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