MTT conducts 20th Century Greats

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2016-17 SeasonAn audacious program dedicated to the 20th century, experience Robin Holloway’s Europa and the Bull which depicts, as the composer puts it, “Jupiter’s lustful hankering for the beautiful nymph, Europa.” Hear it alongside Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, a five-movement masterpiece showcasing the electrifying virtuosity of the symphony orchestra.


San Francisco Symphony

Clyde Scott

Video Design

Luke Kritzeck

Lighting Design



The Seasons [with video]

Robin Holloway

Europa & the Bull (SFS Co-commission)


Concerto for Orchestra

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.


John Cage's The Seasons
Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra

At a Glance

The Seasons
 1947  |  15 mins
By 1947 a burgeoning partnership with dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham had begun to push John Cage along his path to becoming the premier American Maverick composer. The Seasons is his coming to terms with Indian thought. According to Cage, it is “an attempt to express the traditional Indian view of the seasons as quiescence (winter), creation (spring), preservation (summer), and destruction (fall). It concludes with the Prelude to Winter with which it begins.” The score presents a world close to nature: Sounds are shimmering, gurgling, twittering, occasionally threatening, but mostly gentle. Movement is slow and relaxed, the passage of time barely perceptible.

Europa & the Bull
 2014  |  20 mins
Robin Holloway is one of the most performed and applauded of living British composers. The composer on Europa & the Bull: This concertante for tuba and orchestra was initially inspired by my love of the noble solo instrument that is usually confined to roaring or brooding at the bottom of the brass section, plus admiration for some outstanding players of it when a rare moment of exposure reveals, as well as sheer power, their powers of cantabile and eloquence…. Its more immediate inspiration is the tale familiar from Ovid and other antique poets, then taken up by painters throughout the ages, of Jupiter's lustful hankering for the beautiful nymph Europa: his wooing her in the form of a bull, his plunging off with her into the turbulent ocean, his having his wicked way and gratifying her, willing or unwilling, and thus the foundation of the continent born of his incontinence.

Concerto for Orchestra  1943 | 36 mins
Having moved to New York in 1940 to escape the rising tide of National Socialism in Central Europe, fifty-nine-year-old Béla Bartók felt depressed and isolated in his new surroundings. He lacked energy and was plagued by the first symptoms of the leukemia that would kill him. Providence smiled on Bartók when the conductor Serge Koussevitzky offered the composer a commission for a new symphonic work. Bartók accepted and during the summer and early fall of 1943 wrote the entire Concerto for Orchestra at a rural mountain getaway in the north of New York State. The composer provided a comment to help the listener: “The general mood of the work represents, apart from the jesting second movement, a gradual transition from the sternness of the first moment and the lugubrious death-song of the third to the life-assertion of the last one.”

Compiled by SFS Director of Publications Jeanette Yu and SFS Managing Editor Steven Ziegler.





Buy Tickets

  1. Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 8:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

  2. Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 7:30pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

If you would like assistance purchasing tickets for patrons with disabilities, please call the box office at 415-864-6000.

Pre- and post-show Events

Inside Music, an informative talk by Peter Grunberg, joined by composer Robin Holloway, begins one hour prior to concerts. Free to ticketholders. Learn More.