SFJAZZ honors Chucho Valdés at Gala Concert

Chucho Valdés at the SFJAZZ Center – © SFJAZZ

SFJAZZ is in celebratory mood this week – and that means a barnstorming party is on the way – because on January 31st, the Jazz Center throws open its doors for its annual Gala Concert!

To mark this occasion, SJAZZ will be honoring the fabulous Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés with the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement Award, and hosting a Gala Concert with an incredible line-up of some of the best names in jazz today.

Known as the greatest living Cuban pianist, Valdés – winner of six GRAMMY®, three Latin GRAMMY® Awards, and the 2018 Latin GRAMMY® Lifetime Achievement Award – has, over the 50 years of his career, come to be regarded as the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. Last year he was inducted into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame, and he gets this year off to a flying start with the SFJAZZ Award.

The Gala features the great man himself, performing with Irakere 45 – the band which he established in 1973, and was discovered and launched on the international stage by no less a figure than jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie.

Paying tribute to Valdés on this memorable occasion will be a truly star-studded array of artists, including Omara Portuondo – known as the first lady of Cuban jazz – the 2018 NEA Jazz Master and five-time GRAMMY®-Award winner Dianne Reeves, and British singer and songwriter Corinne Baily Rae – another GRAMMY® winner.

Also on stage will be the all-star ensemble SFJAZZ Collective who perform new arrangements of works by a modern master each year, as well as their own commissioned works, virtuoso vibraphonist Stefon Harris – a former member of the Collective and winner of the 2018 Doris Duke Artist Award – Cuban saxophonist, percussionist and composer Yosvany Terry, also a Doris Duke Award-winner, and the recipient of a Rockefeller Grant, and Havana-born jazz pianist and composer Harold Lopez-Nussa – who triumphed at the 2005 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Flying the flag for the Valdés family will be Chucho’s daughter, classically-trained pianist Leyanis – who has made her mark in many international competitions – and his son, Jessie – an exciting young drummer who combines drumming with electronics, ensuring that Cuban music will continue to form part of the future.

The SFJAZZ High School All-stars will entertain guests at the pre-performance party, and the late-night after-party features a performance by the Valdés Family Band, as well as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, with Corinne Bailey Rae and Jesús Diaz y su QBA.

This is an event that jazz enthusiasts won’t want to miss!

The SFJAZZ annual Gala Concert takes place the the JAZZ Center on Thursday, January 31st. More information on this amazing event is available on the SFJAZZ website where there’s also information on buying tickets.

San Francisco Ballet celebrates 150 years of ‘Don Quixote’

Mathilde Froustey and Angelo Greco in San Francisco Ballet’s ‘Don Quixote
© Erik Tomasson

Joyful, lively and colorful, with dazzling choreography and a wonderfully melodic score by Ludwig Minkus, Don Quixote deservedly holds a place as one of San Francisco Ballet’s most popular productions – and this year the ballet celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Mathilde Froustey as Kitri in San Francisco Ballet’s ‘Don Quixote’ © Erik Tomasson

One of three full-length narrative ballets to be presented by San Francisco Ballet this season, Don Quixote draws its inspiration from two chapters of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel, focusing more on the love story played out between innkeeper’s daughter Kitri and the town barber Basilio, than the story of Don Quixote and his quest to find his beautiful Dulcinea. Nevertheless, The Don on his gorgeous white steed, his counterpart, Sancho Panza, and those windmills, play a supporting role in the story.

Jim Sohm in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote.
(© Erik Tomasson)

Don Quixote the ballet was first produced in Vienna in 1740, by Austrian dancer and choreographer Franz Hilverding, and was followed by various productions in Europe, none of which has survived. In 1869 Marius Petipa was asked to create a new version of Don Quixote for the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, which he followed with a much grander production in St Petersburg in 1871.

San Francisco Ballet’s ‘Don Quixote’ © Erik Tomasson

It was in 1900 that Russian dancer and choreographer Alexander Gorsky staged a revival of Petipa’s ballet in Moscow in 1900, a production which was performed in St Petersburg in 1902, and it’s this Petipa/Gorsky interpretation of Don Quixote which formed the basis of all modern productions. It is also the interpretation on which San Francisco Ballet’s Artistic Director, Helgi Tomasson, and Resident Choreographer, Yuri Possokhov, based their original 2003 production, which included additional detail which Possokhov was able to provide, having been personally involved with the work during his time as a student at the Bolshoi.

The production which we now see dates from 2012 when the ballet was completely restaged – the choreography from 2003 remained unchanged, but the costumes and design, by the late Martin Pakledinaz, were completely new. Styled on 19th century Spain, these designs, in combination with the artistic creativity of Tomasson and Possokhov, deliver a production which is unique to San Francisco Ballet.

