31 December 2018

Museum Monday

a detail of The Absinthe Drinkers (Les déclassés) by Jean-François Raffaëlli in the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

& a happy new year to all

26 December 2018

fun stuff I may or may not get to: January 2019

It is now Boxing Day, or St Stephen's, and perhaps you like good King Wenceslas are looking out: if so, here are some possible destinations for your miraculous feet in this first month of the newest year:

Shotgun Players has Stoppard's Arcadia running on the main stage until 27 January, and you can catch Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, adapted by Emily Mann and directed by Jeffrey Lo, on 14 - 15 January as part of the Champagne Reading Series.

The touring company of Come from Away, by Irene Sankoff and David Hein and directed by Christopher Ashley, comes to the Golden Gate Theater from 8 January to 3 February as part of the Best of Broadway series.

San Francisco Playhouse presents King of the Yees, written by Lauren Yee and directed by Joshua Kahan Brody, from 22 January to 2 March.

ACT revives Edward Albee's Seascape, directed by Pam MacKinnon, from 23 January to 17 February.

Berkeley Rep revives Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, from 24 January to 10 March.

Aurora Theater presents Strindberg's Creditors, in a new version by David Greig, from 25 January to 24 February.

Brian Copeland's Not a Genuine Black Man plays one night (25 January) at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward.

The San Francisco Symphony concert that is jumping out this month is of course the return of Esa-Pekka Salonen in his new role as Music-Director Designate, conducting works by Sibelius, Richard Strauss, and Anna Thorvaldsdottir on 18 - 20 January. Signing Salonen, who left his dazzling tenure at the LA Phil in order to spend more time composing, was an amazing coup, and an encouraging sign from an orchestra that often seems in full flight from modern much less contemporary music. There isn't much to be done at this point with acoustically uneven Davies Hall and its haute-1970s Marriott decor (though maybe they could at least make the seats less physically uncomfortable), but there is much to be done with the programming, which has seemed stuck in a groove for quite a while now. I blame the Symphony's awful audience for a lot of this (same goes for the Opera, which is also overly conservative in its programming). I've had the feeling that Tilson Thomas would have been more adventurous but the San Francisco audiences mostly want the appearance of adventure, not anything that might actually be new and therefore unsettling. Well, it's good to start a new year with some hope, even if we won't see the solid shape of things until at least the season after next.

There are other concerts of interest at the San Francisco Symphony this month: Jaap van Zweden conducts Mozart's Oboe Concerto (Eugene Izotov, soloist) and the Bruckner 5 from 11 to 13 January [UPDATE: Izotov on the oboe has been switched for Carey Bell in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622]; Christian Reif conducts Richard Strauss's Don Juan, the Prokofiev 5, and Andrew Norman's new Cello Concerto (a Symphony co-commission, with soloist Johannes Moser) from 24 to 26 January; and Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt returns to conduct the Beethoven 6, the Pastoral, and the Mendelssohn 3, the Scottish, on 31 January and 1 - 2 February.

Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony, joined by soprano Shawnette Sulker for the vocal pieces, in an enticing program called To Belong Here: Notes from the African Diaspora, featuring music by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges; Antonio Carlos Gomes; William Grant Still; Florence Price; and Duke Ellington. That's 25 January at the Paramount Theater in Oakland.

Guest Conductor Jonathon Heyward leads the Berkeley Symphony in Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Hannah Kendall's Disillusioned Dreamer (a world premiere), and Bernstein's Symphony No 2 for Piano and Orchestra, the Age of Anxiety (soloist Andrew Tyson) in Zellerbach Hall on 31 January.

Chamber Music
On 6 January the Circadian String Quartet visits Old First Concerts to perform Songs of Death and Rebirth, featuring Schubert (Death & the Maiden), Shostakovich, and original interludes inspired by Rumi from quartet violinist David Rhyther.

Voices of Music plays a wide-ranging program (western and non-western instruments, from the fourteenth through the eighteenth centuries, from America, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Bulgaria, Quebec, Scotland, and Slovenia, and a new work by Hanneke van Proosdij) of music by women, and you can hear it 25 January at All Saints Episcopal in Palo Alto, 26 January at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, and 27 January at St Mary Magdalen in Berkeley.

The Persephone Ensemble plays works by Fauré, Chausson, and Elinor Armer on 25 January at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; the concert is free but reservations are recommended.

The Ives Collective visits Old First Concerts on 27 January to perform Bach (as arranged by Mozart), Schumann, and a world premiere by Kamyar Mohajer.

San Francisco Performances presents tenor Mark Padmore and pianist Paul Lewis performing Brahms, Mahler, and Schumann on 13 January in Herbst Theater (please note that the concert starts at 7:00, instead of SFP's usual 7:30).

