Public Relations Department
San Francisco Symphony
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / March 2, 2015
MUSIC DIRECTOR MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS AND THE SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY ANNOUNCE THEIR 2015-16 SEASON
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – March 2, 2015 – Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) today announce their 2015-16 season. Presenting an 11-month season of more than 200 concerts at Davies Symphony Hall and around the world, MTT and the SFS continue to build on their landmark artistic partnership characterized by wide-ranging programs, the championing and recording of works by living composers, and by broadening and deepening the concert experience to inspire and engage new audiences in classical music.
The 2015-16 season offers an array of season-long repertory focal points including a Schumann symphonic cycle, music of Sibelius in celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth, acclaimed violinists performing twentieth-century violin concertos, performances of Bernstein’s classic On the Town, commissions, premieres, three new recordings, the second season of experimental SoundBox programs, and two high profile tours of European Festivals and the Eastern US. With its 2015-16 season, MTT and the SFS offer their trademark mix of programs and projects that entertain, challenge, and reaffirm.
“My two-decade partnership with the San Francisco Symphony has been one of deepening relationships with each other, with our audiences, with artists and composers, and with the music,” says Michael Tilson Thomas. “This season speaks to these connections. We look forward to a season of joyful music making together.”
THE SCHUMANN SYMPHONY CYCLE AND RECORDING PROJECT
Over the course of the 2015-16 season, MTT and the SFS will perform Robert Schumann’s four completed symphonies. Each of the four concert programs features a Schumann symphony paired with multiple works by a single composer: Brahms, R. Strauss, Sibelius, and Copland. The symphonic cycle will be recorded for release on the Orchestra’s Grammy Award-winning in-house label SFS Media.
“Robert Schuman's music has captivated me since I became a musician,” says Michael Tilson Thomas. “His symphonic music requires great imagination, attention, and sensitivity on the part of the orchestra and conductor alike. This project comes at an outstanding moment in the Orchestra's history and in our relationship. I'm looking forward to sharing our fresh perspective on this songful music with our audiences.”
COMMISSIONS AND PREMIERES
For more than twenty years, a hallmark of Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony’s programming has been a championing of today’s leading composers by committing to perform and record their works. The 2015-16 season features many works new to San Francisco Symphony audiences, including commissions and premieres of music by Ted Hearne, Mason Bates, and Jörg Widmann.
NEW VOICES COMMISSIONING PROJECT: COMPOSER TED HEARNE
As part of its innovative commissioning project in partnership with the New World Symphony and music publisher Boosey & Hawkes, the September 30-October 3 concerts feature the West Coast premiere of Dispatches by Ted Hearne. Hearne is the third recipient of the New Voices award, following Zosha di Castri and Cynthia Lee Wong. New Voices recognizes and develops new and emerging talent. As a New Voices composer, Hearne is commissioned to write works for full symphony orchestra and chamber settings, and receives professional development from leading music figures such as MTT and John Adams as well as opportunities to workshop and premiere works both at the New World Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of MTT. About the new work, Hearne says, “The air at an orchestral concert is rarified, culturally and sonically removed from so much of the music I hear every day. These five short Dispatches are a response to this removal—my official reports from a distant location. Each movement of Dispatches takes music I first heard in a much different environment, filters it through my own musical language, and turns it into a short work for orchestra.”
JÖRG WIDMANN PIANO CONCERTO TRAUERMARSCH – US PREMIERE
Michael Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra are joined by pianist Yefim Bronfman June 23-25 in the US premiere of German composer Jörg Widmann’s much anticipated first piano concerto Trauermarsch (Funeral March), a co-commission with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Toronto Symphony. Bronfman performed the world premiere of the work with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic in December 2014. A renowned clarinetist, Widmann regularly performs a wide range of music from the established classical canon as well as by contemporary composers. Although Widmann has written a significant number of piano works to date, this is his first piano concerto. Widmann, reflecting on Trauermarsch, references Brahms’s second piano concerto and the German tradition for his own concerto, stating that, “Initially, I thought that no matter what will come in this piece, it has to open with a horn and the piano. But you never write the piece which you have in mind when you start working,” Widmann says. The technical demands of Trauermarsch are enormous. For all but five bars near the end, the soloist plays without rest throughout the entire work. “It was like euphoria, nothing I had planned: Every gesture of the piano evoked a comment in the orchestra. Strangely, the passages which I thought needed to see the piano alone … they never came. But I struggled for the best possible presence of the piano sound. This is why the orchestral part shows extremely sophisticated dynamical marks. Eventually, only seconds before the end of the concerto, a catastrophic event occurs and the piano is overrun by the orchestra. But that is, of course, a matter of dramaturgy.”
