Garrick Ohlsson plays Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the SF Symphony

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson is here this week, joined by Slovakian conductor Juraj Valčuha to lead our Orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, October 10-12 at Davies Symphony Hall. The program also includes Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Steven Stucky’s Jeu de timbres, along with complete performances of Bartók’sThe Miraculous Mandarin, featuring the SF Symphony Chorus.

image

We had a chance to catch up with Mr. Ohlsson this week, who along with being an internationally-acclaimed, Grammy award-winning pianist, also happens to live in the heart of San Francisco! Here’s what he had to say about living in our fair City of SF:

"I love the beauty of San Francisco. Golden Gate Park has many features – the Arboretum, Japanese Tea Garden, Conservatory of Flowers – any one of which would be the greatest pride of a number of large cities, not to mention Land’s End, Fort Funston, and all the "normal" sights. One of the great advantages of SF is living in a bustling neighborhood where I can accomplish most daily tasks within two blocks of home – and on foot! – while still having a small garden to enjoy. All of that is especially important to me because I’m on the road so much. I can even walk to our neighborhood Farmers Market, which I’m kind of addicted to. Who knew lettuce could be so good?"

image

image

He’s right. Who wouldn’t love living in a city with sights like these?

image

…and *mmmmm*, lettuce this good!

image

For a little #ThrowbackThursday, here’s Mr. Ohlsson and Michael Tilson Thomas with the Orchestra after their performance of Copland’s Piano Concerto during the American Festival, June 22, 1996 (photo credit Terrence McCarthy). This was during MTT’s first season as our Music Director. This season, we celebrate his twentieth!

Laura Downes from San Francisco Classical Voice also interviewed Garrick Ohlsson this week. That interview can be found here.

Did we mention he’s playing the gorgeous and technically impressive Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 this weekend? Tickets for Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday’s matinée are still available. Or come to tomorrow’s Open Rehearsal with coffee and donuts served beforehand:

Friday, October 10, 2014 at 10 am (Open Rehearsal)
Friday, October 10, 2014 at 8 pm
Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 8 pm
Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 2 pm

Juraj Valčuha conductor
Garrick Ohlsson
piano
San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Ragnar Bohlin director
San Francisco Symphony       

Steven Stucky              Jeu de timbres [SFS first performances]
Bartók                           
The Miraculous Mandarin, Opus 19
Rachmaninoff               Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Opus 30

Audio Program Notes: Listen to a free podcast about Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone. All podcasts are archived, and can be downloaded or streamed from sfsymphony.org/podcasts and from the iTunes store.

Pre-Concert Talk: Laura Stanfield Prichard will give an “Inside Music” talk from the stage one hour prior to each concert. Free to all concert ticket holders; doors open 15 minutes before.

Listen to this podcast about Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, featured in this week’s concerts with guest conductor Juraj Valčuha leading Grammy award-winning pianist Garrick Ohlsson.

Hosted by Classical KDFC’s Rik Malone, all podcasts are archived, and can be downloaded or streamed from sfsymphony.org/podcasts and from the iTunes store.

Friday, October 10, 2014 at 10 am (Open Rehearsal)
Friday, October 10, 2014 at 8 pm
Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 8 pm
Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 2 pm

Juraj Valčuha conductor
Garrick Ohlsson
piano
San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Ragnar Bohlin director
San Francisco Symphony       

Steven Stucky               Jeu de timbres [SFS first performances]
Bartók                            
The Miraculous Mandarin, Opus 19
Rachmaninoff                Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Opus 30

Listen to this podcast about Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra (featured in this week’s SF Symphony concerts with Michael Tilson Thomas). Hosted by Classical KDFC’s Rik Malone, all podcasts are archived, and can also be downloaded or streamed from sfsymphony.org/podcasts and from the iTunes store.

Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 10 am (Open Rehearsal)
Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 8 pm
Friday, September 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 2 pm
                

Michael Tilson Thomas conductor
San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Ragnar Bohlin 
director
San Francisco Symphony       

Foss “…then the rocks on the mountain began to shout” – Charles Ives [SFS first performances]
Ives Three Places in New England
J. Strauss, Jr. By the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz, Opus 314
Ligeti Lux aeterna
R. Strauss 
Also sprach Zarathustra, Opus 30

The SFS Chorus sings music from 2001: A Space Odyssey, & a new Foss work

image

The illustrious San Francisco Symphony Chorus joins Michael Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra, and also sings a cappella music on concerts this week, September 25-28. The program is music by Ives, J. Strauss Jr., R. Strauss, Ligeti and a first performance of a work by American composer Lukas Foss.

