Bolshoi Ballet’s ‘Le Corsaire’ in cinemas Sunday

Bolshoi Principal Dancers Yulia Stepanova and Denis Rodkin talk about ‘Le Corsaire’

Marius Petipa’s 19th century ballet Le Corsaire is one that is rarely performed – indeed, the only part of it familiar to most of us is the spectacular showpiece pas de deux which is often performed as a standalone piece. Now, thanks to the Bolshoi’s Ballet in Cinema series – presented by BY Experience and Pathé Live – we can watch Alexei Ratmanksy’s revival of the whole of this sumptuous and exotic work on the cinema screen.

On Sunday, the Bolshoi Ballet performs Le Corsaire live in Moscow, a performance which will be broadcast to over 400 cinemas throughout the US and Canada later the same day. Le Corsaire is the first in the Bolshoi’s 2017-18 series of live screen broadcasts, which also include The Taming of the Shrew, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, The Lady of the Camellias, The Flames of Paris, Giselle and Coppélia.

This production is a reworking – by choreographer and former Bolshoi dancer Alexei Ratmansky, and Yuri Burlaka, former Artistic Director of the Company – of the original 1899 staging by Marius Petipa, and a great deal of research went into the preparation of this new production.  Ratmanksy and Burlaka deciphered the original dance notation, held in the Harvard University Theatre Collection, and added dances of their own, to recreate this impressive work. They also studied archive material in Moscow’s Bakhrushin Museum, and the St Petersburg State Theatre Library – which made available Evgeny Ponomaryov’s costume sketches for the 1899 production. The costumes, together with the sets, were replicated for the reworking of the ballet.

The original score for Le Corsaire, by Adolphe Adam and Leo Delibes, was made available by L’Opera national de Paris from the archives of La Bibliotheque nationale de France. Restored by Alexander Troitsky, the reworked score also includes the music of Cesare Pugni, Pyotr von Oldenburg, Riccardo Drigo, Albert Zabel and Julius Gerer.

Inspired by Lord Byron’s epic poem by Lord Byron, with a libretto by Jules Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Joseph Mazilier, and edited by Marius Petipa, Le Corsaire tells of a shipwrecked pirate, Conrad, who falls in love with the beautiful Medora, the ward of the slave merchant Lankedem. When Lankedem decides to sell Medora to the Pasha, Conrad kidnaps her. The ballet features an impressive shipwreck and colorful scenery, and has been designed to accommodate almost the entire Bolshoi Company.

The cast of this production of Le Corsaire features Prima Ballerina Ekaterina Krysanova as Medora, and Leading Soloist Igor Tsvirko as Conrad, with more than 120 Principals, Soloists and members of the Corps de Ballet of the Bolshoi.

Design is by Boris Kaminsky, costumes by Elena Zaitseva, the Music Director is Pavel Klinichev, and lighting design is by Damir Ismagilov.

Le Corsaire will be screened tomorrow, Sunday, October 22, at 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT / 10:55 a.m. MT & 12:55 p.m. PT, HI, AK (pre-recorded playback) Tickets may be purchased online at or at participating theater box offices. For a complete list of theater locations visit the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

Season trailer



By Experience and Pathé Live program notes

The Bolshoi Ballet website


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Impressive line-up for San Francisco Dance Film Festival

This week sees the opening of the 8th San Francisco Dance Film Festival – an annual celebration of dance on film, featuring over 90 films, on all forms of dance.  As well as celebrating the finest dance films in the world, the purpose of the Dance Film Festival is to encourage and assist Bay Area choreographers and filmmakers in their endeavors to create new dance works for the screen, and it was greatly honored to receive a 2016 Isadora Duncan Dance Award earlier this year. Known affectionately as Izzies, these awards are an annual recognition of exceptional creative achievements in the performance and presentation of dance.

The festival opening features a selection of exciting new Screendance Shorts, taken from an international range of films, such as SAMT (or Silence), about a dictatorship where dance is the secret code of silent resistance, a powerful sequence entitled Persecuta by the Lombard Twins, and Dancin’ the Camera – described as “a tap dancer’s adventure in the mechanical world of black-and-white film”, shot on an original 1920s 35mm camera.

