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Elim Chan


San Francisco Symphony Chorus

San Francisco Symphony


Les Illuminations

Benjamin Britten

The Planets

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


Davies Symphony Hall

Thu, Oct 26, 2023 at 10:00AM

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Event Description

Benjamin Britten delves into the hallucinatory verses of Arthur Rimbaud with youthful enthusiasm in the song cycle Les Illuminations, a rare foray into the French language for a composer renowned for his contributions to English music. Alongside Britten’s cycle is a much-loved work by an Englishman of an earlier generation: Gustav Holst’s The Planets launches the pastoral tradition into the extraterrestrial realm, conjuring up the star signs with otherworldly sounds and a wordless offstage choir. 

Open rehearsals are endowed by a bequest from The Estate of Katharine Hanrahan.

Mr. Staples’s appearance is made possible through the generosity of the Mrs. George J. Otto Memorial Vocalist Fund.


At A Glance

Benjamin Britten was just staking his place as an important composer when he wrote his song cycle Les Illuminations to French texts by the often scandalous 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud. The poems are far from clear-cut in their meaning, and the cycle’s movements cover a broad expressive terrain, from vigor to mystery.
The Planets is by far Gustav Holst’s most famous work, and an iconic representation of our solar system and the astrological significance of each planet. The suite’s jolting rhythms, grand tunes, and eerie atmospheres are so recognizable it’s easy to forget how original it all was in the late 1910s. And it still sounds like no other music, aside from a century of cinematic imitators.

Concert Extras

A pre-concert talk hosted by Laura Prichard will be presented from the stage one hour before the Open Rehearsal on October 26 from 9:00am–9:30am. Free to all ticketholders.

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