Film fans will especially appreciate Ligeti’s haunting Lux Aeterna, known for its use in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, conducted by Chorus Director Ragnar Bohlin. We asked several Chorus members to tell us about what to expect from these performances:

image

Elizabeth Kimble, soprano
Joined the Chorus: 2010
Occupation: Musician (Singer, Composer, Teacher) 
Hometown: Annapolis, Maryland 

About this week’s concert:

"This will be my third time performing the Ligeti Lux Aeterna with the Chorus - I think it’s remarkable that a symphony chorus has such a unique and challenging piece in its back pocket! The Foss [“…then the rocks on the mountain began to shout”] is unlike anything I’ve sung before. The singers begin simple vowels, spinning out a primordial soundscape - before speech, before language - and then transition to imitating primitive percussive instruments - perhaps made out of rocks. It’s been a challenge to put all the moving parts together, and I hope everyone is pleased with the performances.”

image

Chung Wai Soong, 2nd bass
Joined the Chorus: 1993
Occupation: Administrator, Event Planner
Hometown: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

About this week’s concert:

"MTT has an impressive history of intersecting personally and professionally with important musicians. To perform the music with MTT is always a wonderful experience, in how he can bring insight and stories from having known these composers. We recorded Charles Ives’s Three Places in New England on our Ives Journey CD with MTT, after a series of performances in Davies [Symphony] Hall. “The Housatonic at Stockbridge” uses a poem by Robert Underwood Johnson, and it is one of my favorite pieces by Ives, in the way it perfectly captures with wistful melancholy, the poetry that described peacefulness of the flowing river, but also the undercurrent that drives it inexorably toward that open sea.”

image

John A Vlahides, 2nd tenor
Joined the Chorus: 2002
Occupation: Travel writer and TV presenter
Hometown: New York City, NY

About this week’s concert:

"The toughest thing about the Ligeti [Lux Aeterna] is knowing when to come in – if you stop counting, you’re sunk. Fortunately for those who lose their place, Ragnar holds up his hand at predetermined moments in the score. Once you get used to the timing, the piece is particularly thrilling to sing because of the way the dissonant chords vibrate against each other: you feel them in your body. It’s quite a buzz!”

image

Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 10 am (Open Rehearsal)
Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 8 pm
Friday, September 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 2 pm
                

Michael Tilson Thomas conductor
San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Ragnar Bohlin 
director
San Francisco Symphony       

Foss “…then the rocks on the mountain began to shout” – Charles Ives [SFS first performances]
Ives Three Places in New England
J. Strauss, Jr. By the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz, Opus 314
Ligeti Lux aeterna
R. Strauss 
Also sprach Zarathustra, Opus 30

Download our new SFS app to purchase tickets and view Symphony concert information on your mobile device.

Rehearsal for Brant’s “Ice Field”

Today was the first major rehearsal with Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), organist Cameron Carpenter, and the Orchestra for Henry Brant’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Ice Field. Read more about the piece in our post from last week. It’s a doozy! 

image

With groups of musicians spread everywhere high and low, we can’t imagine a more elaborate setup. In fact, the work was commissioned specifically for Davies Symphony Hall by Other Minds.

image

SFS Percussionist James Lee Wyatt is perched atop the 2nd Tier with a xylophone and glockenspiel…

image

image

…right below Wyatt in the 1st Tier, conductor Edwin Outwater (also our Director of Summer Concerts) leads a “jazz band” of brass with Principal Percussionist Jacob Nissly on drum set.

image

Nissly admitted it was probably the oddest location he’d played in since joining the SFS. But you’ll be blown away by what he plays during the piece!

image

Across the 2nd Tier from the xylophone is a group of piccolo, flutes and clarinets…

image

…down below in two of the side boxes, percussionist Tom Hemphill rumbles a concert bass drum, with tam tam, steel drums and other goodies mixed in. We made sure these boxes weren’t sold for the concerts, as that might have been a rude awakening for a champagne-sipping patron!

image

image

Meanwhile on stage, Michael Tilson Thomas deftly leads the Orchestra with Cameron Carpenter at the organ to stage right.

image

During rehearsal, MTT’s voice is projected to various monitors around the Hall so the many groups of musicians can hear his detailed instructions. 

image

Ice Field is quite challenging to put together, with “conversations” of musical phrases trading around the vast confines of Davies Symphony Hall one after another, often at different tempos and overlapping in unpredictable ways.

image

Despite the spatial challenges of the piece, by the middle of the afternoon, MTT and the musicians were satisfied and moved on to rehearse Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (yes, that’s why there’s a harpsichord in the middle of the stage), and Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony. They’ll get more time with Ice Field tomorrow morning before the 2 pm concert.

image

Wait, we forgot to mention - there’s even a group of oboes and bassoons in the Terrace!

