William Quillen is a Ph.D. candidate in historical musicology at UC Berkeley.
Articles by this Author
Conductor David Robertson returned to San Francisco last week to lead the San Francisco Symphony in performances of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Scriabin. Robertson once again showed his uncanny ability to summon forth rapturous sounds from this ensemble. I first heard him conduct the SFS in a 2002 performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony, which counts as some of the most glorious — and certainly the loudest — orchestral playing I’ve ever heard.
As the economic crisis imperils arts organizations large and small, it was wonderful to see a near-capacity crowd fill Davies Symphony Hall on Saturday evening for the San Francisco Symphony's performance of works by Tilson Thomas, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich, featuring pianist Garrick Ohlsson as soloist and conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. The audience's affection for the conductor and his band was obvious throughout the evening, and I was happy to be reminded of the special bond that exists between this city, the orchestra, and the conductor.
The Oakland Opera delighted listeners Saturday with a double bill of Stravinsky's theatrical works, Histoire du Soldat (1918) and Renard (1916). Ably led by Music Director Deirdre McClure, the Opera's musicians and singers were joined by a bevy of Bay Area circus performers, cabaret dancers, and performance artists who brought Stravinsky's scores and the Oakland Metro Operahouse to life.
The Napa Valley's second annual Festival del Sole continued last Wednesday with another stellar performance by the Russian National Orchestra in Yountville's Lincoln Theater. Guest soloists Joshua Bell on violin and Nina Kotova on cello joined the orchestra, which was conducted by Nicola Luisotti, who has been appointed music director of the San Francisco Opera, effective with the 2009-2010 season.
Maestro Kent Nagano led the Berkeley Symphony in a rousing season finale on Friday night at First Congregational Church in Berkeley. However exciting it turned out to be, the concert was nevertheless bittersweet, as that evening marked the beginning of the end of Nagano's full-time (and long-time) music directorship of the Symphony. Nagano will conduct only one concert during each of the next two seasons, and he will step down from his post as music director at the end of the 2008-2009 season.
On Friday evening, the UC Davis-based Empyrean Ensemble made a guest appearance on San Francisco's respectable Old First Concert series, presenting a reprise of its program "Double Trouble," first performed one month ago at the Mondavi Center in Davis. The concert's title comes from the final work on the program, Kurt Rohde's chamber concerto Double Trouble (2002), composed for the Empyrean Ensemble and performed by them several times since its premiere.
Last Wednesday, violinist Graeme Jennings treated a Berkeley audience to a thrilling performance of unaccompanied violin music from three of the towering figures of Italian music of the second half of the 20th century — Luciano Berio, Franco Donatoni, and Salvatore Sciarrino.