In the years I've been doing these previews, I don't recall another month that has had so many last minute switches and cancellations, or performers yet to announce their programs, or concerts that turned out to be sold out (as I generally don't include those) . . . I hope the listings below are accurate, but please let me know if you spot any errors.
The Ubuntu Theater Project opens its 2020 season with a three-actor version of Macbeth, directed by Michael Socrates Moran, from 7 February to 8 March at the FLAX Building in Oakland; Ubuntu is also presenting A Plurality of One: The Song of Walt Whitman, created and directed by Joe Christiano with a soundscape by Justin J Jones, examining the legacy of Whitman's Song of Myself, and that runs Wednesdays and Saturdays (matinees) from 12 to 29 February.
ACT presents Gloria by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Eric Ting, from 13 February to 12 April at the Strand Theater.
Gatz, Elevator Repair Service's celebrated six-hour rendition of the The Great Gatsby in its entirety, comes to Berkeley Rep from 13 to 23 February, directed by John Collins; I've heard nothing but raves about this but . . . I still hesitate. It's always a question whether the fascinations of a performance can counteract the claustrophobic irritations of sitting in the audience, and six hours is a long time to feel trapped.
Theater Rhinoceros presents the world premiere of Radical, written and directed by John Fisher, taking on the world of politics, mostly local but no doubt also national, and that's at the Sparks Art Gallery (4229 18th Street in San Francisco) between 13 February and 1 March.
The African-American Shakespeare Company examines cultural stereotypes of black women in Karani Marcia Leslie Johnson's The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman vs Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae, directed by Sherri Young, which runs from 15 February to 1 March at the Taube Atrium Theater.
Culture Clash comes to Berkeley Rep from 20 February to 5 April with Culture Clash (Still) in America, their latest satirical take on American culture from a Chicano viewpoint.
Cal Performances presents We Shall Overcome, a mostly musical celebration of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, featuring Damien Sneed along with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and others, in Zellerbach Hall on 20 February.
Cal Performances presents Hotel from Cirque Éloize in Zellerbach Hall on 22 - 23 February.
The Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward presents Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy, directed by John Maio, from 20 February to 8 March.
Golden Thread Productions and Crowded Fire Theater explore the worlds of migrants and refugees in Sedef Ecer's On the Periphery, translated from the Turkish by Evren Odcikin and directed by Erin Gilley, from 23 February to 4 April at the Potrero Stage.
42nd Street Moon presents A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, based on the same source material as the film Kind Hearts and Coronets and winner of the 2014 Tony winner for Best Music, from 26 February to 15 March.
Cal Performances presents John Cameron Mitchell in The Origin of Love Tour, with special guest Amber Martin, featuring songs by Stephen Trask from and inspired by the beloved music Hedwig and the Angry Inch; that's in Zellerbach Hall on 29 February.
Clerestory celebrates the centennial of the 19th Amendment with Suffragette, a program including suffrage songs and "innovative female perspectives in modern composition", and you can hear it 1 February at the David Brower Center in Berkeley and 2 February at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.
Ragnar Bohlin leads Cappella SF in (currently unspecified) music of the Nordic Countries on 15 February at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland and 16 February at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco.
South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo comes to Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on 22 - 23 February.
Paul Flight leads the California Bach Society in Renaissance-influenced works by twentieth-century British composers Herbert Howells and Ralph Vaughan Williams on 28 February at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, 29 February at All Saints' Episcopal in Palo Alto, and 1 March at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley.
Volti explores the voice as an instrument in Almost Speechless, in which Robert Geary will lead the ensemble in new works by Mark Winges and Tonia Ko as well as revived pieces by Zibuokle Martinaityte and Danny Clay, and that's 28 February at Noe Valley Ministry in San Francisco and 29 February at the Hillside Club in Berkeley.