Soprano Patricia Racette will be giving a master class on 18 January at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The Martha Redbone Roots Project visits Freight & Salvage in Berkeley to sing William Blake on 23 January.

San Francisco Performances's annual PIVOT series concentrates on politically motivated art this time around; see under Keyboards & Strings for pianist Ran Dank on 24 January; the other artists involved are vocalists: Paula West sings the Bob Dylan songbook at two performances on 25 January, composer-pianist-singer Gabriel Kahane performs his Book of Travelers on 26 January, and bass-baritone Dashon Burton, joined by pianist Lindsay Garritson, perform an intriguing and wide-ranging set of protest songs on 27 January. All performances are in Herbst Theater this year and I am very glad to report that SFP has done the considerate thing and is using reserved seating for this series.

The Wagner Society of Northern California presents Claudia Stevens, among other things the librettist of the forthcoming Howards End, America, giving a talk on Wagner in the novels of E M Forster, on 19 January at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco.

Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith will be in conversation at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco on 30 January.

If you don't want to let the holidays go just yet, you can go hear Cappella Romana performing traditional Ukrainian carols for Christmas and Epiphany on 5 January at St Ignatius in San Francisco.

Early / Baroque Music
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents the Ars Lyrica Houston Chamber Players in a program exploring the extravagant styles of the German baroque as displayed in works by Bach, Buxtehude, and Biber, as well as August Kerzinger, Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, and Johann Jakob Walther; and that's 11 January at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, 12 January at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley, and 13 January at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.

Pianist Inon Barnatan and the Calidore Quartet come to San Francisco Performances with an all-Bach program, focusing on excerpts from The Art of the Fugue; that's 29 January at Herbst Theater.

Modern / Contemporary Music
Other Minds presents an evening of Anne Guthrie's music (involving voice, glass harmonica, oboe, French horns, amplified guitar, and electronics) at the David Brower Center in Berkeley on 10 January.

On 13 January Old First Concerts explores the music of the late Julius Eastman in a concert arranged by composer Luciano Chessa, featuring Chessa on piano and vocals along with pianists Sarah Cahill, Regina Myers, and Chris Brown, baritone Kevin Baum, and bass Richard Mix.

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presents The Sound of Nature, a program inspired by the natural world as portrayed in Bach, Crumb, Evan Hause, and a world premiere by Clarice Assad, on 14 January at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and 19 January at Hertz Hall on the Berkeley campus.

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players' concert on 18 January at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music starts with a song by Charles Ives, which leads to Ted Hearne's "The Cage" Variations, along with works by Ingram Marshall, Molly Joyce, Mark-Anthony Turnage, and Timo Andres; the evening begins with a free dress rehearsal of the Hearne, followed by a conversation with him, before the ticketed concert. Sounds enticing, but apparently auto-tuning is involved somewhere so take that into consideration.

Quantopia: The Evolution of the Internet, a multi-media piece on information technology composed by Paul D Miller (DJ Spooky) with visual design by Greg Niemeyer, performed by DJ Spooky, the San Francisco Girls Chorus led by Valérie Saint-Agathe, and Classical Revolution, is at the Yerba Buena Center on 25 January.

For glimpses of the operatic future, look to West Edge Opera's Snapshot program, featuring four excerpts from works-in-progress; there are performances on 19 January at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall in Berkeley and 20 January at the Taube Atrium Theater at Civic Center in San Francisco.

The Kronos Quartet and Cal Performances team up to present some new works from their Fifty for the Future commissions; this time around the composers involved are Misato Mochizuki, Mario Galeano Toro, Soo Yeon Lyuh, and guest artists include student ensembles from Berkeley High, the Oakland School for the Arts, and the Crowden School, and you can hear the results on 25 January in Zellerbach Hall.

On 25 January Old First Concerts presents Firesong (a fluid group consisting for this concert of soprano Vanessa Langer, pianist Allegra Chapman, flutist Elizabeth Talbert, and composer/sound artist David Coll) playing works by Olivier Messiaen, George Crumb, Takashi Toshimatsu, and David Coll (a world premiere).

Clarinetist Jeff Anderle and the Delphi Trio play Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time and other works at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on 28 January; the concert is free but reservations are recommended.

As always, check the calendar at the Center for New Music, which is updated frequently; some things on view as I type this that jump out at me are: Yinsho: Dangerous Animals on 24 January and Ensemble for Our Times on 26 January.

Keyboards & Strings
The San Francisco Symphony presents an evening of klezmer music with Itzhak Perlman on 14 January in Davies Hall.

Cal Performances presents cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han playing Beethoven, Brahms, and Mendelssohn at Hertz Hall on 20 January.

