Returning from a highly successful East Coast tour, the San Francisco Symphony resumes its Davies Symphony Hall schedule this week under the baton of Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck. Maestro Honeck will conduct a two-work program of music by Prokofiev and Dvořák – Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante, and the Symphony No 8 by Antonin Dvořák. The guest soloist is virtuoso Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk.
Manfred Honeck – of whom the New York Classical Review wrote: “…. when he conducts, he seems to cherish every note of the score, and communicates his deep understanding of the music to the audience” – was last seen leading the San Francisco Symphony in May, 2017, his first appearance with the orchestra. He has held the position of Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since the 2008/2009 season, and has led the Pittsburgh Symphony on a number of tours of European capitals, as well as appearing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York.
Maestro Honeck and the orchestra have performed at some of the world’s leading festivals, including the BBC Proms, Musikfest Berlin, the Lucerne Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn and Grafenegg Festival, and also have a close relationship with the Musikverein in Vienna. Among the impressive number of recordings that conductor and orchestra have made together was their interpretation of the Shostakovich Symphony No 5 which won the 2018 Grammy Award for ‘Best Orchestral Performance’.
Following his highly acclaimed performance of the Esa-Pekka Salonen Cello Concerto at this year’s Baltic Sea Festival, cellist Truls Mørk – who has Gramophone, Grammy, Midem and ECHO Klassik awards to his credit – has an exciting season lined up after this week’s debut performance in San Francisco. He will again perform the Salonen Concerto – led by the composer – with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, and on tour in the United States at venues which include the Lincoln Center in New York, and at CAL Performances in Berkeley.
Other engagements include appearances with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Bayerisches Staatsoper, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. Mørk will also continue his recital program with Uzbekistani pianist Behzod Abduraimov in the US and Europe – a partnership described by The Washington Classical Review as “an exquisite team”, adding: “Sometimes two musicians form a partnership that is even greater than the sum of its parts”.
The Prokofiev Sinfonia concertante which Truls Mørk will perform this week, is a reworking of the Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 58 which Prokofiev wrote between 1933 – 1938. Having heard Mstislav Rostropovic play the work in 1947, the composer realized how dissatisfied he was with it, and – although it took nearly three years to complete – the revision was completed. It’s largely regarded as an improvement on the original work, although it’s also considered to be one of the most difficult in the entire cello concerto repertoire.
The final work in the program is the Dvořák Symphony No 8. The composer wrote most of the work while at his summer residence in Vysoka – about 50 km southwest of the city of Prague – to which he returned to enjoy the peace and quiet which it afforded him – and most particularly the close contact with nature which he always loved. His joy at being in this rural environment is reflected in his Symphony No 8, as is his love of Czech and Slavonic folk music, all of which produced a work with some lovely lyrical passages. It was premiered at Prague’s Rudolfinum on February 2nd, 1890, with Dvořák conducting, as he did at the Symphony’s first performance in London, on April 24th that same year in a concert hosted by the Philharmonic Society in St James’ Hall. It was enthusiastically received at both performances.
Manfred Honeck leads the San Francisco Symphony in works by Prokofiev and Dvořák, with guest artist Truly Mørk, at Davies Symphony Hall from October 11th to 13th. For tickets and further information, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Symphony program notes
Prokofiev Symphony concertante – AllMusic