CAPTURING THE ELUSIVE CONCERT AUDIENCE

CAPTURING THE ELUSIVE CONCERT AUDIENCE

As concert sets go, SoundBox is an eclectic hybrid drawing new audience by the carload. An innovative offshoot of the San Francisco Symphony, it is part concert, part light show, part video art, part sonic experience, part schmoozing time, part date night and part night club. The intimate evenings remain one of the hottest tickets of all, regularly selling out all the tickets within 10 minutes of sales launch on the web. For the SFS musicians who spend most of…

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DID BEETHOVEN MEET DEBUSSY IN A TIME WARP??

DID BEETHOVEN MEET DEBUSSY IN A TIME WARP??

Those fire-eaters from Southern Cal known as the Calder Quartet played some bristling contemporary works, plus one of Beethoven’s most whimsical efforts. The four mid-career men—identically dressed in dark suits, with matching ties—show an uncanny rhythmic bent able to decipher and render the most complex metric signatures that only modern composers like Thomas  Adès and Boulez dare to call for and to dabble in. Seven beats to the measure, 11, 13, even 25 (or almost any prime number you might…

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CONFLICT AND RECONCILIATION IN ARRESTING NEW BALLET

CONFLICT AND RECONCILIATION IN ARRESTING NEW BALLET

San Francisco’s own Myles Thatcher has created a new genre of conflict ballet with his world premiere, “Ghost in the Machine,” stealing the attention at the San Francisco Ballet. Thatcher, a young dancer in the SFB corps de ballet—the legion of overlooked spear-carriers in the stratified ranks of a huge troupe—has produced yet another highly effective choreographic opus combining modern (non-balletic) techniques, toe-shoes conventions, and a considerable story line. Much of his expanded ballet vocabulary draws from modern-dance traditions, where…

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EXCEPT FOR A SLIP, BALLET PERFECTION

EXCEPT FOR A SLIP, BALLET PERFECTION

After nearly three acts dancing the Swan-Queen double role in near-perfect technical proficiency, Yuan Yuan Tan slipped and fell at the most effusive moment of “Swan Lake.” Does that prove she’ll fallible? No. Only that she’s human. She deftly picked herself up April 6 and finished her challenging night, in—of course——near-perfect technical proficiency. In the process, she showed what a thorough professional she is, and has been, through an amazing S.F. Ballet career now at 22 years on stage, and…

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DUSTING OFF MAHLER’S FIRST, TENTH

DUSTING OFF MAHLER’S FIRST, TENTH

Drawing on the first and last, the San Francisco Symphony perused the bookend Mahler symphonies. It was alpha and omega, A and Z, inaugural and swan song—all in one evening. In the process, the SFS played the warhorse in the bunch, the Symphony No. 1, and made it seem fresh as a spring poppy, washing away all the usual starchiness. Credit the resourceful leadership of Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, with countless nuances of dynamics and rubato (brief variants in…

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OBSCURE OLD VIENNESE SYMPHONY REVIVED

OBSCURE OLD VIENNESE SYMPHONY REVIVED

A skillful orchestrator, the Viennese composer Franz Schreker has vanished from the radar a century later, alas, now revived by the S.F. Symphony via his Chamber Symphony of 1916. Indeed, the only trace of him I’ve run across before on the West Coast was a 2010 Los Angeles Opera revival of his “Die Gezeichneten” (The Designated Ones). His nebulous, ear-tingling sounds, closer to Debussy or Charles Koechlin than to any  than any of his Germanic cohorts, produce remarkable, memorable effects…

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CONDUCTOR KAHANE RETURNS TO PIANO ROOTS

CONDUCTOR KAHANE RETURNS TO PIANO ROOTS

BERKELEY—I’ve been fascinated by the California pianist Jeffrey Kahane ever since the 1981 Van Cliburn Competition. He didn’t win it (gold went to André-Michel Schub). But media reports established that, in the opinion of various finalists, though Kahane was unlikely to get the gold medal, he was considered the best keyboard performer of the lot. A rare accolade among high-echelon pianists! Happily, Kahane bounced back two years later, winning the Rubinstein International Competition. Although a successful symphony conductor over the…

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SALOME JOINS HIGH SOCIETY

SALOME JOINS HIGH SOCIETY

The modern-day Salome arrives formally attired in red in a luxury limousine, and departs the same way, carting the severed head of John in the back seat. And along the way, she drinks controlled substances and staggers stupefied throughout. The is not reality TV, but rather the S.F. Ballet at the Opera House playing Arthur Pita’s sexually overcharged world premiere “Salome,” more than a century removed from the scandalous stage versions by Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss. Even though she…

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‘HEROINE-ISM’ SPOTLIGHTED IN MAJOR ADAMS WORK

‘HEROINE-ISM’ SPOTLIGHTED IN MAJOR ADAMS WORK

The essence of the “Scheherazade” tale is not sweeping romantic music, a la Rimsky-Korsakov; composer John Adams outlived that phase of his long ago. Here the essence is the gruesome fate of a heroine faced nightly with becoming murder-victim unless she is a master story-teller on every one of the 1,001 nights. So contends Adams, who introduced his bigger-than-life “Scheherazade.2” (2015) at the S.F. Symphony. This winter the SFS has offered multiple celebrations of his 70th birthday. Call it a…

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THE NIGHT THE GUNFIRE TOOK A REST

THE NIGHT THE GUNFIRE TOOK A REST

SAN JOSE—-A new kind of opera, in which groups of the military play as big a role as the individuals, made its moving West Coast premiere via “Silent Night” by Kevin Puts. While the singing by the 14-member Opera San Jose cast pushing their voices was uneven, the Feb. 11 opening night got a prolonged reception from the sell-out crowd. They witnessed a dramatization of a trench-warfare event that featured an operatic reenactment of the spontaneous Christmas-Eve 1914 cease-fire, with…

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