Friday is crammed full of interesting presentations. Included in the program are a Filmmaker Forum which will hold a discussion – Directing the Eye – on how dance filmmakers guide the focus of the viewer. There’s a documentary entitled Fire and Ashes, Making the ballet RAkU, in which composer Shinji Eshima and Yuri Possokhov – resident choreographer San Francisco Ballet – relive the experience of creating this work with the original cast of RAkU, and Rebels on Pointe, which takes a close look at the all-male drag company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

A new feature this year will be a full day dedicated to Live Performance Capture films, in which important works from Europe will be introduced to a San Francisco audience for the first time. Included in these are Alexander Ekman’s A Swan Lake and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Dutch National Ballet’s production of Mata Hari, and Maurice Béjart’s visually stunning The Ninth Symphony.

Among the presentations on Sunday are a discussion by a panel of industry and creative professionals on the challenges and opportunities in creating Virtual Reality dance films, a program of international shorts entitled Dancing the World, The Co-Laboratory – a collaboration between two teams of choreographers and filmmakers who were charged with creating two short dance films in a week prior to the festival – and the annual Awards Presentation.

It’s a huge selection to pack into just four days – from October 19 to 22. For a full schedule, and details of venues and tickets, visit the San Francisco Dance Film Festival website.


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Dynamic duo for San Francisco Symphony

Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbánski – Photo © Caroline Doutre – Festival de Paques

This week the San Francisco Symphony welcomes two dynamic young musicians to the stage of Davies Symphony Hall – Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbánski and American cellist Joshua Roman – both making return visits to the Symphony. Joshua Roman plays the Dvořák Cello Concerto in a program which includes Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute, and Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra.

Krzysztof Urbánski last appeared with the Symphony just two weeks ago, prompting Jonathan Kosman (San Francisco Chronicle) to remark that he “takes to the the podium like a cross between Arturo Toscanini and Fred Astaire, turning each interpretive decision into a balletic piece of performance art”. Musical Toronto refers to his “compelling style that is both unique and bewitching”, but – far from being just a stylish conductor – this young Maestro also attracts rave reviews for his ability – “a musician of extraordinary intelligence and perception” says Kölner Stadtanzeiger. In June 2015, he was the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival – the first conductor ever to have received this prestigious award.

Now in his seventh season as Music Director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Urbánski was this year appointed Honorary Guest Conductor of the Trondheim Symfoniorkester & Opera, following a four-season tenure as Chief Conductor and Artistic Leader of the Orchestra, which he held concurrently with the role of Principal Guest Conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra – a German radio orchestra based in Hamburg at the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall which is described as one of the largest and most acoustically advanced in the world.

Krzysztof Urbánski also guests with orchestras of the caliber of Staatskapelle Dresden, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Wiener Symphoniker, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics. Forthcoming debuts include those with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Orchestre de Paris.

Joshua Roman – cellist, composer and curator – is also regarded as a highly inspirational musician, described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as “A musician of imagination and expressive breadth”. In 2006, at the age of 22, he was appointed principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony, a position which he held for two years before setting out on his career as a soloist, a career which has included appearances with orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mariinsky Orchestra, New World Symphony, Alabama Symphony and Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Ecuador.

As a chamber musician, Joshua Roman has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including pianist Andrius Zlabys, conductor and pianist Christian Zacharias, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, New York’s JACK and Enso String quartets, Talea Ensemble, and composer, clarinetist and conductor Derek Bermel. Composer Mason Bates dedicated his Cello Concerto to Joshua Roman, who gave the work its world premiere with the Seattle Symphony in 2014.  Joshua Roman has also premiered his own Cello Concerto, Awakening, with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, and subsequently performed it with orchestras such as the New World and Seattle symphonies, as well as with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Among his other achievements, he has served as Alumnus-in-Residence at the prestigious Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, is Artistic Director of TownMusic in Seattle, is a Creative Partner of the Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts, is the inaugural Artistic Advisor of a contemporary Seattle-based streaming channel to cultivate the next generation of classical audiences, and was a member of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors artists committee.

Twentieth-century composer and conductor, Witold Lutosławski, was regarded as one of Poland’s most outstanding composers. Widely respected during his lifetime, he was the recipient of a number of international awards, and held honorary degrees from sixteen universities. Not only did he make his musical mark in Poland, but in international circles as well, conducting in France, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Norway and Austria, and also carrying out engagements with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Orchestre de Paris, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony which he led on three different occasions. His last visit here was in 1993.

Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra was written at the request of conductor Witold Rowicki, who wanted a piece based on Polish folk music, to be performed by the Warsaw National Philharmonic which Rowicki had founded in 1950. It took Lutosławski four years to complete, but in the words of San Francisco Symphony program annotator James M Keller, it turned out to be “a brilliant orchestral showpiece …. a virtuoso vehicle for the ensemble as a whole”.

