April 17, 2018
The baton is truly passing in San Francisco Performances’ 2018–2019 season. The planning for the year was done by the organization’s new president, Melanie Smith, taking over from Ruth Felt, who retired in 2016. There’s admirable continuity with recent years, and yet Smith is showing some signs of the direction SFP may take in her administration.
Just as The Bad Plus took Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and interpreted it anew, so jazz trumpeter and SFP artist-in-residence Sean Jones is set to do the same for The Soldier’s Tale in the September 28 opener, the exact day of the work’s centenary anniversary. Regina Carter takes the all-important violin part.
Featured artists will be taking veiled and not-so-veiled political statements to the Herbst Theatre stage, particularly in the PIVOT series, Vox Populi, Jan. 24–27. Gabriel Kahane will star in his song cycle 8980: Book of Travelers, the result of a trip around the U.S. that he initiated after the election of Donald Trump, in order to better understand his country. At the same time, Israeli pianist and PIVOT artist Ron Dank will play Frederic Rzewski’s variations on the Chilean protest song, The People United Will Never Be Defeated, an anthem of resistance to the Pinochet government. Jazz vocalist Paula West presents a full program of Bob Dylan songs and bass-baritone Dashon Burton contributes a program of Civil War and Civil Rights-era songs and anthems titled Songs of Struggle and Redemption.
String quartet Brooklyn Rider returns (Nov. 16) to play “Healing Modes,” a program that includes modern responses to the “Heilige Dankgesang” movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132. Debut artists Rosie Kay Dance brings a full-length work called Five Soldiers (April 11-13), a timely look at how the human body is used in war. It provides an intimate view of the training that prepares soldiers for the sheer physicality of combat, for the possibility of injury, and the impact conflict has on the bodies and minds of everyone it reaches. The piece was inspired by input from serving and former soldiers.
On the Hear Now and Then series, which pairs early and modern music, Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion will premiere a new percussion piece by Philip Glass (Apr. 3). TENET and Robert Mealy’s Quicksilver play a program of 17th-century music, Daniel Hope traces the history of the violin and the “air” in a concert spanning three centuries of music. And cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Vijay Iyer team up for a program that combines Iyer’s own compositions with those of Zakir Hussein, J.S. Bach, Ravi Shankar, and Billy Strayhorn.
There are, as usual, the high-profile recital stars: Garrick Ohlsson, Benjamin Grosvenor, Igor Levit, Seong-Jin Cho, and Piotr Anderszewski in the piano series, for example. Deborah Voigt makes her SFP debut on the vocal series, while Mark Padmore returns with pianist Paul Lewis, and baritone Christopher Maltman sings a fun program of animal songs that ends with the signal contributions to the genre by the 1960s British comedy duo Flanders and Swann.
If the question is whether artists have anything to contribute to the present moment, SFP has a broad set of answers.