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Rafael Payare


Bruce Liu


San Francisco Symphony


Darker America
[San Francisco Symphony Premiere]
William Grant Still

Piano Concerto No. 3

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ein Heldenleben

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


Davies Symphony Hall

Thu, May 11, 2023 at 7:30PM

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Davies Symphony Hall

Fri, May 12, 2023 at 7:30PM

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Davies Symphony Hall

Sat, May 13, 2023 at 7:30PM

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Rafael Payare’s appearance is supported by the Louise M. Davies Guest Conductor Fund.

BRUCE LIU’s appearance is supported by the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Guest Artists.

Event Description

Concert update: Hilary Hahn is unwell and regretfully unable to perform on this week’s program. We are grateful to pianist Bruce Liu for stepping in on short notice.

In his SF Symphony debut, Rafael Payare leads Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben, an impassioned portrait of man’s successes and failures. Bruce Liu (also making his SF Symphony debut) takes on Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a work that elegantly balances drama and lyricism. And William Grant Still’s Darker America chronicles the journey of Black Americans from sorrow to triumph.

digital program book


William Grant Still was hailed in his lifetime as the “Dean of African-American Composers,” and Darker America was his first large-scale composition. It combines themes and rhythms derived from Black music with some of the modernist sounds of his teacher, the French composer Edgar Varèse.

Listeners of Ludwig van Beethoven’s C minor Piano Concerto may entertain recollections of an earlier C minor Piano Concerto, the brooding, even despairing one that Mozart composed in 1786. Beethoven was an admirer of the Mozart work, and his own C minor Piano Concerto, which was not completed until 1803, displays a strikingly unified vocabulary and taut structure. One might argue that it is the first of his five piano concertos really to sound like the mature Beethoven.

Who is the hero of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life)? Many believe it is Strauss himself. The first section of this six-part work depicts the hero in his changing aspects and moods. Then we hear drastically different music: sharp, prickly, disjunct, dissonant—this is the scene of The Hero’s Adversaries, the grudgers and the faultfinders. Next we hear love music for The Hero’s Companion, as lush as only Strauss could make it.

Adversaries disturb the idyll and the hero must go into battle. Trumpets summon him, introducing the immense The Hero’s Battlefield. The music quiets down for the remarkable The Hero’s Works of Peace. But the adversaries are still not silenced. The Hero rages, but his passion gives way to renunciation in The Hero’s Escape from the World and Completion.

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