Hansuke Yamamoto in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote © Erik Tomasson

Czech composer and violinist Ludwig Minkus wrote several very popular ballet scores, many of which are still widely performed today, among them two which are probably his best known – Don Quixote and La Bayadère. Austrian by birth, Minkus’ first involvement in composing for ballet was assisting composer Édouard Deldevez in the score for Paquita in Paris in 1846. He later travelled to Russia and ultimately joined the newly created Moscow Conservatory as a professor of violin studies. Don Quixote for the Bolshoi was his first great success, leading to his appointment as official composer of ballet music to the Imperial Theatre in St Petersburg, where he and Marius Petipa enjoyed a fruitful creative relationship.

San Francisco Ballet presents Don Quixote at the War Memorial Opera House from January 25th to February 3rd. At this opening performance, the cast will be headed by Mathilde Froustey in role of Kitri, with Angelo Greco as Basilio. Martin West conducts the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson/Possokhov’s ‘Don Quixote’ © Erik Tomasson

For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Ballet website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Ballet program notes

The Royal Ballet program notes –
Don Quixote
Ludwig Minkus

The Petipa Society

Cambridge Scholars

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Salonen leads first concert as San Francisco Symphony’s Music Director Designate

Esa-Pekka Salonen – Music Director Designate of the San Francisco Symphony
Photo: Andrew Eccles

Finnish conductor and composer, Esa-Pekka Salonen take to the podium at Davies Symphony Hall this week in his first appearance with the San Francisco Symphony as the orchestra’s Music Director Designate. The program includes Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos, Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra and Sibeliius’ Four Legends of the Kalevala

Esa-Pekka Salonen succeeds the charismatic and much-loved Michael Tilson Thomas when he takes his departure as Music Director of the Symphony in July 2020, at the end of an amazing 25-year tenure. Salonen – regarded as one of the most influential and creative forces in music – is a popular choice to succeed MTT. He made his debut as a conductor with the San Francisco Symphony in 2004, and led the Symphony on December 8th, 2011 – during its Centennial celebrations – in a performance which included his own violin concerto which he wrote for Leila Josefowicz, a concerto which featured in an international campaign for iPad. Maestro Salonen has made a number of return visits to the Symphony, most recently in 2015 with a program which included one of his own compositions, Nyx.

Esa-Pekka Salonen was Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1992 to 2009. Closely involved in the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, he established a Commissions Fund bearing his name, and was instrumental in enabling the Philharmonic to become one of the best attended and funded orchestras in the United States. He is now Conductor Laureate for the LA Philharmonic.

As Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, a position he leaves at the end of the 2020–21 season, Salonen was involved the orchestra’s award-winning RE-RITE and Universe of Sound installations, enabling people to virtually step inside the orchestra through audio and video projections. He was also behind the development of The Orchestra, an app for iPad, for which he conducted eight symphonic works, giving users access to multiple facets of orchestral performances.

Maestro Salonen is also currently Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, Conductor Laureate for the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and co-founder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival, serving as its Artistic Director from 2003 to 2018. In 2015.

With Esa-Pekka Salonen’s commitment to bringing contemporary compositions into the classical repertoire, it comes as no surprise that this week’s concert opens with the West Coast Premiere of a work by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, entitled Metacosmos – described by The New York Times as a work with “seemingly boundless textural imagination”. Alan Gilbert – until recently Music Director of the New York Philharmonic – calls Ms Thorvaldsdottir “one of the most unique and expressive voices in the composition scene today”, and she has been described by New York Classical Review as “one of the most compelling contemporary composers”.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s work has been featured at several major venues and music festivals, including Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the Leading International Composers series at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, as well as the Kennedy Center in DC, Beijing Modern Music Festival, and Reykjavik Arts Festival.The one-movement Metacosmos, which was premiered in Lincoln Center’s Geffen Hall by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen last April, is described as “constructed around the natural balance between beauty and chaos”.

The opening of Richard Strauss’ tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra – next on the program – is probably best known today for its inclusion in the score of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Strauss drew his inspiration for this work from a series of parables about the life of the prophet Zarathustra by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche, and dwelt on the vastness of the universe, prompting questions about God, humankind and our place in the natural world

The final work on the program is Sibelius’ Four Legends from the Kalevala, taken from his Lemminkäinen Suite. Written in 1895, this work was based on mythical legends from Finland’s folklore, telling of the exploits of Lemminkäinen, the handsome son of Lempi, the god of erotic love. At the premiere of the work on April 13, 1896, the first and third legends – Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island, and Lemminkäinen in Tuonela – were poorly received. The second – The Swan of Tuonela (probably the best-known today) — and the last legend, Lemminkäinen’s Homeward Journey, were an instant success, and published in 1900. Sibelius put the other two pieces aside and they remained in a drawer until 1935, almost 10 years after he had stopped composing, with final revisions being made to them in 1939.

Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the San Francisco Symphony in a program of works by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Richard Strauss and Jean Sibelius, from Friday, January 18th to Sunday, January 20th. For tickets and more information, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Symphony program notes
Esa-Pekka Salonen
Anna Thorvaldsdottir

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