Krzysztof Urbánski leads the San Francisco Symphony and guest artist Joshua Roman in a program of works by Dvořák, Mozart and Lutosławski, on October 19, 20 and 21. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.




San Francisco Symphony Program notes:

Dvořák – Cello Concerto

Mozart – Overture to The Magic Flute

Lutosławski –  Concerto for Orchestra


Artist websites:

Krzysztof Urbánski

Joshua Roman

Witold Lutosławski


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Jakub Hrůša leads San Francisco Symphony in ‘Pursuits of Passion’

Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša – Photo Zbynek_Maderyc

This week the San Francisco Symphony brings us the debut appearance of Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša, and a return visit by Polish-Hungarian pianist Piotr Anderszewski – who first appeared with the Symphony in 2009. The program, Pursuits of Passion, is something to look forward to as well, featuring music by Czech composers Dvořák, Smetana and Janáček – and one of Mozart’s loveliest piano concertos.

Described by Classical Iconoclast as “one of the most exciting conductors around”, Jakub Hrůša is certainly making his mark on the world of music. Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Permanent Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and Principal Guest Conductor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, he served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of PKF–Prague Philharmonia from 2009 to 2015, and was recently appointed Principal Chief Conductor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. He is also the current President of the International Martinů Circle, and in 2015 was the inaugural recipient of the Sir Charles Mackerras Prize.

Maestro Hrůša has just ended an impressive season of debuts – with the Boston and Chicago symphonies, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra.  He also made his first appearance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in this year’s Proms season, following which The Times wrote that “…. the rising Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša instilled such passion into the BBC Symphony Orchestra that an evening of rarities made a thrilling impression”.

A frequent guest with many of the world’s finest orchestras, Maestro Hrůša is equally gifted as an opera conductor, regularly guesting with Glyndebourne Festival, and has led productions for Vienna State Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Frankfurt Opera, Finnish National Opera, Royal Danish Opera and Prague National Theatre.

Considered one of the outstanding musicians of his generation, Gilmore award-winning Piotr Anderszewski is also known for the unusual approach he adopts to his interpretations.  Following a recital in London in 2005, The Guardian wrote that it was “delivered in the intensely engaging, self-effacing way that almost disguises the sheer technical mastery and musicianship of his playing …”.

Mr Anderszewski has more recently given recitals at London’s Royal Festival Hall, the Wiener Konzerthaus, Carnegie Hall and the Mariinsky Concert Hall in St Petersburg. He has appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic and Berlin Staatskapelle orchestras, the Chicago and London Symphony orchestras, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Royal Concertgebouw, as well as conducting orchestras such as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia and Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, from the keyboard.

Piotr Anderszewski has featured in two award-winning documentaries by Bruno Monsaingeon for the European culture channel ARTEPiotr Anderszewski plays the Diabelli Variations, and an artist’s portrait, Piotr Anderszewski, Unquiet Traveller – as well as Anderszewski Plays Schumann, for Polish Television.

Lined up for this 2017-18 season are appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic and Budapest Festival orchestras, l’Orchestre de Paris, recitals at Chicago’s Symphony Centre, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and London’s Barbican Centre, and next spring he undertakes a European tour playing with, and directing, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

This week’s concerts open with Dvořák’s Carnival Overture,  the second of a group of three works entitled Nature, Life and Love, followed by Mozart’s tuneful and joyous Piano Concerto No 17  (in which Piotr Anderszewski plays Mozart’s own cadenzas). In Smetana’s patriotic tone poem Vltava (The Moldau) from Má Vlast (My Country), the composer describes the Bohemian river which flows through the city of Prague, to which the work was dedicated.   The concert closes with Janáček’s dramatic work, Taras Bulba, Rhapsody for Orchestra, based on three episodes from Nikolai Gogol’s 1835 novella about the famous hetman of the Cossacks – the composer quoting Gogol’s words as the reason for having written this piece: “… because in the whole world there are not fires or tortures strong enough to destroy the vitality of the Russian nation”.

Jakub Hrůsa leads the San Francisco Symphony, with guest artist Piotr Andreszewski, in a program of music by Dvořák, Mozart, Smetana and Janáček at Davies Symphony Hall on October 13, 14 and 15. For more information and tickets visit the San Francisco Symphony website.



