Jan 31, 2024
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the San Francisco Symphony and renowned guest artists in three Orchestral Series programs, February 23–25, March 1–3, and March 14–16, at Davies Symphony Hall, followed by a three-concert Southern California Tour to Costa Mesa, Palm Desert, and Los Angeles, March 20–22.
February 23–25: Esa-Pekka Salonen & Julia Fischer
February 23–25, violinist Julia Fischer returns to Davies Symphony Hall for her first performances with the San Francisco Symphony since 2014. She joins Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Orchestra for Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto. The piece was originally written for violinist Joseph Joachim, who was a friend of Brahms and advised the composer throughout the work’s creation. Fischer and Salonen recently performed the Brahms concerto with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Nobel Prize Concert in December.
The program opens with Stravinsky’s neoclassical ballet Pulcinella, which the composer called “the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible.” Salonen and the Orchestra are joined by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, tenor Nicholas Phan, and baritone Luca Pisaroni for these performances.
March 1–3: Scriabin’s Prometheus & Bartók’s Bluebeard
March 1-3, the San Francisco Symphony and Cartier present a multisensory performance of Alexander Scriabin’s Prometheus, The Poem of Fire in Davies Symphony Hall. Devised by Esa-Pekka Salonen, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent, this collaboration marks the world premiere of an immersive presentation of Prometheus that combines a dynamic musical and light performance with olfactory curation.
In ancient Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus stole fire from his fellow gods on Mount Olympus and gifted it to humankind, thereby endowing mortals with the technology vital for civilization. Scriabin’s 1910 tone poem, Prometheus, The Poem of Fire, captures the monumentality of this legend and its consequences for humanity. Scriabin envisioned a total, consuming work of art, one that encapsulated his own synesthetic leanings (he reportedly saw sound in color), ultimately subliming his audiences to another plane of consciousness.
“Scriabin scored Prometheus for light and color as well as music, but one of his dreams was to add more senses to the score, including scent,” says Thibaudet. “This idea has always fascinated me, as somebody who has always loved working together with artists from a variety of disciplines. I am excited that we now have the technology to bring Scriabin’s dream to life, and to be a part of this project with Esa-Pekka and Mathilde. This project shows us what is possible when there is collaboration within the arts: how different art forms and different senses can enrich one another, and in doing so enrich our lives and our experiences both inside and outside of the concert hall.” Read more about the San Francisco Symphony and Cartier’s collaboration.
On the second half of the program, Salonen and the Orchestra are joined by mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung and bass-baritone Gerald Finley (in his Symphony debut) for a performance of Béla Bartók’s eerie one-act opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, a psychological thriller that follows Bluebeard’s new wife Judith as she opens seven mysterious locked doors in Bluebeard’s castle. “Bartók is one of my favorite composers, and Bluebeard’s Castle is one of his best works,” said Salonen. “It tells a bloodcurdling story with a rich and exciting musical language. I have performed it with Michelle and Gerald separately before, but this is the first time we’ll all do it together.”
March 14–16: All Sibelius program with Lisa Batiashvili
March 14–16, Salonen conducts an all-Sibelius program featuring violinist Lisa Batiashvili in the composer’s beautifully virtuosic Violin Concerto, the only concerto Sibelius ever wrote. Sibelius was himself a failed violin virtuoso, and the concerto is imbued with his love for the instrument.
Salonen opens the program with Sibelius’s richly-scored tone-poem Finlandia, one of the composer’s most well-known works—a piece that inspired national pride and brought Sibelius personal fame and sweeping popularity. The program also features the composer’s Symphony No. 1, which would be his international breakthrough. The symphony was written during the political turmoil of Russian rule in Finland and became a patriotic rallying cry against the tsar and stood as a powerful declaration that Finnish culture was worth fighting for.
Three-concert Southern California tour, March 20–22, 2024
March 20–22, Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony, along with violinist Lisa Batiashvili, embark on a three-concert Southern California tour with performances at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa on March 20, Palm Desert’s McCallum Theatre at the College of the Desert on March 21, and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall on March 22. In Costa Mesa and Palm Desert, Salonen conducts a program of works by Jean Sibelius, including Finlandia, the Violin Concerto with Batiashvili as soloist, and Symphony No. 1. In Los Angeles, Salonen pairs Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with John Adams’s Naïve and Sentimental Music.
“It’s exciting for me to take my new band to the Walt Disney Concert Hall,” said Salonen. “And especially in a Sibelius program, which for a Finnish conductor is a bit of an obvious thing to do, but I don’t think I’ve ever conducted a Sibelius-only program in my life. What's especially inspiring is that we’re going to be collaborating with the great violinist Lisa Batiashvili. I’m really looking forward to this.”
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