WORLD PREMIERE OF MASON BATES’S AUDITORIUM
Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado will lead the Orchestra in the world premiere of Auditorium, a new SFS-commission by Mason Bates, April 27-29. Bates explains, “Auditorium presents an orchestra pursued by memories of its former self. The past haunts the live orchestra, in the form of imaginatively processed recordings of Baroque instruments. What begins eerily eventually blossoms into a touching dialogue between two kindred but distant musical identities.” Auditorium is Mason Bates’s third SFS commission. This world premiere performance continues Bates’s artistic partnership with MTT and the SFS and coincides with the SFS Media release of the first full commercial recording of his orchestral work, featuring Liquid Interface, Alternative Energy, and the SFS-commissioned The B-Sides (2009). The SFS has commissioned and premiered a variety of other Bates works including Mass Transmission, commissioned for its acclaimed American Mavericks festival, and Attack Sustain Decay Release for Orchestra. Twice Bates has produced and performed his Mercury Soul DJ/chamber music at the post-concert Davies After Hours events. Says Bates, "A visit to the SFS is always an astonishing adventure, with creative programming of both old and new, always presented imaginatively and provocatively. This season is particularly special for me, with not only a brand new work coming to life, but also the release of my three largest symphonic works on SFS Media. I never cease to be amazed at the singular vision of Michael and the musical gifts of every one of the musicians."
THREE NEW RECORDINGS ON SFS MEDIA
In celebration of the San Francisco Symphony’s three-decade artistic partnership with composer John Adams, the 2015-16 season brings the first recording of Adams’s Absolute Jest featuring the St. Lawrence String Quartet paired with his Grand Pianola Music—two works written for and premiered by the SFS. With Carnegie Hall, MTT and the SFS co-commissioned Absolute Jest for the SFS’s Centennial Season American Mavericks festival in 2012, and will perform it with the St. Lawrence String Quartet at season-opening European festivals in Berlin, Bucharest, Lucerne, and Edinburgh in August and September. The recording of Absolute Jest was captured live in Davies Symphony Hall in May 2013. Adams wrote Grand Pianola Music in 1982 while composer-in-residence with the SFS, and led the Orchestra in the world premiere performance as part of its New and Unusual Music Series. John Adams returned to lead the Orchestra in Grand Pianola Music on this recording of January 2015 performances featuring pianists Marc-André Hamelin and Orli Shaham and Synergy Vocals as soloists.
In Fall 2015, SFS Media furthers a multi-year exploration of the music of Beethoven by releasing the Orchestra’s recordings of the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Emanuel Ax, and the Mass in C featuring the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, soprano Joélle Harvey, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, tenor William Burden, and bass-baritone Shenyang. This is the Orchestra’s second recording with Emanuel Ax. His performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with MTT and the SFS was released on SFS Media in 2011.
In Spring of 2016, SFS Media releases the first full album of orchestral works by Bay Area composer Mason Bates. The recording features the composer’s SFS commission The B-Sides, and performances of Liquid Interface, and Alternative Energy. The 2015-16 season also features the world premiere of a newly commissioned Bates work, Auditorium.
This season, SFS Media records MTT leading the SFS in all four of Robert Schumann’s Symphonies.
SEASON-LONG REPERTORY FOCAL POINTS
SIBELIUS 150 JUBILEE
“Sibelius is an immensely fascinating composer,” MTT says. “He is one of those artists whose life work is of a piece, whose major statements are in conversation with one another, extending, confirming, arguing, contradicting, but always continuing.” Concert programs throughout the 2015-16 season celebrate the music of Jean Sibelius in honor of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth – December 8, 1865. Conductor Susanna Mälkki will lead the SFS in Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5 in the concerts of October 22-24 as part of her two-week residency with the Orchestra. MTT leads the concerts of November 12-15 highlighted by Sibelius’s The Swan of Tuonela, as well as the rousing Violin Concerto in D minor with soloist Leonidas Kavakos. Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes performs a set of six short pieces by Sibelius inspired by nature, in a solo recital on November 18. On May 6, the New York Philharmonic, led by Alan Gilbert, performs Sibelius’s Symphony No. 7 and his Finlandia.
