September is the traditional start of the "performance season" but this is the month that's looking jam-packed.
Crowded Fire Theater presents Christopher Chen's A Tale of Autumn, directed by Mina Morita, from 14 September to 7 October at the Potrero Stage.
The annual SF Olympians Festival returns to the Exit Stage Left, where from 4 to 21 October you can see plays (some short, some evening-length) based on ancient legends (this year the Festival has expanded beyond Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia) around water and watery places.
Cal Performances presents Parisian troupe Théâtre de la Ville in State of Siege, an adaptation of Camus's novel La peste (The Plague), an examination of political panic seen as a contagious disease. (The performance is in French, with English surtitles.) That's in Zellerbach Hall on 21 and 22 (matinee) October.
Composer Jake Heggie will give a Master Class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on 4 October. Voice students Paige Stinnett, Elizabeth Dickerson, Andrew Ross, Jessie Barnett, and student pianist Kevin Korth will perform some of Heggie's works and then, I assume, listen to his thoughts.
In preparation for the world premiere next month of the new John Adams / Peter Sellars opera, Girls of the Golden West, San Francisco Opera is presenting a day-long symposium on 28 October, during which you can explore the history, culture, and music of California during the Gold Rush as well as hear from the creators of the opera. There are a number of other ancillary events planned around this world premiere, including Opera Director Matthew Shilvock in conversation with opera director Peter Sellars at the Commonwealth Club on 30 October.
And if you're interested in new operas you might want to check out a workshop production of the first half of Abraham in Flames at the Wilsey Opera Center on 3 and 4 October. Based on her youth in Tehran, creator / librettist Niloufar Talebi has worked with composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and director Ray Rallo to tell a tale combining autobiography, Iranian poetry, and biblical stories. The workshop will feature Merola alums Nikki Einfeld and Brian Thorsett, along with the Young Women's Choral Projects of San Francisco and the Living Earth Show. Tickets are available here.
Joana Carneiro leads the Berkeley Symphony in its first program of the season on 5 October in Zellerbach Hall; you can hear them play the Beethoven 1, the world premiere of William Gardiner's Cello Concerto with soloist Tessa Seymour, Shostakovich's Jazz Suite, and Fearful Symmetries by John Adams. They repeat the program the next day at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
On 14 October, you can hear the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, led by Music Director Dawn Harms in the Brahms Festival Overture, Barber's Knoxville 1915 and "Ain't It a Pretty Night" from Carlisle Floyd's Susannah with soprano Julie Adams, Lou Harrison's Song of Queztecoatl, and Amy Beach's Gaelic Symphony.
Cal Performances presents its annual orchestra residency, and this time it's the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with music director Riccardo Muti, leading three different programs from 13 to 15 October in Zellerbach Hall.
The Oakland Symphony opens its season under conductor and Music Director Michael Morgan with the Beethoven 5 and the Shostakovich 15 on 20 October at the Paramount Theater.
On 28 October, you can hear two different concerts from the Korean National Gugak Center's Creative Traditional Orchestra: the first, at 3:00 PM, features contemporary music and the second, at 8:00 PM, features traditional folk and court music. Both are in Zellerbach Hall and presented by Cal Performances. (Gugak means national music.)
The San Francisco Symphony has a special Oktoberfest concert on 3 October, led by Christian Reif, with soloists Julie Adams (soprano), Daniela Mack (mezzo-soprano), David Blalock (tenor), and Edward Nelson (baritone). The chorus and orchestra will be performing various drink- and Vienna-related numbers. I believe beer is involved. Maybe I'm losing my mind, but this actually looks really fun.
The San Francisco Symphony also has Krzysztof Urbański conducting Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with soloist Augustin Hadelich, and the Shostakovich 10 on 6 - 8 October; Urbański returns on 19 - 21 October to lead Mozart's Overture to The Magic Flute, Dvořák's Cello Concerto with soloist Sol Gabetta, and Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra. [12 October update: Sol Gabetta has had to withdraw from the performances for family reasons, so Joshua Roman will now be the soloist in the Dvořák.] On 13 - 15 October, Jakub Hrůša conducts Dvořák's Carnival Overture, Mozart's Piano Concerto 17 with soloist Piotr Anderszewski, Smetana's Vltava (The Moldau) from Má Vlast, and Janáček's Taras Bulba. And finally on 26 - 28 October Osmo Vänskä conducts Sibelius's Finlandia, the Sibelius Violin Concerto with soloist Baiba Skride, and the Shostakovich 1.
