kind of tree he would be. Not knowing the answer, I came up with a question to which the answer is obvious. What kind of drinking glass would Shrader be? Tall, clear, gracefully simple, and full. This is a transparent tenor, an extraordinarily ordinary singer — "ordinary" in the sense of plain, simple, unadorned, straightforward. Would that there were more like him!
My first encounter with the piano came from a Tom and Jerry cartoon, where Tom plays Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. I had no idea what it was, but it made me want to play the piano.
Lang Lang was 2 years old when that historic event occurred. A few months later, he started playing the piano, at age 5 he won his first contest ... and the rest is history.
Mahler's 1910 Eighth Symphony, called by some (but surely not by high-minded musicologists) "Symphony of a Thousand," is among the most massive works in all of music. It requires eight heavy-duty soloists and, in the current San Francisco Symphony production, it uses three choruses of some 250 singers, and two orchestras, totaling more than 100 instrumentalists.
Donizetti's most effervescent music, a simple and heartwarming story, melodies galore — The Elixir of Love is a virtually foolproof opera. Small companies, even schools produce it successfully, and even in a big house, you can't really fault a "prudent" approach to casting young singers, not-quite-stars, and such. The work will take care of itself.
Not all Russians are alike. Modest Mussorgsky wrote big, earthshaking operas. Anton Chekhov created gloriously subtle, understated plays.
Attributed to Mussorgsky, the version of Boris Godunov that San Francisco Opera presents in its new production of the work ends suddenly, quietly, Chekhovlike, sending the audience out into the street in a state of puzzlement, thinking: "Is it really over? What was that?!"