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One of the most formidable Prokofiev players of our time, Yefim Bronfman returns to the San Francisco Symphony to summit the towering peaks of the Second Piano Concerto. Bronfman brings to Prokofiev a “blazing power in the big Russian manner, tempered with subtlety and nuance” (Chicago Tribune). Also on the program, Gersen conducts Arvo Pärt’s Fratres for Strings and Percussion, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, and a premiere by the legendary music pioneer Steve Reich.
Please note that the conductor for this program has changed. Michael Tilson Thomas has withdrawn from all engagements from June 17 until September 3, 2019 to undergo medical treatment.
Please be aware roads around Civic Center Plaza may be closed due to the Clusterfest comedy event outside in front of Bill Graham Auditorium. Please plan for additional travel time and congested traffic conditions.
All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.
At A Glance
Fratres for Strings and Percussion 1977/1991 | 9 mins
The music of Arvo Pärt avoids unnecessary drama in favor of a technique he has dubbed “tintinnabuli,” referring to the bell-like ringing of simple sounds that create an acoustic aura around typically simple (but not simplistic) melodies that possess the quiet gravitas of chant. LISTEN FOR: In the course of this piece, which lasts about nine minutes, three lines—two “melody” voices a tenth apart, plus a fill-in voice in the middle—go through a short melodic pattern nine times. Each go-round is separated by a short, solemn percussion tattoo. With every repetition of the melody the overall pitch gets lower and lower, moving from higher- to lower-voiced instruments. Read More
Music for Ensemble and Orchestra 2018 | 20 mins
Music for Ensemble and Orchestra represents Steve Reich’s return to a large‐scale canvas, its design combining the intricate detailing of the ensemble with the grandiose sound world afforded by the orchestra. Part concerto, part orchestral suite, the work pits these components against one another in two distinct structural layers, each with different functions. Steve Reich writes: “Music for Ensemble and Orchestra is an extension of the Baroque concerto grosso, where there is more than one soloist....The piece is in five movements, though the tempo never changes, only the note value of the constant pulse in the pianos.” Read More
Piano Concerto No. 2 1913/1924 | 31 mins
In 1918, Prokofiev had left his Revolution-wracked native land for Paris. His manuscript for this concerto remained behind, and it was lost in a fire. In 1923-24 Prokofiev reconstructed the work from his remaining sketches; the Second Concerto as it now exists is therefore not really the same piece originally heard in 1913. The audience at the concerto’s second unveiling, in 1924 in Paris, proved to be as resistant as the conservative Russian listeners had been at the “first premiere” a decade earlier, but now it was for the opposite reason: Prokofiev was criticized for not being edgy enough for Roaring-Twenties Paris. Read More
Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor 1890 |14 mins
Alexander Borodin was a research chemist by trade, but his non-working hours were given over to music. His opera Prince Igor should have been his magnum opus but he left it unfinished at his death. The opera was completed and orchestrated in part by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov and was first produced in 1890. Exotically colored and passionately patriotic, the Polovtsian Dances are the closing music to Act 2 of Prince Igor. Read More
Steven Ziegler is Managing Editor at the San Francisco Symphony.