San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Ragnar Bohlin, director

The San Francisco Symphony Chorus, celebrating its fortieth anniversary in the 2013-14 season, is among this country’s most distinguished choral groups. Highlights of recent seasons include concert performances of West Side Story, Bach’s Clavier-Übung III with organist Paul Jacobs, Berlioz’s Te Deum, and Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and Symphony No. 9, this last work recorded for 2013 release on SFS Media. A recording of the Chorus’s performance of Beethoven’s Cantata on the Death of the Emperor Joseph II, from the SFS’s 2012 Beethoven Festival will be available from SFS Media in November 2013. Under the leadership of Chorus Director Ragnar Bohlin, the Chorus, numbering thirty professional and 125 volunteer members, performs more than twenty concerts each season. Established in 1973 at the request of then-Music Director Seiji Ozawa, the SFS Chorus has sung under the world’s major conductors. Louis Magor served as the Chorus’s Director during its first decade, and in 1982 Margaret Hillis assumed the ensemble’s leadership. The following year Vance George was named director, serving through the 2005-06 season. Ragnar Bohlin assumed the position of Chorus Director in March 2007. In 2001, the Chorus made its Carnegie Hall debut in music by Mahler and Stravinsky with Michael Tilson Thomas and the SFS. Recordings featuring the SFS Chorus have won eight Grammy awards, including three for Best Choral Performance: for Orff’s Carmina burana (1992), Brahms’s A German Requiem (1995), and Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (2010). The Chorus is also heard on two SFS recordings honored with Grammys for Best Classical Album: Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 (2004) and Stravinsky’s Perséphone (2000). Other Symphony recordings featuring the Chorus include Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and Das klagende Lied, Ives’s An American Journey, and selections from Berlioz’s Lélio. The Chorus may be heard under the direction of Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt in Grieg’s incidental music for Peer Gynt, its first recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (nominated for a Grammy), and a collection of choral works by Brahms. The Chorus has also recorded John Adams’s Harmonium twice, on ECM under Edo de Waart’s direction and on Nonesuch with the composer conducting; Gordon Getty’s Annabel Lee and Young America in a PentaTone Classics disc of Getty choral works; and Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate’s Tracing Mississippi and Iholba for Thunderbird Records. Two solo recordings feature the Chorus: Christmas by the Bay (1998), nominated for a Grammy in the Best Classical Crossover category, and Voices 1900/2000 (2001), both on the Delos label. The Chorus is featured in Ives’s Holidays Symphonyin Keeping Score, the Symphony’s national television program,and inthe DVD release of the Emmy-winning Sweeney Todd with the SFS. The Chorus is also heard on the soundtracks of the films AmadeusThe Unbearable Lightness of Being, and The Godfather III.

(October 2013)