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San Francisco Symphony Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen takes a turn as composer and conductor with longtime musical partner Leila Josefowicz. The restlessly innovative maestro presents his Violin Concerto, a piece championed by intrepid virtuoso Leila Josefowicz since she gave its premiere in 2009. Also on the program, Salonen and the SF Symphony play Beethoven’s 1811 Overture to King Stephen, written to commemorate the opening of a new concert hall in Budapest. They conclude the evening with the kinetic Fifth Symphony by fellow Nordic composer Carl Nielsen.
Off-The-Podium: a post-concert Q & A opportunity for the audience to ask questions of Salonen and Josefowicz after the performance on Thursday, February 27, 2020.
At A Glance
Overture to King Stephen 1811 | 7 mins
Beethoven endured an unsteady relationship with the stage. He completed only one full-fledged opera, Fidelio, but in other theatrical genres he scored better success. In July 1811, he accepted a commission to provide accompanying music for two dramatic pieces by August von Kotzebue, for the inauguration of the new Hungarian Theatre in present day Budapest. As befit the occasion, these were overtly nationalist plays, and in his Overture to King Stephen, Beethoven took pains to incorporate something of a Hungarian flavor. Two of the principal themes reflect Hungarian folk styles of the time, something that would not have been lost on the overture's first audiences.—Read More
Violin Concerto 2009 | 30 mins
The composer notes: “I decided to cover as wide a range of expression as I could imagine over the four movements of the Concerto: from the virtuosic and flashy to the aggressive and brutal, from the meditative and static to the nostalgic and autumnal. Leila Josefowicz turned out to be a fantastic partner in this process. She knows no limits, she knows no fear, and she was constantly encouraging me to go to places I was not sure I would dare to go. As a result of that process, this concerto is as much a portrait of her as it is my more private narrative, a kind of summary of my experiences as a musician and a human being at the watershed age of fifty.”—Read More
Symphony No. 5 1922 | 35 mins
Nielsen’s music is full of conversations or confrontations. These can be comic, or menacing (as they are here), or ambiguous. Nielsen was also deeply interested in questioning traditional formal procedures, though he knew that most listeners could not “follow” a harmonic structure and put names to their experiences. But he also knew that listeners can and do respond to the events themselves, to unexpected juxtapositions, to departures and homecomings. It is that faculty, that unconscious memory, that he addresses in his symphonic dramas. LISTEN FOR: The clash between snare drum and orchestra in the first movement is a profoundly frightening vision of madness and the invasion of order by disorder.—Read More
These concerts, a part of The Barbro and Bernard Osher Masterworks Series, are made possible by a generous gift from Barbro and Bernard Osher.
These concerts are made possible through the generosity of Trine Sorensen and Michael Jacobson in honor of Esa-Pekka Salonen and the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony.
The performances of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Violin Concerto is supported by the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for New Works of Music