Fanfare for the Common Man

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Featuring the theme from Fanfare for the Common Man, Copland's Third Symphony evokes grandeur and idealism with its characteristically open sound, lyrical slow movement, and powerful finale. Led by Michael Tilson Thomas, this concert showcases the world premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s newly commissioned work. The program opens with Prokofiev's witty and fiendishly difficult Third Piano Concerto, performed by Behzod Abduraimov, whose nuanced and powerful playing has critics raving “this is a pianist who has it all.” (The Seattle Times)

Great seats at $49!*

*Subject to availability.


San Francisco Symphony



Piano Concerto No. 3

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.


Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3

At a Glance

Sudden Changes, Short Fantasy for Orchestra
 2017  |  15 mins
The composer offers these comments on Sudden Changes: “It must be fifty years ago that I first met Michael Tilson Thomas, who was then at a very young age playing in an ensemble work of mine I was conducting in Los Angeles. . . . Now it is a joy to have provided a light-hearted overture to concerts of the San Francisco Symphony, an institution with which I had such a happy association (and so many splendid performances) as Composer-in-Residence some years ago. I am deeply grateful for my long friendship with MTT, and these performances are therefore a special treat for me. The piece itself is a single movement of roughly fourteen and a half minutes, and is composed using some fragments from an opera of mine called Haroun and the Sea of Stories.”

Piano Concerto No. 3
 1921  |  30 mins
The annals of Prokofieviana are filled with sketches for compositions that never reached completion. But Prokofiev was also a pragmatic composer, and rather than let perfectly good work go to waste he frequently recycled music intended for an unfinished project into one that held more promise. Such was the case with the Third Piano Concerto. He composed it mostly in 1921, but he drew on quite a few scraps of music that had come into being earlier and been intended originally for other pieces. This concerto consists of three movements, a standard layout for a concerto but not for a Prokofiev concerto, as all his others conform to less usual patterns. It is famously difficult for the dexterity and stamina it requires of the soloist and, as a result, stands near the top of the list of ultra-virtuosic showpiece concertos. And yet this is no “show-off” concerto; it’s a work of passionate expression and flies from the keyboard with what sounds like bursts of spontaneity.

Third Symphony
 1946  |  38 mins
Excerpted from Copland’s program notes on the Third Symphony: “The Third Symphony . . . is scored for a big orchestra. It was composed in the general form of an arch, in which the central portion, that is the second-movement scherzo, is the most animated, and the final movement is an extended coda, presenting a broadened version of the opening material. . . . Some of the writing in the third movement is for very high strings and piccolo, with no brass except single horn and trumpet. . . . One aspect of the Third Symphony ought to be pointed out: it contains no folk or popular material. Any reference to either folk material or jazz in this work was purely unconscious. However, I do borrow from myself by using Fanfare for the Common Man in an expanded and reshaped form in the final movement. I used this opportunity to carry the Fanfare material further and to satisfy my desire to give the Third Symphony an affirmative tone. After all, it was a wartime piece—or more accurately, an end-of-war piece—intended to reflect the euphoric spirit of the country at the time. It is an ambitious score, often compared to Mahler and to Shostakovich and sometimes Prokofiev, particularly the second movement.”

Jeanette Yu is Director of Publications at the San Francisco Symphony.


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  1. Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 8:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

  2. Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 8:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

  3. Sat, Mar 17, 2018 at 8:00pm

    Davies Symphony Hall

If you would like assistance purchasing tickets for patrons with disabilities, please call the box office at 415-864-6000.

Pre- and post-show Events

Inside Music, an informative talk by Peter Grunberg, begins one hour prior to concerts. Free to ticketholders. Learn More.

Guest artist signing: Pianist Behzod Abduraimov will be available for autographs following the March 16 and 17 concerts. Signing takes place in the orchestra lobby, near the Symphony Store.

Program Support

March 15 presented in partnership with

2017-18 Season: Click to explore

This concert is eligible for Compose Your Own. Click to learn more!