TWENTIETH-CENTURY VIOLIN CONCERTOS
In the 2015-16 season, Christian Tetzlaff, Gidon Kremer, Leonidas Kavakos, and Nikolaj Znaider join the SFS in violin concertos by four major twentieth-century composers—Shostakovich, Bartók, Sibelius, and Nielsen—whose music speaks of the personal and human harmonies of a time not long gone by.
RARELY PERFORMED MUSIC FROM OPERAS
The SFS dedicates several concerts this season to music that has touched the opera stage but is less familiar to audiences. Guest conductors lead the Orchestra in illuminating the scores of rarely heard operas by performing excerpts of works by Mussorgsky, Pfitzner, Weber, and Rameau.
2015-16 VISITING CONDUCTORS INVITED TO FEATURE MUSIC AND ARTISTS FROM THEIR HOMELANDS
In 2015-16, MTT invites his colleagues to share the music of their homelands with San Francisco Symphony audiences. Some of the world’s leading conductors take to the Davies Symphony Hall stage with essential and vitalizing music of their countries, bringing with them visiting guest artists who have likewise championed the sounds of home.
VOCALISTS CHAMPIONED BY MTT THROUGHOUT HIS CAREER
Long known for highlighting vocal works in his performances, many of Michael Tilson Thomas’s 2015-16 programs will feature singers he has championed throughout his career:
MTT & THE SFS PERFORM BERNSTEIN’S ON THE TOWN
Following the success of their concert performances and subsequent recording of Bernstein’s West Side Story, MTT and the SFS present Leonard Bernstein’s musical On the Town May 25-29. With lyrics and book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the show is based on the Jerome Robbins ballet Fancy Free (1944), and opened on Broadway that same year. MTT and the SFS first performed On the Town at Davies Symphony Hall in 1995 in performances that featured Thomas Hampson, Tyne Daly, as well as Comden and Green. The full cast and production details will be announced at a later date.
US AND EUROPEAN FESTIVAL TOURS
MTT and the SF Symphony return to Europe for a thirteen-concert, nine-city tour of the most prestigious summer music festivals in the world from August 27 – September 14, 2015. Pianists Yuja Wang and Jeremy Denk, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet join the SFS throughout the tour for performances including two concerts at the BBC Proms, two at the Edinburgh International Festival, two at the Lucerne Festival and at the George Enescu Festival in Bucharest, as well as performances in Germany at the Berlin Festival and the Rheingau Festival in Wiesbaden. The high-profile tour also features concerts in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Luxembourg’s Philharmonie, and their debut at the new Paris Philharmonie.
Central to the European Festivals Tour is repertoire from the Orchestra’s Grammy Award-winning SFS Media recording catalogue: Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 featuring Yuja Wang, and Henry Cowell’s Piano Concerto with Jeremy Denk, who performs it with the Orchestra at London’s BBC Proms. The European tour will highlight the Orchestra’s newest SFS Media recordings, with performances of Bay Area composer John Adams’s Absolute Jest, a work commissioned and recorded by MTT and the SFS featuring the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Their recording of Absolute Jest will be available prior to the tour in August paired with the composer conducting the San Francisco Symphony, pianists Orli Shaham and Marc-André Hamelin, and Synergy Vocals in his Grand Pianola Music, a work written for the SFS in 1982 while Adams was composer-in-residence with the Orchestra. In Europe, MTT and the Orchestra will also perform Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, to be released on SFS Media May 5, 2015. Other works performed on the tour are Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, Eroica, the subject of MTT and the SF Symphony’s Keeping Score documentary (available on DVD and Blu-ray), Schoenberg’s Theme and Variations, Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring Yuja Wang, and Ives’s Decoration Day (also available as part of an Ives Keeping Score documentary and performance DVD). In Bucharest for the George Enescu Festival, MTT and the SFS will perform Enescu’s La Voix de la nature.
In April 2016 MTT and the SFS return to Carnegie Hall for two performances followed by concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. In these concerts MTT leads the Orchestra in Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and tenor Simon O’Neill. MTT will also lead the Orchestra in modernist works by Aaron Copland, performing the composer’s Orchestral Variations, his Piano Concerto, and Inscape featuring Inon Barnatan.
SOUNDBOX CONTINUES WITH A SECOND SEASON OF EXPERIMENTAL PERFORMANCES IN UNIQUE NIGHTCLUB SPACE AT DAVIES SYMPHONY HALL
In December 2014, MTT and the SFS launched SoundBox, a new alternative performance space backstage at Davies Symphony Hall that features a series of intimate musical evenings with San Francisco Symphony musicians in a casual, nightclub setting. 2015-16 SoundBox performances build on its acclaimed debut season with new series of 10 concerts featuring MTT and SFS musicians working with composers and curators to create multidisciplinary programs that continue to bring audiences on an exploration of music from around the world and across the centuries. Performances are scheduled December 11-12, January 15-16, February 19-20 featuring members of the SFS Chorus, March 25-26, and April 22-23. Michael Tilson Thomas returns as curator March 25-26. Individual SoundBox programs and on-sale dates will be announced later in the year.
