Michael Tilson Thomas is back on the podium at Davies Symphony Hall this week to lead the San Francisco Symphony in a program featuring the SF Symphony debut of Ukranian pianist Behzod Abduraimov, in a performance of the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3. The program also includes the world premiere of a work commissioned by MTT and the Symphony – Charles Wuorinen’s Sudden Changes – and Aaron Copland’s Third Symphony.
Behzod Abduraimov is an award-winning recording artist – his debut recital CD won both the Choc de Classica and the Diapason Découverte – and he is also internationally renowned for his appearances as a concert pianist. He made a dazzling debut at the 2016 BBC Proms – with Valery Gergiev and the Münchner Philharmoniker – and returned to the festival the following year. In recent seasons he has appeared with orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus and the London Philharmonic, and with conductors of the caliber of Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Manfred Honeck, Vasily Petrenko, James Gaffigan, Jakub Hrůša, Vladimir Jurowski – and now Michael Tilson Thomas.
Mr Abduraimov “… has technique in spades ….. with an attention to detail and emotional engagement that made the Prokofiev piece sparkle”, wrote ARTSATL of a performance of this concerto, and according to Suddeustche Zeitung, “His delicate playing captivates immediately and Abduraimov’s technical security is growing so rapidly that it is soon breath-taking. That’s the sound of a great virtuoso.”
Prokofiev’s gorgeous Piano Concerto No 3 is lyrical, melodic, dramatic and delightful – but apparently fiendishly difficult to play. According to French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet in an interview for Gramophone, it’s the most famous and the most played of Prokofiev’s five piano concertos. “It’s simpler and more classical in its structure than the others,” he says, “but it does contain the composer’s trademarks: ballet, fairy tale, magic, sarcasm, irony – and virtuosity”. M. Bavouzet will be appearing with the Symphony next month.
Charles Wuorinen – a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences – is regarded as one of today’s leading composers, whose many honors include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Pulitzer Prize in Music. From 1985 to 1989 he was Composer-in-Residence to the San Francisco Symphony – for whom he had already composed his Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra – and included in his many works is the overture he wrote for the opening concert of the New World Symphony in Miami, when MTT founded this ensemble in 1987.
The concert ends with Aaron Copland’s Third Symphony, which he completed in September 1946. Commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, it was premiered by the Boston Symphony in October of that year, and dedicated “to the memory of my dear friend Natalie Koussevitzky”, the wife of the conductor.
Copland, one of the conductors striving to produce The Great American Symphony in the aftermath of the Second World War, had in mind a work that would “reflect the euphoric spirit of the country at the time”, in which the strains of his Fanfare for the Common Man are evident, before these develop into a full-blown reprise of his earlier work. There are also references to the haunting themes which he would later use in his score for the Martha Graham ballet Appalachian Spring. According to Leonard Bernstein, “The symphony has become an American monument, like the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial”.
Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony, with guest artist Behzod Abduraimov, in a program of works by Wuorinen, Prokofiev and Copland at Davies Symphony Hall. The program, which opens tonight, March 15th, runs until March 17th. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Symphony program notes: