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San Francisco Symphony


Symphony No. 4
Carl Nielsen
Symphony No. 5
Ludwig van Beethoven


Davies Symphony Hall

Thu, Feb 3, 2022 at 7:30PM

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Davies Symphony Hall

Fri, Feb 4, 2022 at 7:30PM

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Davies Symphony Hall

Sun, Feb 6, 2022 at 2:00PM

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

Event Description

Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt leads this program featuring Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, a work that depicts the tenacity of life even in the most difficult of circumstances. Written during the First World War, Nielsen’s Fourth is an ode to overcoming destruction and a celebration of the human spirit. The program concludes with fate knocking on our door: Hear the most famous opening notes in all of classical music when the Orchestra performs Beethoven’s exhilarating and monumental Fifth Symphony.

At A Glance

In the summer of 1914, just before Europe did its best to destroy itself, Carl Nielsen tackled the problem of translating his vision of “The Inextinguishable” into music with his Fourth Symphony. With the title, Nielsen “endeavored to indicate in one word what music alone is capable of expressing to the full: The elemental Will of Life.” While working on this music Nielsen wrote to a friend that he was writing “a sort of symphony in one movement, which is meant to represent all that we feel and think about life in the most fundamental sense of the word.” These words—and the music they offer to elucidate—reflect ideas that Nielsen carried with him and that nourished him all his life.
Ludwig van Beethoven made his mark as a frank and uninhibited revolutionary, who some argue almost single-handedly created an entirely new sound in music. Imagine how wild this Fifth Symphony must have sounded to listeners at its 1808 premiere who, unlike us, did not hear it as the most familiar of classical masterpieces. In the first movement, the famous ta-ta-ta-TA pattern is hardly ever absent, generating music that feels faster, more impacted and compressed, than any music heard before. After those storms, the second movement is an oasis of pure and lovely music making. The drama returns in the grotesque and threatening scherzo. All in all, this was a brand new kind of symphony, and Beethoven’s invention here of a path from strife to triumph became a model for symphonic writing to the present day.  
After notes by Michael Steinberg

For more information, including full program notes, visit the San Francisco Symphony’s digital program book platform at or text “SFS Concert” to 55741.

Concert Extras

Pre-Concert Talk: Join us for an informative “Inside Music” talk from the stage with Alexandra Amati. Free to all ticketholders, these talks begin one hour before the February 3-4, 6 performances. Doors open 15 minutes before.

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