Press Room


Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102

(415) 503-5474
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Jan 3, 2020


Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke’s residency features world premiere performances of Michael Tilson Thomas’ Meditations on Rilke and selections from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn January 9–12; “A Love Song to San Francisco” solo and chamber recital featuring songs by Schumann, Beethoven, Mahler, and more May 31; and ongoing educational collaborations with the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter’s residency celebrates Beethoven’s 250th birthday through a solo recital of the composer’s Violin Sonatas Nos. 4, 5, and 9 with pianist Lambert Orkis January 26; an all-Beethoven chamber recital January 27; and performances of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Michael Tilson Thomas and the SF Symphony June 4–6

Soprano Julia Bullock’s residency includes performances of Britten’s Les Illuminations and Ravel’s Three Poems of Stéphane Mallarmé conducted by Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen February 20–22; a curated SoundBox program including music by Hildegard von Bingen, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Bach, and Nina Simone April 24–25; and History’s Persistent Voice, a program created by Bullock and inspired by artwork and words penned by black American artists June 19

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—San Francisco Symphony (SFS) Artists-in-Residence Mezzo-Soprano Sasha Cooke, Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and Soprano Julia Bullock join the SFS to curate and perform unique and personal programs throughout January–June 2020. The programs created and performed by these remarkable artists—each exhibiting the deep bonds they have established with Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), the Orchestra, and the San Francisco Bay Area—span SF Symphony Orchestral Series concerts, solo and chamber music recitals, one-of-a-kind performances in SoundBox, and educational and community collaborations.

Artist-in-Residence—Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke

Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke has performed more than 14 works with MTT and the San Francisco Symphony over 10 years, including Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3, Das Lied von der ErdeDas klagende Lied, and Songs of a Wayfarer; semi-staged productions of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien; and performances of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette that were released on the SFS Media record label. Her return in 2020 includes performing and curating three projects that illustrate her deep and artistically rich relationship with Michael Tilson Thomas, the SF Symphony, and audiences and residents of the Bay Area. January 9–12, Cooke and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny perform the world premiere of Michael Tilson Thomas’ song cycle Meditations on Rilke, a musical setting of lyric poems by German modernist Rainer Maria Rilke, alongside selections from Mahler’s setting of German folk poems Des Knaben Wunderhorn.  

“It’s incredibly special to perform songs written by Michael, particularly on a program that also includes songs by Mahler,” comments Sasha Cooke. Many people associate Mahler solely with his symphonies, and yet I believe that his songs may truly be the most extraordinary part of his work. Similarly, many people only think of Michael as a conductor and do not realize what a wonderful composer he is, especially for song. Mahler is one of Michael’s greatest loves, and I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful experiences singing Mahler with Michael. When I approach Michael’s songs, I see a beautiful combination of simplicity and universality—both aspects that Mahler’s songs also represent to me.” 

May 31, Sasha Cooke performs “A Love Song to San Francisco,” a solo and chamber music recital in Davies Symphony Hall that is specially designed for San Francisco audiences and reflects Cooke’s more than 10-year journey performing with MTT and the SF Symphony. Performed with pianist Julius Drake and SFS musicians including violinists Nadya Tichman and Chen Zhao, violist Jonathan Vinocour, and cellist Amos Yang, the program includes Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben, Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, Chausson’s Chanson perpétuelle, Berlioz’s The Death of Ophelia (La Mort d’Ophélie), Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis, and selections from Mahler’s Rückert Lieder.

Further deepening her relationship with the city and people of San Francisco, Cooke’s residency also incorporates a new educational project in collaboration with the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, where she coaches vocal and composition students as they explore ways in which singers and composers influence one another in the creation of new vocal works. As part of this project, students will observe Cooke in open rehearsals at both the SF Symphony and SF Opera, will participate in masterclasses with Cooke and composer Jake Heggie, and will create new works to be performed in Spring 2020.

Sasha Cooke remarks: “An artist residency with the San Francisco Symphony feels like an even greater gift of artistic freedom than the one I've already experienced there over many years. For me the SFS has always represented an artistic home. Through this residency I hope to share different aspects of my artistic life and to deepen my relationship with the city and with Michael.”  

Artist-in-Residence—Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter Celebrates Beethoven250

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter made her San Francisco Symphony debut in 1988 and has returned to Davies Symphony Hall many times to perform with the Orchestra, and in solo and chamber recitals. In 1996, just the second season of Michael Tilson Thomas’ tenure as Music Director, Mutter traveled with the Orchestra for its first-ever European tour with MTT. Shortly after, in 1998, Mutter brought San Francisco audiences an acclaimed series of three solo recitals in two days, performing all 10 of Beethoven’s violin sonatas as a part of a multi-continent tour and recording project exploring the composer’s works for violin. Anne-Sophie Mutter returns to San Francisco in 2020 to perform three programs she has planned in celebration of the 250th birthday of music’s most iconic composer, Ludwig van Beethoven.  