San Francisco Symphony program notes

Artists’ websites:

Jakub Hrůša

Piotr Anderszewski


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Thelonius Monk centennial at SFJAZZ

SFJAZZ celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thelonius Monk this week with performances by three fabulous jazz musicians – Danilo Pérez, Jason Moran and John Beasley.  Considered one of America’s greatest composers, Monk was also regarded as one of the most creative pianists of any musical genre, who explained his distinctive style as “different”.  “Everything I play is different,” he said, “different melody, different harmony, different structure. Each piece is different from the other. . . .”.


Panamanian pianist and composer Danilo Pérez opens the centennial celebrations with a program which blends the music of Monk with his own trademark Caribbean style and sound. This performance – with bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz – also marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Pérez’s own album Panamonk, described by AllMusic as “…… adventurous, rhythmic, and quite joyful. A memorable outing by the talented Danilo Pérez”.  NPR says that as a composer and bandleader “he’s practically peerless”.


Jason Moran’s tribute to Thelonius Monk goes beyond a live presentation of the great man’s music. His program, entitled In My Mind, Monk at Town Hall, 1959, was an SFJAZZ co-commission which premiered in 2007. In it, Moran re-creates Monk’s 1959 big band concert at New York’s Town Hall, including video footage, still images and recordings from the documentary The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith.  In this program, Moran – who has been described by The Los Angeles Times as “A startlingly gifted pianist with a relentless thirst for experimentation” – goes behind Monk’s music, delving into the history and creative process of the man who had such a significant influence on his own career.


The final performance in this celebratory triptych is John Beasley’s MONK’estra, the title of his album which features arrangements of the music of Thelonius Monk influenced by the sound of New Orleans, hip-hop, and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Writing for the International Review of Music, Don Heckman referred to Beasley’s arrangements as “some of the most mesmerizing big band music of recent memory”. Grammy-nominated Beasley – who appears with a 15-piece big band orchestra – is regarded as one of the most versatile musicians in jazz, and is known for his expertise as a bandleader, keyboardist and composer, as well as an arranger for music projects, film and television.

Danilo Pérez, Jason Moran and John Beasley appear in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ on October 13th, 14th and 15th respectively.  For some fascinating background information on these artists, and to buy tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.




Thelonius Monk

Danilo Perez

Jason Moran

John Beasley


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World Ballet Day LIVE streams online October 4-5

Trailer courtesy San Francisco Ballet


This week, lovers of ballet the world over will once again have the opportunity to watch all – or part of – a 22-hour celebration of ballet on October 4 – 5, with World Ballet Day LIVE.

This is the day on which five of the world’s leading ballet companies each takes a 5-hour segment of this live stream, giving us access to their practice studios, as their dancers are put through their paces during daily class and rehearsals for forthcoming performances. We’ll also see footage from actual productions, and watch interviews with some of the members of each company.

This fascinating concept, now in its fourth year, has captivated online viewers from all round the globe, and features The Australian Ballet in Melbourne, moving to the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, then to The Royal Ballet in London, The National Ballet of Canada in Toronto, and finally our own San Francisco Ballet.

For those of us on Pacific Daylight Time, World Ballet Day LIVE starts in the studios of the Australian Ballet at 6.00 pm tomorrow, October 4, running until 11.00 pm. This is followed by five hours with the Bolshoi Ballet, from 11.00 pm on October 4 until 4.00 am on October 5. The Royal Ballet can be seen from 4.00 am to 9.00 am on October 5, The National Ballet of Canada from 9.00 am to 11.00 am, and San Francisco Ballet from 11.00 am to 4.00 pm.

Wherever you are in the world, check the website of the ballet company in your time zone (see below) for the actual time of the local stream on Facebook Live, and if you’re fortunate enough to have the entire 22-hour timespan at your disposal, how wonderful! You’re also encouraged to participate in this event, with your thoughts and views, using the hashtag #WorldBalletDay.

The Australian Ballet

The Bolshoi Ballet

The Royal Ballet

The National Ballet of Canada

San Francisco Ballet

Prepare to enjoy some of the most fascinating insights into the realm of ballet, and some of the finest dancing in the world!


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All is not as it seems at the ‘Barbecue’ at San Francisco Playhouse

Lillie Anne (Halili Knox, right) explains to Adlean (Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe), James T (Adrian Roberts), and Marie (Kehinde Koyejo) how an intervention works

San Francisco Playhouse directors, Bill English and Susi Damilano, do seem to have a remarkable ability to search out – or attract – some interesting and unusual productions. The latest one to open at the Playhouse is the West Coast premiere of Barbecue, the highly entertaining comedy written by multi-award winner Robert O’Hara, and directed by Margo Hall – who also plays one of the characters in the show.

