These lively Q&A's aim to shed light on the personalities behind the music. Get to know your favorite artists...or discover someone new!
Soprano Jessica Rivera first made her mark internationally when she created the character Kumudha in Peter Sellars’ production of John Adams’ opera A Flowering Tree. After repeating the role in the San Francisco Symphony’s Bay Area premiere, her success helped land her the role of Kitty Oppenheimer in the European debut of Sellars’ production of Adams’ Doctor Atomic. She has since sung the part with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera.
Cellist Joshua Roman has been making a name for himself since he won the position of principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony in 2006 at age 22. After two years there, he left for a solo career, which has included debuts as concerto soloist with numerous symphonies and other solo work, as well as chamber music performances and collaborations with other musicians from the New York contemporary music scene. He was also the only guest artist invited to play an unaccompanied solo during the YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s debut concert. He’s joining the San Francisco Symphony on Feb.
Few artists have had the kind of impact on the world at large as violinist Midori’s. Almost 30 years after her famous debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11, Midori champions music as the message of peace in her fight for social justice and environmental sustainability.
Few concertgoers who heard it will forget violinist Vadim Gluzman’s San Francisco Symphony debut in May 2008. Performing Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, Gluzman delivered a performance that elicited critical superlatives, with SFCV’s critic praising his “dark tone and sinewy strength” and “deep, concentrated sound and the powerful evenness of his bowing.” Gluzman’s performance of Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Marin Symphony, in January that year, also garnered accolades.
Some classical musicians are stars within the genre. Others have become known outside the classical field. And then there’s Yo-Yo Ma. He’s a classical music superstar, of course, but he’s also a musician who has tackled everything from Brazilian rhythms to the music of Appalachia; an educator; an almost insanely prolific recording artist; and a person who actively takes part in promoting music for all. Although his time is limited, he did talk a bit about performing with the San Francisco Symphony this coming week, as well as about some of his recent and upcoming projects.
In the middle of an extended weekend’s showcase by Stanford Lively Arts, composer Steve Reich sat down in a hotel lobby to talk about his five decades of exploration in the musical outback. Like much of his music, Reich’s discourse is energetic and propulsive, as well as ingenuously eclectic.
Acclaimed for his “physical, sensual relationship” with his instrument, British cellist Steven Isserlis is an artist who combines brilliant technique with innate feeling. His 2009 appearance with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra was one of the year’s highlights on the Bay Area music scene; this month, he returns under the auspices of San Francisco Performances in a duo recital with Russian pianist Kirill Gerstein. The program, Jan. 10 at Herbst Theatre, includes the Cello Sonatas of Britten and Rachmaninov, as well as Isserlis’ own arrangement of Schumann’s Violin Sonata No. 3.
Jeffrey Thomas is preparing American Bach Soloists for their two performances of Handel’s Messiah at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral this weekend. He is also writing a book on Handel’s masterpiece, leading the ABS into new educational territories (including a summer training program), and finding time to create the occasional chilled-avocado and seafood soup.
Tell me how you got started writing your book.
Canadian-born pianist Marc-André Hamelin is recognized as one of the top talents in the concert hall today. He’s a champion of both undiscovered and standard piano repertoire, he’s prolific in the recording studio, and he’ll see his first published composition released next fall. Speaking to me from his Boston home, Hamelin declines to be defined by any one of these activities, especially his legendary technical ability. Rather, he’s a guy who’s just “trying to make music.”