SoundBox’s first season debuted to sold-out houses and tremendous critical acclaim: “San Francisco has a superb new performance venue for music…the tremendous opening event of SoundBox…was as exciting for what it offered as for what it promised,” wrote Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle. Georgia Rowe, writing for the Bay Area News Group called it a “thrilling debut,…the classical music establishment has been wringing its hands for years, trying to figure out how to attract younger audiences. They can stop now. Michael Tilson Thomas has found the solution.” Writer Alex Ross noted in The New Yorker, “Like many American orchestras, the San Francisco Symphony is seeking to diversify its offerings and capture the attention of a younger audience. With SoundBox, it has hit on a winning formula.”
The SFS’s popular Film Series continues in the 2015-16 season with Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas featuring the music of Danny Elfman November 27-28. Justin Freer conducts the SF Symphony and Chorus in newly restored music composed by Dimitri Tiomkin accompanying the screening of Frank Capra’s beloved holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life December 11-12. February 12-13 brings Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo back to Davies Symphony Hall, following the SFS’s world premiere performance of the film to live accompaniment in November of 2013. The SF Symphony’s film series concludes March 23-26 with John Williams’s Academy award-winning score to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY MUSICIANS AND CHORUS
SFS musicians showcase their artistry by taking center stage throughout the season in Davies Symphony Hall, chamber music venues around the Bay Area, and in SoundBox. At Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco Symphony Principal Bassoon Stephen Paulson performs the Mozart Bassoon Concerto February 5-6, 2016 with guest conductor Masaaki Suzuki who makes his SFS conducting debut in these performances. SFS Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik is soloist in the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 1 March 2-5, 2016 under the baton of SFS Conductor Laureate, Herbert Blomstedt.
The San Francisco Symphony Chorus, led by Chorus Director Ragnar Bohlin, performs with the Orchestra in Haydn’s Lord Nelson, Mass in D minor, conducted by Andràs Schiff October 7, 9-10. December 17-19 the Chorus is featured in Handel’s Messiah conducted by Ragnar Bohlin, and March 17-19 performs Berlioz’s Requiem under the baton of Charles Dutoit. Led by MTT, the men of the SFS Chorus perform the Alto Rhapsody by Brahms with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as soloist May 19-22, and the full Chorus is featured in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, June 29-July 2.
The musicians of the SF Symphony perform a wide array of repertoire in intimate settings in an annual Sunday chamber music series, with concerts at the Florence Gould Theater at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, November 1, 2015; and February 21, March 20, and May 15, 2016. Sunday afternoon chamber music concerts take place in Davies Symphony Hall on October 11 and November 29, 2015; February 28, April 3, June 5, and June 26, 2016. Chamber music program details will be announced at a later date.
GUEST ARTISTS AND CONDUCTORS
The San Francisco Symphony’s 2015-16 season features some of the world’s most distinguished guest conductors, instrumentalists, and singers as well as many young emerging artists. Conductors returning for two-week engagements with the Orchestra are SFS Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt, Charles Dutoit, Pablo Heras-Casado, and Susanna Mälkki. Returning to lead the Orchestra in a week of concerts each are Vladimir Ashkenazy, James Conlon, Stéphane Denève, Marek Janowski, Edwin Outwater, Yan Pascal Tortelier, and Juraj Valčuha. Itzhak Perlman, András Schiff, and Pinchas Zukerman all conduct and take solo turns in the San Francisco Symphony concerts they will lead.
Making conducting debuts on the SFS podium are Andrey Boreyko, Manuel López Gómez, Masaaki Suzuki, and Krzysztof Urbański.
Soloists familiar to Davies Symphony Hall audiences include pianists Emanuel Ax, Inon Barnatan, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Yefim Bronfman, Ingrid Fliter, Stephen Hough, Lang Lang, Nikolai Lugansky, Daniil Trifonov, Simon Trpčeski, and Yuja Wang. Solo violinists include SFS Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik, Leonidas Kavakos, Gidon Kremer, Christian Tetzlaff, Maxim Vengerov, Nikolaj Znaider, and Pinchas Zukerman. SFS Principal Bassoon Stephen Paulson is featured as soloist for a concert week as well. Returning vocalists include sopranos Laura Claycomb, Karina Gauvin, and Susanna Phillips; mezzo-sopranos Sasha Cooke, Susan Graham, and Kelley O’Connor; tenor Paul Groves, and baritone Thomas Hampson.
