Oct 11, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Guest conductors Elim Chan and Ludovic Morlot lead the San Francisco Symphony in two weeks of concerts at Davies Symphony Hall during the months of October and November.
Oct 26–28: The Planets
On October 26–28, Elim Chan, Chief Conductor of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, leads the San Francisco Symphony in Benjamin Britten’s Les Illuminations, featuring tenor Andrew Staples in his Orchestral Series debut. The work features texts from Arthur Rimbaud’s eponymous poetry collection and is a rare foray into the French language for a composer celebrated for his contributions to English music. In a program note, Britten wrote, “The word ‘Illuminations’ suggests both the vision of a mystic and a brightly coloured picture... The composer has taken seven of these poems, six in prose and one in verse, and has made them into a cycle.”
Rounding out the program is Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Each movement of the suite highlights one planet of the solar system as well as its astrological character, reflecting Holst’s fascination with human personalities and how they might be affected by celestial bodies. In the last movement, Chan and the Orchestra will be joined by the SF Symphony Chorus. The Planets has provided inspiration for numerous fantasy and sci-fi scores from The Twilight Zone to Star Trek to Star Wars.
On Thursday, October 26, at 6:30pm, attendees can arrive early for a space-themed preconcert discussion with special guest Bing Quock, Assistant Director of the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences, which takes place on the Davies Symphony Hall stage one hour before the concert. (Free to all concert ticket holders.)
Nov 2–4: Inspirations: Art/Music
On November 2–4, Ludovic Morlot, Music Director of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, conducts the San Francisco Symphony in a program featuring the United States premiere of Betsy Jolas’ Latest. Jolas has been active as a composer for over 70 years, and she notably studied with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire, becoming his teaching assistant and then succeeding him as a professor of analysis and composition. Now, at the age of 97, Jolas says, “The fact that I learn a lot of music by heart just to keep my old fingers going is an incredible composition lesson for me at my age all the time... I’m still learning and I’m still trying things I’ve never done before.”
Violinist Augustin Hadelich joins the Symphony to perform Antonín Dvořák’s Violin Concerto. The work was commissioned by violinist Joseph Joachim, who collaborated with Dvořák on the score but never performed it publicly. The third and final movement of the concerto is imbued with the traditional sounds of Czech folk music.
The program concludes with Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, an homage to artwork by Viktor Hartmann, a close friend of Mussorgsky’s. Each of the ten movements is based on a different work by Hartmann. Inspired by Pictures at an Exhibition, newly commissioned artwork by Bay Area artists Liz Hernández and Fernando Escartiz will be displayed in the Davies Symphony Hall lobby and on screen during the concert. A short video will be shown prior to the performance of the piece, featuring an interview with the artists about how they found inspiration in Pictures at an Exhibition.
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