Barbecue deals with two seriously dysfunctional and foul-mouthed families – one white, one black – who appear to be living in a parallel existence. The play opens with four siblings of the white family preparing to hold a barbecue in the park ‘in honor’ of their sister who has fallen off the rails. They hatch a plan which they hope will persuade her to go to rehab to cure herself of her various undesirable dependencies.

Lillie Anne (Anne Darragh, center) explains her plans to Marie (Teri Whipple), James T (Clive Worsley), and Adlean (Jennie Brick)

The black siblings – who have the same names as their counterparts, and who are even identically dressed – are hatching a similar plan, in the same park, for their sister, who has also fallen from grace, and for the same reasons as the white sister.

Confusing? Well, initially, yes. Humorous? Absolutely – even if at first you’re not entirely sure what’s going on. The audience hooted with laughter, enjoying every minute of the domestic train-smash unfolding before their eyes. But stay with these families – for when the light bulb moment comes at the beginning of Act II – everything suddenly falls into place, and you find yourself immersed in the twists and turns that emerge from a very clever plot.

Barbara (Margo Hall) reflects on her life

You can always rely on the Playhouse directors to bring out the best in their performers, and Margo Hall has done a brilliant job. The cast members of Barbecue are (almost all) as vulgar, loud-mouthed and lacking in self-restraint as their characters demand, and those that aren’t, still give their characters the oomph they need to counteract the cringe-worthy behavior of the other members of their respective families.

The set, as always, is wonderfully realistic, down to the last detail – like the pieces of litter lying around the park, and the rust stains on the walls of the public bathrooms – trivial, but vital for authentic scene-setting. Plaudits, once again, to Bill English for his design.

Clever, loads of fun, with plenty of jaw-dropping moments – don’t miss out on the Barbecue at the Playhouse!

Susi Damilano, Clive Worsley, and Teri Whipple in ‘Barbecue’ at the San Francisco Playhouse

Barbecue runs at the San Francisco Playhouse until November 11. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Playhouse website


Production photographs by Jessica Palopoli


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Christian Reif & San Francisco Symphony celebrate Oktoberfest

San Francisco Symphony Resident Conductor, Christian Reif, leads the Symphony’s first ever Oktoberfest celebration on Tuesday, October 3. Reif is the real deal, being German-born he knows a thing or two about Oktoberfest, the world’s largest Volksfest, an event which traditionally centers around a beer or wine festival, with a traveling funfair.

Held in Munich each year, Oktoberfest runs from mid-September to the first week in October, and attracts more than 6 million people from around the world. Having been established 1860, this festival is an important event in Bavarian culture, and this year sees the celebration of the 184th Munich Oktoberfest, which culminates on October 3, German Unity Day.

So, what have Christian Reif and the San Francisco Symphony got lined up for this fun-filled event? Well, the evening starts with beer in the lobby of Davies Symphony Hall, for all members of the audience, before the performance, and then the Symphony will regale the audience with a program of polkas by Strauss, arias – such as Brindisi from Verdi’s La Traviata and Fin ch’han dal vino from Mozart’s Don Giovanni – and wonderfully popular songs such as Sigmund Romberg’s Drink, Drink, Drink from The Student Prince, and Lehar’s Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from Das Land des Lächelns, as well as a selection of popular German drinking songs. Performing with the Symphony are soprano Julie Adams, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, baritone Edward Nelson and tenor David Blalock.

Christian Reif explains why a concert hall is not just the preserve of what we consider to be strictly classical music. “A lot of the classical music that we think is holy, and only belongs in a concert hall, originated at parties,” he says, adding that a lot of music that Mozart wrote is definitely party music. “Up until the 19th century,” he continues, “often there was talking during the shows and clapping in between movements. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that composers wanted their music experienced without interruption. I mean, the reason why the opera starts with an overture—and usually quite a loud one—is to shut people up!”

Those who purchase VIP tickets for this celebratory performance will have access to the biergarten which will be set up outside Symphony Hall – both before and after the performance – where they can enjoy complimentary German fare and beer around firepits, with polka bands providing the entertainment, at the after-party.

Christian Reif leads the San Francisco Symphony, members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, (Assistant Chorus Director David J Xiques) and guest artists, in a celebration of Oktoberfest at Davies Symphony Hall on Tuesday, October 3. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.


San Francisco Symphony program notes

Christian Reif


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