On 21 and 22 October you can hear Christian Reif conducting the San Francisco Conservatory of Music orchestra in Vagaries by Peter Engelbert (the Highsmith Competition Winner), the Shostakovich Piano Concerto 2 with soloist Puripat Paesaroch, and Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. (The Highsmith Composition Award is given annually to a student or recent graduate of the Conservatory.)
On 27 October you can hear One Found Sound performing Bach, Dvořák, and Stravinsky at Monument SF, which is at 140 9th Street in San Francisco.
On 31 October, Zubin Mehta conducts the Israel Philharmonic at Davies Hall in Amit Poznansky's Footnote (a suite from the movie), the Mozart 36, the Linz, and the Schubert Symphony in C Major, The Great.
San Francisco Performances presents the delightful mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and pianist John Arida in an all-Bernstein program at Herbst Theater on 1 October.
On 15 October, Lieder Alive! presents bass Kirk Eichelberger and pianist Marek Ruszczynski in Hugo Wolf's Mörike Lieder and Goethe Lieder and Mahler's aus des Knaben Wunderhorn.
San Francisco Performances has the always adventurous soprano Dawn Upshaw, pianist Gilbert Kalish, and the Sō Percussion Ensemble performing Bryce Dessner's Music for Wood and Strings, George Crumb's Winds of Destiny and the Bay Area premiere of Narrow Sea by Caroline Shaw at Herbst Theater on 26 October.
Students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music will perform music of vaudeville and early Broadway, including songs by Kern, Berlin, Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, and others, on 29 October; the performance is free.
The San Francisco Girls Chorus, led by Valéri Saint-Agathe, presents a mostly Philip Glass program on 25 October in Herbst Theater, with some interesting repertory: accompanied by Michael Riesman and Andrew Sterman from the Philip Glass Ensemble, the chorus will perform selections from Einstein on the Beach, The Photographer, Koyaanisqatsi, and Hydrogen Jukebox. Since the concert is in celebration of the composer's 80th birthday, the Chorus (presumably Music Director Saint-Agathe) had the witty idea of launching the program with other composers born in '37s: Dietrich Buxtehude (1637), Johann Michael Haydn (1737), and Mily Balakirev (1837).
The Second Annual San Francisco Festival of Russian Choral Music will take place this month, featuring the Slavyanka Russian Chorus led by its Artistic Director Irina Shachneva, along with other Slavic choral groups, Highlighting works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as works from ancient Russian folk and liturgical traditions, the first concert will be on 15 October at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley, the second on 20 October at Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco, and the third on 22 October at the Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco.
Ragnar Bohlin's Cappella SF kicks off its season with Music Through Ten Centuries, from St Hildegard von Bingen down to the present day; you can hear them 28 October at St Andrew's Episcopal in Saratoga or 29 October at the Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco.
San Francisco Performances presents the JACK Quartet, joined by cellist Joshua Roman, in works by Gesualdo (arranged by Ari Streisfeld), John Zorn, Amy Williams, Jefferson Friedman, and Roman himself, at Herbst Theater on 13 October.
Cal Performances presents cellist Anssi Karttunen and pianist Nicolas Hodges in works by Beethoven and Brahms, as well as the US premieres of Fling by Ashkan Behzadi and Slackline by Pascal Dusapin and the world premiere of Aquaria by Sean Shepherd (the Dusapin and Shepherd pieces are Cal Performances co-commissions). That's 29 October in Hertz Hall.
Members of the San Francisco Symphony perform two different chamber music programs up at the Florence Gould Theater at the Legion of Honor: on 22 October, violinist Alexander Barantschik, pianist Anton Nel, and cellist Peter Wyrick will play piano trios by Brahms and Shostakovich; and on 29 October a chamber ensemble will play works by Roussel, George Crumb, and Dvořák.
