James Gaffigan Conducts the Music of Debussy with the SF Symphony

View Tickets Browse Concerts


San Francisco Symphony

James Gaffigan



Piano Concerto

György Ligeti

La Mer

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

Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila

Camille Saint-Saëns

Something for the Dark (West Coast premiere) 

Kirkland Snider


Debussy's La Mer

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.
Browse And Subscribe to Podcasts


Davies Symphony Hall

Thu, May 9, 2019 at 11:00PM

Buy Now

Davies Symphony Hall

Fri, May 10, 2019 at 11:00PM

Buy Now

Davies Symphony Hall

Sat, May 11, 2019 at 11:00PM

Buy Now

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

Event Description

Conductor James Gaffigan will lead the SFS in a program featuring Saint-Saëns’ Bacchanale from Samson and Dalila and Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Something for the Dark. Then, experience Debussy’s La Mer and Ligeti’s Piano Concerto featuring piano virtuoso Pierre-Laurent Aimard.


Please note that Conductor James Gaffigan will conduct the San Francisco Symphony stepping in for Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas.

At A Glance

Danse Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila  1876 | 7 mins
You know the plot of Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila if you’re up on your Bible, or if you’ve seen Cecil B. DeMille’s 1950 epic film Samson and Delilah. Saint-Saëns’s opera adheres to the original story. Taking its name from Bacchus, mythological god of wine and fertility, a bacchanale is a dance that puts a premium on sensuality and abandon. Saint-Saëns’s Bacchnale opens with a twisting melody that could charm a snake from its basket. This is followed by a passage that begins as though it might have come from a nineteenth-century Parisian dance hall. These elements alternate until the appearance of a lovely tune, full of longing; but the music hall and snake-charmer music have the final words. Read More   

Piano Concerto 1986/1988 | 24 mins
Ligeti was swept up in Douglas Hofstadter’s 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, a playful, mind-expanding romp through the realms of science and art. He felt that the new compositions he had in mind, including the Piano Concerto, would be inspired by ideas in this book. Ligeti took a holistic approach to science, remarking, “I am concerned rather with intuitional, poetic, synesthetic correspondence, not on the scientific, but on the poetic level of thinking….The spell of time, enduring its passing by, closing it in a moment of the present is my main intention as a composer.” While the Piano Concerto is a complex piece it also affords fascination, pleasure, and even humor. Read More

Something for the Dark 2016 | 12 mins
Sarah Kirkland Snider belongs to a group of composers in their 30s and 40s who freely play with expectations of genre, incorporating elements of indie rock, electronica, folk, and minimalism into their compositions. Something for the Dark takes its title from a poem by Philip Levine, the Detroit-born-and-raised, Pulitzer Prize-winning former US poet laureate who was best known for his poems about the city’s working class. Snider notes: “Something for the Dark is a meditation on renewal, and the hard-won wisdom that attends the small, personal, daily triumphs of asserting one’s right to be.” Read More

La Mer  1905  |  23 mins
All his life, Debussy maintained a nearly total silence about his childhood. He did, however, make occasional and affectionate references to summer weeks spent at the beaches of Cannes. He learned then to love the sea, particularly its unpredictability, its ever‑changing nature. LISTEN FOR: Debussy is most evocative in the wonderful theme for cellos; Its pattern of swell and retreat even looks like a wave on the page—so much, in fact, like the wave in the painting by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai that Debussy asked his publisher to put a detail from that painting on the cover of his score. Read More


Steven Ziegler is Managing Editor and at the San Francisco Symphony.

Concert Extras

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

Please wait...