Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich Featuring Gautier Capuçon

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2016-17 SeasonGautier Capuçon’s performances with the SF Symphony are “thoughtful, highly dramatic, and played with precision and grace.” (San Francisco Chronicle) The acclaimed cellist joins Michael Tilson Thomas for Shostakovich’s provocative Cello Concerto No. 1. The orchestra then plays Tchaikovsky’s ardent Pathétique Symphony, known as one of the composer’s proudest achievements.

The Thursday Matinee concerts are endowed by a gift in memory of Rhoda Goldman.


San Francisco Symphony



The Jewish Orchestra at the Ball of Nothingtown


Cello Concerto No. 1


Symphony No. 6, Pathétique

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


Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6

At a Glance

The Jewish Orchestra at the Ball in Nothingtown
 1926  |  15 mins
Highly regarded as a pioneer of Jewish art music, Gnesin wrote works that mixed Soviet tradition, European Modernism, and Jewish cultural music. The Jewish Orchestra at the Ball in Nothingtown, written as incidental music for Nikolai Gogol's famous satirical play Revizor (The Inspector General), narrates seven ethnic dances in near-literal form—a dream-ball sequence, a Slavonic dance, a movement of clashes, another that is delicate and sensitive, one tinged with Gypsy tunes, something of a Turkish Mahler’s Klezmer band, and a tartly harmonic sequence.

Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major
 1959  |  30 mins
The Cello Concerto No. 1, one of two written for the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, is a work that feeds on grim memories. The first movement is marked Allegretto (moderately quick). The music is questioning and nervous, followed by a fiercely contained melody of great tensile strength. The sonic colors are predominantly dark, punctuated, at times, by shrillness. (Listen for one of the most difficult passages for French horn, which is embedded within this scarily relentless movement.) The second movement features the horn singing an expressive, pliant melody until the solo cello replies with sterner stuff. The music climaxes then heads into a single-movement cadenza (showcasing the solo cello). The finale offers the fastest music so far. The violently obsessive character of the opening movement returns and the cellist dashes through to a ferocious close. The piece ends with seven timpani strokes.

Symphony No. 6, Pathétique  1893 | 46 mins
“I certainly regard it as easily the best—and especially the most ‘sincere’—of all my works” Tchaikovsky said to a friend of his Sixth Symphony. He wrote another, “Without exaggeration, I have put my whole soul into this work.” During the first rehearsals, he maintained that this was “the best thing I ever composed or ever shall compose.” Tchaikovsky’s words would make an immense impression on the Sixth’s first listeners—but not for the reasons he imagined when he uttered them. The premiere, led by the composer, was met with some puzzlement. The music seemed, somehow, “unfinal.” Yet the second performance, just three weeks later, made a powerful impression. Why? Between the two first performances, Tchaikovsky died suddenly of cholera. What a bewildering experience it must have been for early listeners of this astonishingly soulful piece, which ends with music that simply passes beyond our hearing.

Jeanette Yu is Director of Publications at the San Francisco Symphony.





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  1. Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 8:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

  2. Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 2:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

  3. Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 8:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

  4. Sat, Mar 4, 2017 at 8:00pm

    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, begins one hour prior to concerts. Free to ticketholders. Learn More.