Thursday, February 08, 2007

Once Again San Francisco Symphony Conductor Offering Cautious, "Marketable," Mostly Safe Classical Music, Unlike Passionate New Music In The East Bay

..."For his 13th year as music director, MTT [San Francisco Symphony Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas] programmed the upcoming 96th season the same way the past few years have unfolded: cautious, "marketable," mostly safe.

Unlike relatively tiny orchestras in Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek (and MTT's own New World Symphony in Miami) which present new works on almost every single concert, the $54.5 million San Francisco music machine will offer NO (zero) world or U.S. premiere next season. There will be 13 works "new to SFS" (including Handel, Martinu, Barber and Ives - "new," indeed!) on 31 subscription-concert series, and 2 (two) works from local composers: John Adams and MTT himself, neither much needing "exposure." On the other side of the ledger: 15 works by Mozart ("well featured" last year too), 30 (thirty) by Beethoven, seven by Tchaikovsky, and a whole festival of Brahms. Yes, "American Mavericks" was a long time ago.

Why beat up on the Symphony on this front, especially when it does so much good in many other ways? Because it is hoisting itself on its own petard, advertising the orchestra's "long tradition of affirming the importance of showcasing new, rarely performed, and commissioned works," while in fact it has been maintaining an overwhelming, out-of-balance emphasis on familiar classical and romantic works.

And now, some of the good news: SFS will present the West Coast premiere of Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg's yet-unnamed work, co-commissioned by San Francisco and the Berlin Philharmonic (which will also present the U.S. premiere on tour in New York). Linderg and Los Angeles Philharmonic's Esa-Pekka Salonen are founders of the important experimental group, the Toimii Ensemble.

All truly "new" performances will be under the baton of guest conductors: Roberto Abbado, leading Luca Francesconi's "Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colors of Dawn"; SFS Associate Conductor James Gaffigan with Chen Yi's "Si Ji" (Four Seasons); Roberto Minczuk introducing his fellow Brazilian Almeida Prado's Symphonic Variations.

Vladimir Ashkenazy leads the first performances here of Rautavaara's "Manhattan Trilogy"; Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel presents his countryman Evencio Castellanos' "Santa Cruz de Pacairigua"; Alan Gilbert will lead Steven Stucky's "Son et Lumiere."

MTT's own programs include Ives' Psalm 90, and - with Deborah Voigt - the Barber "Andromache's Farewell." MTT will conduct his own "Notturno," premiered in Carnegie Hall last year" ...

(c) Janos Gereben/San Francisco and San Francisco Classical Voice. [San Francisco Classical Voice. A project of the Community Initiative Funds of the San Francisco Foundation.]

Beyond Rachmaninoff ... Keyhole Rock, Farallones Marine Sanctuary.

The San Francisco Symphony needs to look beyond slick programming and big luxury cruise ships.

Photo credit: (c) Jason Thompson and the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association. With thanks.


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