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Program Notes

Each week, thousands of San Francisco Symphony concert-goers open their programs to read about the drama, the passion, and the inspiration behind the music they’re hearing. You can read our critically acclaimed program notes online one week prior to select concerts.
Aaron Zigman

BORN: January 6, 1963. San Diego, CA. Currently based in Los Angeles

COMPOSED: Completed in 2019, co-commissioned by the Beijing Music Festival, Radio France, and the San Francisco Symphony. Dedicated to "my friend Jean-Yves Thibaudet"

WORLD PREMIERE: October 14, 2019. Jean-Yves Thibaudet was soloist and Huang Yi conducted the China Philharmonic at the Beijing Music Festival

US PREMIERE: San Francisco Symphony

INSTRUMENTATION: Solo piano, 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons (2nd doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones and bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, celesta, and strings

DURATION: About 29 mins
  
THE BACKSTORY: Aaron Zigman is the award-winning composer of more than sixty major Hollywood film scores, including The Notebook, Bridge to Terabithia, John Q., The Proposal, Alpha Dog, My Sister’s Keeper, the Sex and the City films, and Escape from Planet Earth. He has also scored other compelling dramas such as Flash of Genius, The Company Men, I Saw the Light, The Shack, and Wakefield.
 
He began training as a classical pianist at age five. At age eighteen he began studying orchestration with legendary MGM composer and orchestrator George Bassman. Zigman soon became an in-demand writer, producer, arranger and/or orchestrator for artists including Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, John Legend, Quincy Jones, Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Dionne Warwick, Carly Simon, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, The Four Tops, Seal, and many others.
 
His film career was launched in 2000 when director Nick Cassavetes heard Zigman’s symphonic work Rabin and asked him to score the movie John Q., starring Denzel Washington. The pair have since collaborated on six films, including the iconic romantic classic The Notebook. Zigman’s recent projects include the Showtime documentary American Dream/American Knightmare, directed by Antoine Fuqua, and the drama Gossamer Folds, directed by Lisa Donato. In addition to his film scores, Zigman has recently finished writing a double concerto for cello and piano.
 
THE MUSIC: Zigman and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet first worked together on the score for the 2017 film Wakefield, directed by Robin Swicord, starring Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner. Thibaudet was already a veteran of several film soundtracks, having played on scores for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, and Bride of the Wind. The two had a natural affinity, and when Thibaudet was exploring new projects, Zigman was at the top of his mind. Thibaudet recalled:
 
"Long Yu [Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the China Philharmonic and founder and former artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival] had the idea to do a tango concerto together and asked me to look at who could write that for us. He was very serious about it, and I was excited by the idea. I have always admired the music of Argentina, and pianist Horacio Salgán in particular, who was a great friend and with whom I always wished to collaborate. And then, one day, I was speaking with Aaron Zigman and I realized that he was very much into the tango and South American music as well. It was one of his specialties, which I didn’t know! So I asked him to write a teaser, a few minutes or so, and send it to me and Long Yu, who immediately loved it."
 
A commission soon followed from the Beijing Music Festival, Radio France, and the San Francisco Symphony. Thibaudet is no stranger to music outside of the traditional “classical” piano repertory, having recorded albums dedicated to Duke Ellington and Bill Evans.
 
Zigman believes tango is one of music's most colorful and emotional forms, making the idea of a tango‐based concerto for piano and orchestra both intriguing and compelling. Zigman points out that the tango expresses feelings of "pain, beauty, and love, yet it is also a dance that must reflect these emotions. It's a very introspective art form." In his three‐movement concerto, Zigman pays homage to tango’s unique essence, referencing its characteristic rhythms and harmonies while drawing on its rich sensuality and color. The piano is a powerful protagonist throughout the piece, while the orchestra echoes the various thematic structure—soloist and ensemble joining together in a powerful symbiosis. In Zigman's own words: “Music transcends all barriers. In a world full of chaos and turmoil, music has the power to bind humanity, creating a bridge between all of us and reminding us that we are all one people. I am honored and grateful that this work is being performed by the world-renowned San Francisco Symphony under the baton of the highly-acclaimed Fabien Gabel and one of the most incredible pianists of our time, the amazing Jean-Yves Thibaudet."