Artists making their debut with the SFS this season include pianists Jan Lisiecki and Maria-João Pires; cellist Alexey Stadler; and vocalists soprano Anna Lucia Richter; contralto Britta Schwarz; tenors Werner Gura and Simon O’Neill, and bass Robert Holl.
VISITING ORCHESTRAS, RECITALS, AND SPECIAL CONCERTS
Special appearances by visiting orchestras returning to Davies Symphony Hall include conductor Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; Pinchas Zukerman conducting and performing on violin with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Jonathan Biss as piano soloist; Mikael Pletnev leading the Russian National Orchestra with Yuja Wang as piano soloist; and the New York Philharmonic with Alan Gilbert conducting and cello soloist Carter Brey.
The 2015-16 season offers recitals by Yo-Yo Ma, Jeremy Denk, Leif Ove Andsnes, Hilary Hahn, Itzhak Perlman with pianist Emanuel Ax, and soprano Christine Brewer in recital with organist Paul Jacobs. Additionally, French organist and composer Thierry Eschaich makes his debut on the San Francisco Symphony’s organ recital series, on its grand Ruffatti concert organ.
COMMUNITY AND EDUCATION
FREE CONCERTS / HERITAGE EVENTS / YOUTH ORCHESTRA
In its second century, the San Francisco Symphony continues to be a leading and vital cultural resource in the Bay Area, committed to serving its community. It performs a variety of free and low-cost family and community concerts throughout the year, offering the Bay Area the widest possible opportunity to hear and experience orchestral music. The SFS performs annual free summer concerts July 12 at the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal at Pier 27 and at the Stern Grove Festival on July 5. The Orchestra also performs its annual low-priced All-San Francisco concert in August for San Francisco’s community groups, the Community Deck the Hall Holiday Concert during the Christmas season, its low-cost Concerts for Kids series for more than 30,000 children and teachers from all over Northern California, and the Music for Families series designed to introduce children and their parents to the wonders of live orchestral music. Special events of the San Francisco Symphony’s 104th season include two performances of its annual Día de los Muertos Community Concert in November and the annual Chinese New Year Concert and Celebration in February.
The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra performs three concerts in Davies Symphony Hall during the 2015-16 season as well as its annual Peter and the Wolf holiday concerts. The ensemble will embark on an international tour in June of 2015.
MUSIC EDUCATION AND CONNECTIONS FOR ALL AGES
The San Francisco Symphony is committed to bringing orchestral music and access to music to people of every age and life stage. The Symphony’s educational and community programs reach thousands of people of all ages throughout Northern California, touching a broad economic and cultural cross-section of the population. Its Adventures in Music (AIM) program in San Francisco’s public schools reaches every first through fifth grader with comprehensive music education experiences, making it possible for them to learn about music in the classroom. For older students, the Instrument Training and Support program provides every San Francisco public middle and high school band and orchestra program with professional coaching and music supplies. Through the SFS Youth Orchestra and performances on Bay Area college campuses, the SFS continues to offer connections to young adults. Redesigned in 2014 is the children’s music education website, www.sfskids.org, developed in conjunction with the UC Irvine Center for Software Research.
The Symphony’s Community of Music Makers program offers workshops that give amateur adult singers and instrumentalists the opportunity to develop their musical skills onstage at Davies Symphony Hall with the support of the musicians, staff, and resources of the SF Symphony.
Subscription ticket packages for the San Francisco Symphony’s 2015-16 season go on sale on Monday, March 2 at 2:00 pm. Ticket information is available through the San Francisco Symphony web site at www.sfsymphony.org/subscribe, through the SFS Patron Services Office at 415-864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco. Single tickets for individual 2015-16 San Francisco Symphony concerts will go on sale Monday, July 20.
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2015-16 SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY MAJOR INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERS
The San Francisco Symphony receives support from over 10,000 individual donors and 150 partner institutions. We are especially grateful to the following major funders supporting programs and events in the 2015-16 season:
Second Century Partners
Chevron - Inaugural Partner
Emirates Airline - Official Airline
Major Institutional Partners
Franklin Templeton Investments
Morrison & Foerster LLP
San Francisco Arts Commission
Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund
National Endowment for the Arts
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