Cal Performances presents mezzo-soprano Susan Graham with pianist Malcolm Martineau on 9 February at Hertz Hall, where they will perform . . . well, the site says Mahler's Rückert-Lieder and Berlioz's Les nuits d'été as well as pieces by Handel, Mozart, and Hahn, but if you click through to check ticket availability the program is listed as the Rückert-Lieder, selected songs by Hahn, and Jake Heggie's Iconic Legacies: First Ladies at the Smithsonian, so I guess you have to go to know.
On 7 - 9 February, Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt leads the San Francisco Symphony in the Beethoven 2 and the Brahms 4.
San Francisco Performances is offering some Beethoven for your Saturday mornings: on 8 February, bass-baritone Dashon Burton and "host-lecturer" Robert Greenberg, along with pianist Daniel Cromeenes, with violinist Fred Lifsitz and cellist Sandy Wilson, explore the words and music of Beethoven's songs; then on 22 and 29 February, once again hosted by Robert Greenberg, the Alexander String Quartet continues its exploration of the corpus (this time it's No. 9 in C Major, Op 59, No. 3, No. 10 in E-flat Major, Op 74, and No. 11 in F-minor, Op 95 on 22 February and No. 12 in E-flat Major, Op 127 and No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op 131 on 29 February).
Saturday mornings are not the only times San Francisco Performances is presenting Beethoven: on 8 February in Herbst Theater violinist Isabelle Faust, pianist Alexander Melnikov, and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras will perform Beethoven trios for you.
On 6 February in Zellerbach Hall Music Director Joseph Young leads the Berkeley Symphony in You Have a Voice, a program featuring a world premiere from Xi Wang, the Bay Area premieres of Voy a Dormir by Bryce Dessner (with soloist mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor) and Become Who I Am by Mary Kouyoumdjian (with the San Francisco Girls Chorus; the work is a celebration of the 19th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act), and the Brahms 1, the culmination of his long struggle to find his own symphonic voice under the mountainous shadow of Beethoven.
The San Francisco Symphony explores French Masters with conductor Fabien Gabel and soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who will perform Dukas's La Péri, the US premiere of Aaron Zigman's Tango Manos, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, and the Saint-Saëns Symphony 3, the Organ, on 14 - 16 February.
One Found Sound performs Caroline Shaw's Entr'acte, Barber's Knoxville, Summer of 1915 (with soprano soloist Julie Adams), and Ravel's Ma mère l'Oye at the Heron Arts Center in San Francisco on 21 February.
On 22 February in the Paramount Theater, Music Director Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony in Steve Martland's Crossing the Border for double string orchestra and ballet dancers (featuring the Oakland Ballet Company), Vivaldi's Concerto in F major for Three Violins and Strings (featuring violinists Terrie Baune, Liana Bérubé, and Dawn Harms), and the Mahler 4 with soloist Elena Galván (the symphony is part of the Violins of Hope program, which features instruments used by Jewish victims of the Holocaust).
Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen visits the San Francisco Symphony for two programs: the first, with soprano soloist Julia Bullock, explores the worlds of the fairy-tale surreal, featuring Steven Stucky's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, Britten's Les Illuminations, and Ravel's Three Poems of Stéphane Mallarmé as well as his Ma Mère l'Oye, and that's 20 - 22 February; the second, with solo violinist Leila Josefowicz, features Beethoven's Overture to King Stephen, the Nielsen 5, and Salonen's own Violin Concerto, and that's 27 - 29 February.
Music Director Dawn Harms leads the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony in a Violins of Hope concert at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on 29 February, when they will perform the Boatswain's Mate Overture by Ethel Smyth, Chris Brubeck's Interplay for Three Violins (featuring Kay Stern, Robin Mayforth, and Harms), and the Mendelssohn 3.
Old First Concerts presents Duo Concertante (violinist Nancy Dahn and pianist Timothy Steeves) on 2 February, playing Frisson, a work they commissioned from Randolph Peters, along with works by Bach, Schumann, and Beethoven (the Kreutzer Sonata).
