An unusual season opening for Salonen and San Francisco Symphony

Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall, June 17, 2021 © Kristen Loken

In Esa-Pekka Salonen’s first opening night concert as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, he has opted for an unusual selection of works in a program which features the music of John Adams, Alberto Ginastera, Wayne Shorter and Silvestre Revueltas. The guest artists are dancers of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet and jazz stars Esperanza Spalding, Leo Genovese and Terri Lyne Carrington.

The first work of the Re-Opening Night Concert at Davies Symphony Hall is John Adams’ Slonimsky’s Earbox which the Bay Area composer wrote in 1995 on commission from the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England, and the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon, and which he dedicated to conductor Kent Nagano, a longtime friend and supporter of Adams’ music. The piece was inspired by Russian author Nicholas Slonimsky’s The Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns – a compendium which Adams says “has had a singular impact on my music since the Chamber Symphony of 1992”. “Earbox,” he goes on to say, “might be a word worthy of Slonimsky himself, a coiner who never tired of minting his own”.

Adji Cissoko of Alonzo King LINES Ballet © RJ Muna

The music which Alberto Ginastera wrote during the earlier years of his career tended to reflect the more ‘folkloric’ characteristics of South American music, and his ballet Estancia – written in 1941 on commission from Lincoln Kirstein’s America Ballet Caravan – was inspired by the 1870s poem Martín Fierro by José Hernández. The ballet was never performed, but a suite of four dances from the score – telling of various episodes in a day in the life of a gaucho – became a standalone concert piece, first performed at the Teatro Coloacuten in Buenos Aires in 1943. In this week’s concert, dancers of the LINES Ballet perform Ginastera’s Estancia to original choreography by Alonzo King.

Wayne Shorter debuted his new orchestral-vocal piece Gaia with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in February of this year. Named after the Greek goddess of the Earth, Gaia was written, on commission from Herb Alpert’s organisation, specifically for the LA Phil. The libretto – written by fellow Grammy Award-winner and jazz vocalist Esperanza Spalding – urges us not to take our surroundings or our planet for granted. “It’s not enough to be comfortable” Shorter says. “We have to reach beyond. That’s what this piece is saying.” Esperanza Spalding, on vocals and bass, appears with pianist Leo Genovese, percussionist Terri Lyne Carrington and the San Francisco Symphony.

Esperanza Spalding © Holly Andres

Silvestre Revueltas’ Noche de encantamiento is the final movement of a concert suite, arranged by fellow Mexican José Ives Limantour, from Revueltas’ film score to Chano Urueta’s 1939 film La noche de los Mayas (The Night of the Mayas). This movement is a compelling, dramatic, percussive piece of music, which assumes ritualistic, trance-like qualities – not too dissimilar from The Rite of Spring, scored by Stravinsky, to whom Revueltas has been likened.

Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the San Francisco Symphony in the Re-Opening Night concert on Friday, October 1st at 7.00 pm. From 6.00 pm, the audience will be treated to a complimentary glass of sparkling wine prior to the performance, and invited to attend the outdoor After-Party, featuring live music entertainment.

Esa-Pekka Salonen with the San Francsico Symphony – © Brandon Pato

Re-Opening Night will be recorded live for transmission on PBS. The program, Great Performances: San Francisco Symphony Reopening Night, will be broadcast on Friday, November 19 at 9.00 pm on PBS (check local listings), on this link and also available on the PBS Video app.

For tickets and further information on this performance, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

This concert will be repeated at Davies Symphony Hall on Saturday, October 2nd – for further information and tickets, visit this page of the San Francisco Symphony website.

The traditional All San Francisco Concert – an essential part of the San Francisco Symphony’s opening week celebrations – takes place at Davies Symphony Hall this evening, September 30th. This concert is dedicated to, and presented for, the people involved with the Bay Area’s nonprofits, social services groups and community organizations, in recognition of, and gratitude for, the work these groups do to serve and enrich the lives of Bay Area citizens.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony programme notes

Slonimsky’s Earbox

Estancia Suite


Noche de encantamiento

ArtsPreview home page

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