Early / Baroque Music
The California Bach Society, led by Paul Flight, will perform J S Bach's Missa Brevis and Cantata 21 on 20 October at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, 21 October at All Saints' Episcopal in Palo Alto, and 22 October at First Congregational in Berkeley.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents the Aulos Ensemble in a program exploring Handel & His World, which will include selections from some of the German, Italian, and English composers that influenced Handel (such as Telemann and Purcell) as well as Handel himself; that's 20 October at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, 21 October at St John's Presbyterian in Berkeley, and 22 October at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.
Modern / Contemporary Music
Philharmonia Baroque doesn't usually appear in this category, but they are opening their season with the American premiere of a co-commission written for their period instruments: The Judas Passion, a subject with obvious links to the baroque Passion tradition. The music is by Sally Beamish and the libretto by David Harsent; Nicholas McGegan conducts, with soloists Mary Bevan (soprano), Brenden Gunnell (tenor), and Roderick Williams (baritone). The program also includes Telemann's Tafelmusik, Suite No 1 in E minor. You can hear the performances 4 October at Bing Concert Hall in Palo Alto, 6 October at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, or 7 and 8 October at First Congregational in Berkeley.
The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble begins its season with A Garland for Weinberg, a concert celebrating Mieczyslaw Weinberg with a performance of his Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, along with Krzysztof Penderecki's Leaves of an Unwritten Diary and the world premiere of two tributes to Weinberg by Julie Herndon and Stephen Blumberg; that's 8 October at the Berkeley Hillside Club and 9 October at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players launch their season on 21 October at the Taube Atrium Theater with a program featuring the west coast premiere of Postlude à l'Épais by Philippe Leroux, the world premiere of Procession Time by Nicole Mitchell, and Schnee by Hans Abrahamsen. At 4:00 there is an open dress rehearsal of the Mitchell piece, followed from 4:30 to 5:20 by a talk with Mitchell facilitated by SFCMP Artistic Director Steven Schick, and both those events are free and open to the public. If you have a ticket, you may hear a pre-concert discussion with Schick and the performers, followed by the concert itself at the sensible start time of 7:30 with a 9:00 post-concert party.
As always, the Center for New Music is chockablock with interesting stuff; some things that jump out at me are an evening of art songs by Clara Schumann, Libby Larsen, Emma Logan, Julie Barwick, and Rita Zhang, performed by soprano Winnie Nieh and pianist Paul Dab on 6 October; the Siroko Duo (flutists Victoria Hauk and Jessie Nucho) with three world premieres by Nick Benavides, Emily Shisko, and Michael Kropf, on 13 October; Aki Tsuyuko and Ippei Matsui with piano, electronics, and projected live drawing, on 15 October; and the Bottesini Project on 21 October – but check out the whole schedule as well.
Keyboards & Strings
The San Francisco Symphony presents pianist George Li in recital on 8 October in Davies Hall, playing Haydn, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and Liszt.
The San Francisco Symphony presents organist Nathan Laube in recital on 22 October in Davies Hall, playing works by Jongen, Mendelssohn, JS Bach, Roger-Ducasse, and Duruflé.
Pianists Stephen Bailey, Michael Boyd, Daniel Glover, Machiko Kobialka, Jeffrey LaDeur, Gwendolyn Mok, Robert Schwartz, Sandra Wright Shen, and William Wellborn gather on 22 October under the auspices of Old First Concerts to celebrate the birthday of Franz Liszt.
The San Francisco Symphony presents pianist Daniil Trifonov in a program including works by Mompou, Schumann, Grieg, Barber, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Chopin in Davies Hall on 30 October.
Cal Performances presents long-time friends Simpsons creator Matt Groening and artist of the comic strip Lynda Barry in conversation, with each other and then with the audience, at Zellerbach Hall on 7 October.
Cal Performances presents expert story-teller Garrison Keillor on 23 October in Zellerbach Hall.
Cal Performances presents ODC/Dance in boulders and bones in Zellerbach Hall on 11 October.
Cal Performances presents Dorrance Dance, Michelle Dorrance's nouveau tap troupe, in Zellerbach Hall on 27 October.
A Chantal Akerman retrospective is running at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive from 24 September to 29 October.
This looks like a fun way to spend Halloween: the 1931 Bela Lugosi Dracula will be presented with the score by Philip Glass, performed by the Kronos Quartet as well as Glass himself on keyboards. Although SF Jazz is putting on the show, it is in Oakland at the beautiful Paramount Theater.