Come experience the sonic surprises and delights of Henry Brant’s Ice Field tomorrow through Sunday at Davies Symphony Hall. We guarantee you’ve never heard anything like it (unless you were here for the world premiere in 2001!)

Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 2 pm
Friday, September 19, 2014 at 8 pm
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 8 pm
Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 2 pm

Michael Tilson Thomas conductor
Edwin Outwater conductor
Cameron Carpenter organ
San Francisco Symphony

J.S. Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048
Brant Ice Field
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Opus 64

Pre-Concert Talk: Elizabeth Seitz will give an “Inside Music” talk from the stage one hour prior to each concert. Free to all concert ticket holders; doors open 15 minutes before.

CD Signings: Cameron Carpenter will sign CDs in the Symphony Store immediately following the performance on Saturday, September 20.

Tickets: $15-$158.

Tickets are available at sfsymphony.org, by phone at 415-864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.

Henry Brant’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Ice Field

Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the SF Symphony perform Henry Brant’s Ice Field September 18-21 with organist Cameron Carpenter; the second time since its 2001 world premiere in Davies Symphony Hall.

Charles Amirkhanian of Other Minds commissioned Brant to write Ice Field: Spatial Narratives for Large and Small Orchestral Groups for MTT and the SF Symphony. Brant was an avant garde spatial composer who positioned instruments in groups around the hall to create a multi-directional sound. Ice Field was written specifically for the space of Davies Symphony Hall.

And that’s not all that’s a bit experimental. The piece uses 94 musicians plus concert organ and 2 conductors (Edwin Outwater will be the second conductor for the upcoming performances). Oboes and bassoons play from the choir loft; brass with jazz drummer are in the balcony with their own conductor, at their own pace; outbursts from piccolos and clarinets are random; Trinidad steel drums punctuate from the floor level; and the organ improvises above all.

The 88 year old Brant played the organ on the December 12, 2001 premiere. He won a Pulitzer Prize for the work the following year, in 2002.

Said Brant: “I had come to feel that single-style music, no matter how experimental or full of variety, could no longer evoke the new stresses, layered insanities, and multi-directional assaults of contemporary life on the spirit.” In his spatial music he found a solution that he believed would “speak more expressively of the human predicament.”

Maverick organist Cameron Carpenter is the perfect choice for the Orchestra’s second performance. Frequent guest of the SFS, Carpenter is a virtuoso who relishes unusual music.

Brant was inspired by the music of Charles Ives. He orchestrated Ives’ Concord Sonata, and the result was recorded by MTT and the SFS in 2010. Joshua Kosman of the SF Chronicle called it, “an exciting and hugely important addition to the repertoire.”

Watch a video showing Brant working with the Ruffatti organ at Davies and talking with MTT before the first performance: http://vimeo.com/104142270

Read more about Cameron Carpenter in his interview with SFCV.org: https://www.sfcv.org/events-calendar/artist-spotlight/cameron-carpenter-organic-style

Buy tickets: http://www.sfsymphony.org/Buy-Tickets/2014-2015/Tchaikovskys-Fifth-Symphony.aspx

Bay Area Reporter’s SFS Opening Gala review tells a lovely MTT story

Roberto Friedman of the Bay Area Reporter recounts a very sweet memory of Michael Tilson Thomas from a few years ago in his review of our Opening Gala last week:

Early in Out There’s [Friedman’s column] career, we participated in a journalists’ round-table interview with him, and afterward, we went up to him to express our appreciation. It was not unlike the episode of TheMary Tyler MooreShow in which Mary gets to meet her idol Walter Cronkite during his visit to her Minneapolis TV newsroom. She worries about what she’s going to say, she wears herself out about it, and when the moment finally arrives, she curtsies and says, “Welcome to our fair city!” Yes, Mary blew her big moment.

So what did we finally say when we were up-close and personal with MTT and were robustly shaking his hand? We said, “Thank you for everything you’re doing for the musical life of our city!” Immediately we felt like the biggest dunce. But MTT kept our hand clasped between his two big, soft hands, and sweetly replied, “We’re all doing it together!”

This was so gracious and generous a response – and true, to boot – that it immediately dispelled our self-consciousness, and we remember the moment fondly today. We feel that he showed the sign of a true artist and a true mensch – it didn’t have to all be about him.

That’s exactly the MTT we all know and love! Read the full article here, which also covers the SF Opera Gala.

image