San Francisco Ballet
As America’s oldest professional ballet company, San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts” since its founding in 1933, performing the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first 20th-century American Coppélia. A lively, vital ensemble, San Francisco Ballet is one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States.
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Even Cal Performances' starrier guests don't routinely sell out Zellerbach Hall. But more than two decades into his high-profile career, Joshua Bell's name still deservedly wields an uncommon pull, and it was to a capacity audience that he and pianist Jeremy Denk played on Sunday afternoon. The duo's Berkeley recital represented the one Northern California blip in a taxing tour (tucked in between a Costa Mesa concert on Saturday night and a Palm Desert one Tuesday). I hope the blame for a vexingly uneven recital may be assigned at least partly to fatigue.
Predictably, the two versions of Merce Cunningham's eyeSpace seen on consecutive nights of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company's engagement at Stanford University last weekend, presented by Stanford Lively Arts, looked so different from each other as to be separate creations. What was less predictable was the difference in their affect, their effect. One of the things, it seems, about Cunningham dance is that for all its still-fresh unorthodoxy — this, after 54 years of the company's existence — it has things to teach us about how we see all dance, all art.
The New Century Chamber Orchestra's search for a new music director has had the side benefit of allowing its audiences to hear not just a slew of interesting violinist/leaders, but also the diversity of the orchestra’s musical personality. Last Wednesday at San Rafael's Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, the leader-of-the-month was the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's Margaret Batjer. Batjer is not, as I understand it, in the running for the directorship (the results of the search are to be announced on November 29).
We in the Bay Area have had a remarkable number of opportunities to hear the young violinist Hilary Hahn, whose more-or-less-yearly performances here stretch all the way back to her Brahms Concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony in 1999. This year her return, courtesy of Cal Performances, was in recital with pianist Valentina Lisitsa, in a dauntingly difficult program given last Tuesday at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. It was a program seemingly calculated to demonstrate Hahn's range, and so it did, though not perhaps entirely as it was intended to.
For the past year-plus, the New Century Chamber Orchestra has been auditioning prospective artistic directors to replace the departed Krista Bennion Feeney, the orchestra's leader from 1999 through 2006. The search is nearing its end — the winner is to be announced at the orchestra's "Evening Serenade" benefit performance Nov. 29 — and the orchestra's admirers are watching with some anticipation to see what direction the ensemble will take.