Primary tabs

Season 64 of the Morrison Artists Series: Free and Spectacular

September 10, 2019

There is no better value for Bay Area chamber-music audiences than the Morrison Artists Series at San Francisco State University, with free admission to a season of first-class concerts, workshops, and lectures. Now in its 64th year, the musical riches remain free to the public thanks to the May Treat Morrison Trust. Over the years the Morrison has offered over 400 free concerts, attended by an audience of more than 100,000.

The Trust was created in 1939, and in 1952 Edward Hohfeld and Ferenc Molnar established the Morrison Chamber Music Center, making it permanent in 1956. With Andor Tóth and László Varga among its early artistic directors, the Morrison has offered San Francisco debuts to the Eroica and St. Lawrence quartets, the Zephyros Woodwind Quintet, Trio Voronezh, eighth blackbird, and many other prominent ensembles.

Programs for the 2019–2020 season will be presented in two adjacent venues: SFSU’s 700-seat McKenna Theatre and the 320-seat Knuth Recital Hall, both at 1756 Holloway Avenue. Sunday concerts begin at 3 p.m. Each concert will be preceded by a lecture in Knuth Hall — no tickets necessary.

All concerts and master classes are admission-free, but reservations are available via the website three weeks prior to the concert date, and can be printed out at home or picked up at the box office. From the experience of recent seasons, concerts “sell out” well in advance, and typically there are no tickets left on the day of the concerts. Advance reservations and box office pickups are for two tickets only.

The Alexander String Quartet, in residence at the Morrison for three decades, will open the 2019 season on Oct. 6, with a program of string quartets by Mozart, Shostakovich, and Beethoven.

Morrison Artistic Director Cyrus Ginwala, preparing his second season, says “We look forward to welcoming our continually expanding and diverse audience to our new concert season. Patrons will notice expanded offerings including staged events, new-artist introductions, and informal artist interactions.”

On Nov. 3, the Korean ensemble PHASE performs traditional and contemporary works for Korean instruments, including the world premiere of Benjamin Sabey’s Rare Bird and the U.S. premiere of Sunghyun Lee’s Isle of Ecstasy.

Next year’s first concert, on Feb. 9, is the InterMusic SF Showcase, featuring performances by San Francisco’s Brass Over Bridges, the Curium Trio (Rachel Kim, piano; Agnieszka Peszko, violin; Carlyn Kessler, cello) and Oakland’s Alaya Project, “a bridge between the intricate Carnatic style of Indian classical music and contemporary jazz and funk.”

Septura, described as “London’s leading players to redefine brass chamber music through the uniquely expressive sound of the brass septet,” and currently in residence at the Royal Academy of Music, will give a concert on Feb. 23.

The program promises music going beyond brass, including Gabrieli’s Exultavit cor meum, Barbara Strozzi’s First Book of Madrigals (selection), Orlande de Lassus’s Lagrime di San Pietro, Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata in C Minor, and Clara Schumann’s Piano Sonata in G Minor.

Following Ginwala’s promise of “expanded” programming, the March 15 concert will present the Core Ensemble with actress Shinnerrie Jackson in Ain’t I a Woman! It is a chamber music-theater piece celebrating the life and times of four powerful African American women: Zora Neale Hurston, Sojourner Truth, Clementine Hunter, and Fannie Lou Hamer.

Closing the season, on April 26, the Juilliard String Quartet with

Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 18, No. 1, and String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131, and György Kurtág’s 6 Moments musicaux, for string quartet, Op. 44.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].