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes plays Schumann, Bartók, and Janáček at Davies Hall on 22 January, presented by the San Francisco Symphony.

Pianist Ran Dank plays Rzewski's The People United Will Never Be Defeated on 24 January at Herbst Theater as part of San Francisco Performances's PIVOT series, which focuses this time on politically oriented art.

Cal Performances presents violinist Nicola Benedetti and pianist Alexei Grynyuk playing Bach, Prokofiev, Wynton Marsalis (the west coast premiere of Fiddle Dance Suite) and Richard Strauss on 27 January in Zellerbach Hall.

The San Francisco Symphony presents violinist Leonidas Kavakos and pianist Enrico Pace at Davies Hall on 27 January, playing works by Beethoven, Prokofiev, Bartók, and Enescu.

The Wayne Shorter Quartet plays the SF Jazz Center from 3 to 6 January.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet plays the SF Jazz Center from 17 to 20 January.

In connection with the Get Dancin' exhibit at BAM / PFA (see Visual Arts below), Berkeley Ballet Theater dances in the galleries on 11 January and Hālau O Keikialiʻi performs traditional Hawaiian dance on 20 January.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago visits Cal Performances with two programs at Zellerbach Hall on 18 and 20 January (Program A) and 19 January (Program B).

The San Francisco Ballet opens its post-Nutcracker season with Don Quixote (music by Minkus, choreography by Alexander Gorsky after Marius Petipa with staging and additional choreography by Helgi Tomasson and Yuri Possokhov), running from 25 January to 3 February. In this case familiarity with the source material is neither necessary nor particularly desirable.

Visual Arts
The Gauguin show is still running at the de Young Museum, but  there are some interesting-looking new exhibits opening this month: starting 16 January and running until 14 April, MOAD (the Museum of the African Diaspora) has Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem, which includes nearly a century's worth of work by artists of African descent, and starting 9 January and running until 31 March BAM / PFA (the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive) has Get Dancin': Selections from the Collection, featuring prints, drawings, and photographs celebrating dance, as well as a solo exhibit of the Shinto-influenced sculpture of Masako Miki, which also opens 9 January but runs until 28 April.

A couple of terrific film series are running BAM / PFA: Fritz Lang & German Expressionism is scheduled from 7 December 2018 to 23 February and Japanese Film Classics from the BAM/PFA Collection runs from 12 December 2018 to 27 January. Every film in both series is worth seeing, so get going!

25 December 2018

Merry Everything

This lovely Tintoretto is from the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of the painter's birth.

Merry Christmas or whatever else you celebrate. Let us all go in peace in the new year.

24 December 2018

Museum Monday

I saw this Edward Burne-Jones watercolor, The Nativity, as part of the special exhibit Truth & Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites & the Old Masters at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

04 December 2018

fun stuff I may or may not get to: December 2018

This round-up was nearing completion when my Internet problems set in, and though my access has been restored (and will soon be improved, I am assured), it wasn't in quite enough time for me to finish this before the first of the month. I'm going to go ahead and post it now, not quite completed, as most of the interesting events are crowded early in the month (and sadly some have already passed), which is typical of Decembers, which are mostly given over to Nutcrackers and Messiahs and the pretense that this drought-stricken land on the edge of the Pacific Ocean is seasonally and magically a land of sleigh rides and fir trees and snow falling gently, gently, so gently, over our sorry years. Merry whatever you celebrate, and peace on earth, good-will to all!

You can hear Chanticleer's Christmas program at many Bay Area venues from 10 to 23 December. Old First Concerts has a whole month's worth of holiday-themed (or -tinged) concerts: guitarist Lawrence Ferrara and cellist Shiqi Li play festive and wintry music on 7 December; Ragazzi Boys Chorus sings For the Beauty of the Earth on 9 December; Golden Bough plays Celtic songs for Christmas and the solstice on 14 December; Kitka sings eastern European seasonal songs on 21 December; and pianist Sandra Wright Shen plays a Christmas-centered program ranging from Bach and Liszt to Messiaen and Crumb on 23 December.

Guest Conductor Derek Tam leads the San Francisco Renaissance Voices in Christmas motets and carols from medieval times up to a wet-ink work by local composer Kyle Hovatter at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in San Francisco on 10 December; the concert is free but you'll need to make a reservation here or by calling 415/564-2324.

Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony in its annual holiday concert, Let Us Break Bread Together, on 16 December at the Paramount.

If you're looking for an interesting twist on an old favorite, Theater of Yugen presents A Noh Christmas Carol from 7 to 30 December.

The African-American Shakespeare Company presents the holiday treat Cinderella, written by company members and directed by Mark Allan Davis, from 21 to 23 December at Herbst Theater.