“I'm extremely excited to come back to San Francisco to perform three programs celebrating the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven,” comments Anne-Sophie Mutter. “These three totally different programs showcase Beethoven as a composer for the violin and also showcase the violin in different settings—trio, quartet, recital, and a concerto with orchestra. I hope that through these programs the audience will see Beethoven both as a young composer and as a more mature composer, and will understand both the incredible depth and honesty in his music as well as the shattering emotions this man was capable of transmitting.” 

January 26, Anne-Sophie Mutter performs a solo recital of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas Nos. 4, 5, and 9, alongside her longtime piano collaborator Lambert Orkis. January 27, Mutter joins violinist Ye-Un Choi, violist Vladimir Babeshko, and cellist Daniel Müller-Schott to perform a chamber recital featuring Beethoven’s String Trio in C minor; String Quartet in E-flat major, Harp; and String Trio in E-flat major.

June 4–6, Mutter joins Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony to perform Beethoven’s only Violin Concerto, a work that Mutter has called “the greatest violin concerto in history.” Anne-Sophie Mutter remarks: “Working with Michael is at once challenging and very exciting. He is an intelligent, intellectual, well-informed, witty, demanding, and wonderful friend and musician colleague. Over several decades I’ve played almost all of the major violin repertoire with him, as well as a lot of contemporary music, and it has always been a tremendous thrill to see how much insight he brings to music.” 

Artist-in-Residence—Soprano Julia Bullock

Soprano Julia Bullock made her San Francisco Symphony debut in 2013, performing Bernstein’s achingly beautiful song “Somewhere,” in Michael Tilson Thomas and the SF Symphony’s semi-staged production of West Side Story, which was released on the SFS Media record label and nominated for a Grammy Award. She returns in 2020 to curate and perform three concert programs that illuminate the distinct voices of literary, visual, and musical artists.  

“I first met MTT when I was still a student at Juilliard, and he hired me to sing West Side Story’s ‘Somewhere,’” recalls Julia Bullock. “This was my first introduction to performing with a major symphony orchestra. The character who sings ‘Somewhere’ is an anonymous girl who, despite not having a name, affirmingly calls out that she knows there is a place for her and for all people. In the years since that performance, I too have looked for my ‘place’ as an artist and have found a clearer vision for what I want to say and how to say it. To be invited back to San Francisco is very touching and personally meaningful.” 

February 20–22, Bullock joins SF Symphony Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen to perform two poetic song cycles: Britten’s Les Illuminations, based on hallucinatory verses by Arthur Rimbaud; and Ravel’s Three Poems of Stéphane Mallarmé, which evoke the Symbolist writer’s “mystery of somber abstractions.” In December 2018, Julia Bullock was announced as one of eight collaborative partners who will collaborate with Salonen and the Orchestra on an ongoing basis when he begins his tenure as SFS Music Director in September 2020. More information about Esa-Pekka Salonen’s collaborative partners will be announced later this year. 

April 24–25, Julia Bullock curates and performs a SoundBox program incorporating signature elements of the SoundBox experience, including performances by SF Symphony musicians, poetry readings, and immersive visual designs. The program pairs music by Nina Simone with klavier music by Bach and chants by Hildegard von Bingen; Blues songs for piano and voice with a solo violin piece by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson; and music by Poulenc.

June 19, the San Francisco Symphony presents a new iteration of “History’s Persistent Voice,” a program Bullock first developed during her residency at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Inspired by an exhibition of artwork and words penned by black American artists from the southeastern United States, the program incorporates traditional slave songs and new instrumental and vocal compositions performed by Julia Bullock and SFS musicians. The San Francisco Symphony presentation of “History’s Persistent Voice” includes new SFS commissions from Rhiannon Giddens, Camille Norment, Cécile McLorin Salvant, and Pamela Z, as well as West Coast premieres of works by Tania León, Allison Loggins-Hull, and Jessie Montgomery. 

Julia Bullock explains: “I am deeply interested in artists who aim to have their voices liberated through their writing, and that is a shared thread through these three concert programs. From the poets Rimbaud and Mallarmé to the composers Britten and Ravel, to those who wrote blues and jazz, along with the contemporary pieces and new works we are commissioning, there is this amazing unleashing of individual voices. As an artist and classical singer, this concept resonates with me because I spend a lot of time trying to discipline and organize myself, but I think it’s very important to remember that one of the truest goals of music is to find expressive freedom.”  

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