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MTT leads the SF Symphony in its first performances of Mason Bates's Alternative Energy September 10-13 at Davies Symphony Hall

August 18, 2014


Public Relations
San Francisco Symphony
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Alternative Energy to be recorded for future release on SFS Media, the Orchestra’s in-house label

Program also includes Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Leif Ove Andsnes and Rossini’s Overture to La gazza ladra

SAN FRANCISCO, August 18 – The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) perform the SFS premiere of Bay Area classical-electronica composer Mason Bates’s Alternative Energy September 10-13 in Davies Symphony Hall. The concerts also include Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, as well as Rossini’s Overture to La gazza ladra. These Alternative Energy concerts conclude the “Beethoven and Bates” performances that began last season with Bates’s The B-Sides and Liquid Interface. All three works are being recorded for future release on SFS Media, the Orchestra’s in-house label. Mason Bates’s appearances on this program not only represent MTT’s commitment to showcasing an American composer on almost all the concerts during his 20th anniversary season with the SFS, but also his and the SF Symphony’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of symphonic composers.

According to the Mason Bates, Alternative Energy is “an ‘energy symphony’ spanning four movements and hundreds of years. Beginning in a rustic Midwestern junkyard in the late 19th Century, the piece travels through ever greater and more powerful forces of energy—such as a present-day particle collider and a futuristic Chinese nuclear plant—until it reaches a future Icelandic rainforest, where humanity’s last inhabitants seek a return to a simpler way of life.” Sounds outside the regular symphonic palette that Mason Bates uses in this piece include ‘junkyard percussion’ to simulate the cranking of a car motor in the first movement; recordings from FermiLab’s particle accelerator in the second movement, which takes place in present-day Chicago; and techno beats in the work’s third movement to illustrate a futuristic, bustling energy industry in Xinjiang Province, China, in 2112.

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes’s performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 are part of a larger examination he has undertaken of the composer’s piano concertos. The 2014-15 season is the final year of Andsnes’s “The Beethoven Journey,” a four-year exploration of Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. “The Beethoven Journey” has featured Andsnes leading complete Beethoven concerto cycles from the keyboard in residencies at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and in London, Paris, Lucerne, Hamburg, Bonn, Shanghai, and Tokyo. In addition to the San Francisco Symphony, Leif Ove Andsnes performs Beethoven piano concertos this season with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, the London Philharmonic and Osmo Vänskä, the Munich Philharmonic and Thomas Dausgaard, and at Boston’s Celebrity Series with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Andsnes last performed with the San Francisco Symphony in 2008 in Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, also led by Michael Tilson Thomas.


Mason Bates writes music that fuses innovative orchestral writing, imaginative narrative forms, the harmonies of jazz and the rhythms of electronic dance music. Frequently performed by orchestras large and small, his symphonic music is championed by leading conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Leonard Slatkin. He has become a visible advocate for bringing new music to new spaces, whether through institutional partnerships such as his residency with the Chicago Symphony, or through his classical/DJ project Mercury Soul, which has transformed commercial spaces, clubs and concert halls into exciting, hybrid musical events. Bates was the recipient of the 2012 Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities. In presenting him with the award, Teresa Heinz remarked that “his music has moved the orchestra into the digital age and dissolved the boundaries of classical music.”

The first piece that MTT and the San Francisco Symphony performed by Mason Bates was the world premiere of the SFS-commissioned The B-Sides in 2009. For the American Mavericks Festival in 2012, the SFS commissioned Bates to compose Mass Transmission for organ, electronica and chorus. The world premiere took place in San Francisco that year and was subsequently performed by the SFS at Carnegie Hall and at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Additionally in 2012, organist Isabelle Demers performed Bates’ Digital Loom for organ and electronica in recital. In June 2013, the SFS performed the world premiere of Attack Sustain Decay Release for Orchestra, written by Bates in honor of outgoing SFS President John Goldman’s 11-year tenure. The “Beethoven and Bates” performances that conclude with this program began in January 2014, with concerts of Bates’s The B-Sides along with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, and the first SFS performances of Bates’s Liquid Interface paired with Beethoven’s Mass in C. Mason Bates has also deejayed at several SFS events, including Davies After Hours, the 2012 Black & White Ball and the 2013 Opening Night Gala.

The New York Times has called Leif Ove Andsnes “a pianist of magisterial elegance, power, and insight,” while the Wall Street Journal named him “one of the most gifted musicians of his generation.” In conjunction with the final season of “The Beethoven Journey” performances with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Andsnes and the ensemble release their third and final installment of The Beethoven Journey, their recording series on Sony Classical. This final recording includes Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor” and “Choral Fantasy.” Andsnes now records exclusively for Sony Classical. His previous discography comprises more than 30 discs for EMI Classics. He has been nominated for eight Grammys and awarded many international prizes, including six Gramophone Awards. Andsnes has received Norway’s most distinguished honor, Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. In 2007, he received the prestigious Peer Gynt Prize, awarded by members of parliament to honor prominent Norwegians for their achievements in politics, sports, and culture. He was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in July 2013.

Calendar editors, please note:


Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 8 pm
Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 2 pm
Friday, September 12, 2014 at 8 pm
Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 8 pm

Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Michael Tilson Thomas conductor
Leif Ove Andsnes piano
Mason Bates electronica
San Francisco Symphony                         

Rossini                        Overture to La gazza ladra
Mason Bates                Alternative Energy [SFS first performances]
Beethoven                    Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Opus 15

Audio Program Notes: Listen to a free podcast about Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone. All podcasts are archived, and can be downloaded or streamed from and from the iTunes store.

Pre-Concert Talk: There will be an “Inside Music” talk from the stage one hour prior to each concert. Free to all concert ticket holders; doors open 15 minutes before.

Tickets: $15-$158
Tickets are available at, by phone at 415-864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.

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These concerts are made possible through the generosity of Franklin Templeton Investments and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Leif Ove Andsnes's appearance is supported by the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Guest Artists.

The San Francisco Symphony receives support from over 10,000 individual donors and 150 partner institutions.

Emirates is the Official Airline of the San Francisco Symphony.

William Hill® Estate Winery® is the Official Wine of the San Francisco Symphony.

San Francisco Chronicle / is the Official Media Partner of the San Francisco Symphony.

- SFS -

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