As mentioned last month, Ars Minerva is reviving Giovanni Porta's Ifigenia in Aulide at the ODC Theater on 30 November and 1 December.

San Francisco Opera's annual Adler Fellows concert, The Future Is Now, will take place on 8 December at Herbst Theater.

Opera Parallèle presents Rachel Portman's The Little Prince at the Marines' Memorial Theatre in San Francisco on 7 - 9 December, with Nicole Paiement conducting and staging by Brian Staufenbiel.

One Found Sound plays works by Reena Esmail, Frank Martin, and Mozart on 7 December at Heron Arts in San Francisco.

Christian Reif leads the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in Prokofiev's Peter & the Wolf (with narrator Richard Dreyfuss) on 9 December at Davies Hall.

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra explores the Viennese classical school with works by Haydn (the Overture to L'isola disabitata), Mozart (three concert arias performed by soprano Christina Brandes), and Beethoven (the Triple Concerto); you can hear the results on 30 December at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, 31 December at Hertz Hall in Berkeley, or 1 January 2019 at First United Methodist in Palo Alto.

Modern / Contemporary Music
Other Minds presents Gloria Cheng and Terry Riley playing The Heaven Ladder and other piano works by Riley at the YBCA Forum on 5 December.

Early / Baroque Music
Guest conductor Patrick Dupré Quigley leads Philharmonia Baroque in a program meant to show both the fancy Italianate side of Bach and his more severe Lutheran demeanor; in addition to two Bach cantatas, there are choral works by Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and Purcell (the magnificent Frost Scene from King Arthur). The soloists are soprano Margot Rood, countertenor Reginald Mobley, tenor Steven Soph, and baritone Steven Eddy, along with the Philharmonia Baroque Chorale. Performances are 5 December at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford, 7 December at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and 8 - 9 December at First Congregational in Berkeley.

Guest Conductor Don Scott Carpenter leads the San Francisco Renaissance Voices in La Pastorela (The Shepherd's Story), a traditional Mexican version of the Nativity story told from the point of view of the shepherds. The group will also perform Cristóbal de Morales's Missa Queramus cum pastoribus (Mass of the Quaking Shepherds); that's 15 December at the Hillside Club in Berkeley and 16 December at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in San Francisco.

American Bach Soloists has a special concert on New Year's Eve (wisely beginning at 4:00 PM; they know their audience); Jeffrey Thomas leads countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and soprano Mary Wilson in a program of operatic arias as well as instrumental pieces by Handel and Gluck.

Jeffrey Thomas leads American Bach Soloists in its annual performances of Messiah at Grace Cathedral on 12 - 14 December, with soloists Mary Wilson (soprano), Eric Jurenas (countertenor), Aaron Sheehan (tenor), and Jesse Blumberg (bass).

Jane Glover conducts the San Francisco Symphony's Messiah on 14 - 15 December, with soloists Ying Fang (soprano), Elizabeth DeShong (mezzo-soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), and Joshua Hopkins (baritone).

Urs Leonhardt Steiner leads the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a sing-along Messiah on 10 December at Herbst Theater; soloists are Yi Triplett (soprano), Chrystal Philippi (alto), William Wiggins (tenor), Kittinant Chinsamran (bass), and Franklin Beau Davis and Stephen Harris (trumpets). There are also pub-crawl versions of the concert on 16 December at the Southern Pacific Brewing Company and 17 December at the Homestead.

Chamber Music
The San Francisco Symphony (in chamber group formation) has two concerts this month: Mozart and Brahms at the Gunn Theater up at the Legion of Honor on 2 December and Mozart, Beethoven, and Taneyev at Davies Hall on 16 December.

San Francisco Performances presents the Telegraph Quartet in works by Schulhoff, Dvořák, and Weinberg on 9 December at Herbst Theater.

Keyboards & Strings
Cal Performances presents pianist Shai Wosner in an all-Schubert recital on 2 December at Hertz Hall.

The San Francisco Symphony presents pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and cellist Gautier Capuçon playing Debussy, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff at Davies Hall on 2 December.

San Francisco Performances presents violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and pianist Polina Leschenko in works by Bartó, Poulenc, Enescu, and Ravel on 12 December at Herbst Theater.

Cal Peformances presents Pavel Zuštiak and his Palissimo Company in the west coast premiere of Custodians of Beauty from 7 to 9 December at Zellerbach Playhouse.

Visual Arts
Ink, Paper, Silk: One Hundred Years of Collecting Japanese Art opens at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive on 12 December and runs until 14 April 2019.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has its annual Day of Silents at the Castro Theater on 1 December, featuring six films with live musical accompaniment.