It’s all happening at Davies Symphony Hall this week. Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony present a program of works by Ives and Beethoven; the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, led by Christian Reif, plays the first concert of its 35th anniversary season, and MTT and the Symphony present Symphony Relief: A Benefit Concert for the North Bay, in aid of victims of the wildfires which devastated parts of Northern California last month.
In the first program of the week, MTT leads the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus (Director Ragnar Bohlin) in the Symphony No 4 by Charles Ives, with guest pianist Peter Dugan, and second conductor Christian Reif. Also on the program is Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, with virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman as guest artist for the first two performances. Violinist Viviane Hagner makes her SFS debut in the same work in the third performance.
Ives’ Symphony No 4 is considered to be one of his greatest masterpieces. It’s a complex, multi-layered work consisting of four movements – a prelude, a fugue, a third movement which includes a selection of parlor songs, marches, ragtime melodies, patriotic songs and hymns, and a spiritual finale. Ideally it requires more than one conductor to help pull it all together, hence the appearance of Christian Reif with MTT.
Charles Ives spent decades composing this work, writing the Prelude in 1916-17, the Allegretto between 1916 and 1918, the Fugue around 1912-13, and the Largo between 1915-16 – with revisions of each movement being made in the intervening and following years, until 1925. The Symphony in its entirety, however, didn’t reach the concert hall until 50 years later, in 1965.
Pianist Peter Dugan is as comfortable with jazz and pop as he is with classical music hence his debut with the Symphony in June this year in the Music for a Modern Age concert. Adding to his classical credentials is a review following his appearance, with baritone John Brancy, at the Kohn Foundation Song Competition at the Wigmore Hall in London in September. “…. it was the delicacy of phrasing, the smartness of the segues and the range of colour from the pianist Peter Dugan that really struck” wrote The Times.
The genius of Pinchas Zukerman attracts reviews such as this from the Glasgow Herald, which – referring to “the Zukerman tone” – declares: “There is no other like it….His sound is utterly inimitable – as it has been for more than 30 years – from its intense sweetness on high to its throaty richness at the depths of the instrument….And the molten gold that streams from the instrument is completely breathtaking. Fabulous playing.” The Los Angeles Times has described Mr Zukerman as “the forever-young virtuoso: expressively resourceful, infectiously musical, technically impeccable, effortless”, adding “… it was a joy to be in his musical company.”
The soloist on Saturday evening is Munich-born violinist Vivane Hagner, of whom The Washington Post wrote: “Her rich, burnished tone, crystalline articulation and subtle expression grab attention and leave a lasting impression”. Ms Hagner made her stage debut at the age of thirteen in the legendary joint concert given in Tel Aviv by the Israel and Berlin Philharmonics in 1990, led by Zubin Mehta. Since then she has appeared with some of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors. She also has a special interest in new, undiscovered and neglected works. In 2002 she gave the world premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Violin Concerto, with Kent Nagano and the Deutsche Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin, and she’s a champion of composers such as Sofia Gubaidulina, Karl Amadeus Hartmann and Witold Lutoslawski.
Michael Tilson Thomas, assisted by Christian Reif, leads the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in performances of Charles Ives’ Symphony No 4 – with pianist Peter Dugan – from November 16 to 18 at Davies Symphony Hall. These performances are to be recorded live for later release on SFS Media. Guest artist Pinchas Zukerman joins MTT and the Symphony for performances of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto on November 16 and 17. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.
MTT will lead a performance of the same program on Saturday, November 18, with violinist Viviane Hagner playing the Beethoven concerto. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Symphony program notes