Jan 26, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen returns to Davies Symphony Hall February 17–March 2 for four San Francisco Symphony programs highlighting guest pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Conor Hanick, Lang Lang, and Yuja Wang, as well as the world premiere of Samuel Adams’ No Such Spring and performances of a work by Bay Area composer Gabriella Smith. On March 4, Salonen also joins Collaborative Partner Nico Muhly and pianist Yuja Wang for a special SoundBox program.
These San Francisco performances precede Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony’s 2023 European residencies tour, March 9–17, with four concerts at the Philharmonie de Paris in France (March 9–12) and three nights at Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany (March 14–17), as well as a performance at the Philharmonie Luxembourg (March 13). The March 2023 residencies tour marks Salonen and the Orchestra’s first international concerts since he became Music Director in 2020, as well as the San Francisco Symphony’s first international performances since 2016.
February 17–19: Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet
On February 17–19, pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard returns for Béla Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 2, completing his cycle of performances of Bartók’s piano concertos with Salonen and the Orchestra that began in June 2022. Bartók completed his second concerto in 1931. Compared with his first concerto, he wrote that he intended it to be “less bristling with the difficulties for the orchestra,” with more audience-pleasing and recognizable themes. The concerto draws on Eastern European folk and Baroque music and features plenty of percussion while also highlighting the percussive elements of the piano. These performances of the Piano Concerto No. 2, like Aimard’s previous performances of Bartók’s Concertos Nos. 1 & 3, will be recorded for future audio release.
The program also includes Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin—both a tribute to friends that Ravel lost in combat during World War I and an ode to French music of centuries past—and selections from Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, which depicts the fierce war of the Montagues and Capulets, set in contrast to the affair of the two titular star-crossed lovers.
February 20: Lang Lang Plays Grieg
On February 20, Lang Lang joins Salonen and the Orchestra for a special one-night-only performance of Edvard Grieg’s heroic Piano Concerto, one of the composer’s most popular works, written when he was 24 years old. Salonen also conducts Jean Sibelius’s rich and triumphant Symphony No. 5. Composed in 1915, Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony was commissioned by the Finnish government to celebrate the composer’s 50th birthday, which was declared a national holiday.
February 23, 25 & 26: Salonen Conducts Bruckner & Adams
February 23, 25 & 26, pianist Conor Hanick makes his Orchestral Series debut as soloist in the Salonen-led world premiere performances of No Such Spring, a new work for piano and orchestra by composer Samuel Adams. Adams recalled listening to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring around the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as he was writing the second movement of the piece. He said that the feeling of “coming out of a two-year period of collective wintering and bearing witness to a very violent spring, both abroad and here in America” influenced his concept. The work embodies the paradox that springtime itself entails, of being “both beautiful and brutally violent—think of Thoreau’s description of the pond booming and cracking free of ice in Walden.”
The new work shares the program with Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6, written in 1879. Though it’s rarely performed, the composer considered it his boldest symphony, and the piece is highlighted by beautiful themes with a triumphant and joyous finale.
March 1 & 2: Yuja Wang Plays Rachmaninoff
On March 1 & 2, Yuja Wang joins Salonen and the Orchestra for two nights, performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s epic and famously difficult Piano Concerto No. 3, composed in 1909. The program also includes Salonen’s Nyx, a symphonic poem about the shadowy mythological Greek goddess. Salonen opens the program with the first San Francisco Symphony performances of Gabriella Smith’s Tumblebird Contrails, a work inspired by the composer’s experience hiking Point Reyes National Seashore. All three works will be performed on the San Francisco Symphony’s upcoming European residencies tour, March 9–17.
March 4: SoundBox: Codes with Nico Muhly & Yuja Wang
On March 4, Nico Muhly curates a one-night-only SoundBox program, Codes, featuring Yuja Wang and members of the San Francisco Symphony. The program brings together works by Johann Sebastian Bach and François Couperin with those of current-day composers including Muhly and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Caroline Shaw, and Billy Childs. Salonen conducts two works on the program: Muhly’s Two Motets by William Byrd and his own FOG for 13 instruments, which he wrote as a 90th birthday tribute to acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.
The program will travel with the San Francisco Symphony in the Orchestra’s first-ever international SoundBox performances in Paris and Hamburg on March 9 and 17, respectively.
SoundBox is an experimental late-night live music series that’s a laboratory for the exploration of new musical ideas and immersive audience experiences, continuously pushing the envelope with adventurous programming and innovative design. Each performance is unique—encompassing shifting stage settings, art installations, projection screens, and unexpected elements, featuring original lighting design by Luke Kritzeck and video design by Adam Larsen.
Lead support for SoundBox is provided by The Barbro and Bernard Osher SoundBox Fund.
CALENDAR EDITORS, PLEASE NOTE:
Tickets for concerts at Davies Symphony can be purchased via sfsymphony.org or by calling the San Francisco Symphony Box Office at 415-864-6000.
Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.
Health & Safety Information
Davies Symphony Hall is currently operating at full audience capacity. Based on the advice of the San Francisco Symphony’s Health and Safety Task Force, a face covering and vaccination against COVID-19 are strongly recommended but no longer required for entry into Davies Symphony Hall. These policies are subject to change. Visit sfsymphony.org/safety for the San Francisco Symphony’s complete up-to-date health and safety protocols.