San Francisco Performances continues its Salon Series on 5 February with pianist Edward Simon, violinist Hrabba Atladottir, and cellist Eric Gaenslen playing Piazzolla's Cuatro Esaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires), arranged for piano trio by José Bragato.
Chamber Music San Francisco presents the Apollon Musagete Quartet at Herbst Theater on 9 February, when they will play works by Haydn, Beethoven, and Dvořák.
Lieder Alive! presents mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich, pianist Jeff LaDeur, and the Alexander String Quartet performing the Brahms Quintet in F minor Opus 34 and selections from Schubert's Winterreise on 9 February at the Noe Valley Ministry (this is advertised as a "Gala Benefit" but the music looks more substantial than is usual at such affairs and the ticket prices more in line with what you'd pay for a regular concert, so I'm bending my "no benefits" rule).
As part of the Violins of Hope program, which highlights string instruments used by and music composed by Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the San Francisco Symphony chamber group will perform works by Hans Krása and Gideon Klein (as well as Malcolm Arnold and Brahms) on 23 February at Davies Hall.
Strings & Keyboards
Garrick Ohlsson returns to San Francisco Performances on 4 February to continue his two-year survey of the complete solo piano music of Brahms; this time around he will be playing the Two Rhapsodies, Op 79; Seven Fantasias, Op 116; Variations on a Theme of Paganini Book 2, Op. 35; and the Piano Sonata 3 in F minor, Op 5.
Chamber Music San Francisco presents the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo at Herbst Theater on 15 February, when they will play works by Beethoven, Brahms, Cohen ("Hallelujah" Variations, as prepared by the duo themselves), and Lennon & McCartney.
Chamber Music San Francisco presents violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian playing Grieg, Schumann, and other works "to be announced" at Herbst Theater on 22 February.
The San Francisco Symphony hosts pianist Yuja Wang in a solo recital on 23 February at Davies Hall; the program has not yet been announced.
Early / Baroque Music
Philharmonia Baroque's Music Director Designate Richard Egarr conducts (and plays the harpsichord for) an all-Bach program, including the Harpsichord Concertos 7 and 1, the Orchestral Suite 3, and the Coffee Cantata with soloists Nola Richardson (soprano), James Reese (tenor), and Cody Quattlebaum (bass-baritone), on 7 February at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, 8 and 9 February at First Congregational in Berkeley, and 12 February at Bing Concert Hall in Palo Alto.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents violinist David Greenberg and Musica Pacifica in Airs of Caledonia, an exploration of Scottish traditional and baroque music, on 14 February at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, 15 February at St John's Presbyterian in Berkeley, and 16 February at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.
San Francisco Renaissance Voices presents The World at Prayer and Play, as shown in the music of (among others) William Byrd, Palestrina, Orlando Gibbons, and Philippe de Monte, on 21 February at The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in San Francisco and on 29 February at St Mary Magdalen in Berkeley.
Modern / Contemporary Music
The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble gives us French Sublime, featuring Lili Boulanger's Nocturne (from Deux Morceaux), Debussy's Premiere Rhapsody, Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, and One Wing, a world premiere from Kurt Rohde, and you can hear the results on 2 February at the Berkeley Hillside Club or 3 February at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. There will also be a free lecture and preview, Messiaen and the End of Time, on 31 January at the Doug Adams Gallery on Le Conte Avenue in Berkeley.
The Wooden Fish Ensemble returns to Old First Concerts on 9 February, when they will play Korean folk songs for haegeum and kayageum and Frederic Rzewski's Which Side Are You On?, along with a number of works by Hyo-shin Na, including four US premieres and one world premiere.
Earplay opens its 2020 season with Sky Dances, featuring the west coast premiere of Terrestre by this season's featured composer, Kaija Saariaho, along with Laurie San Martin's Fray (an Earplay commission), Late Shadow by Gilad Cohen (the 2019 Earplay Aird Prize winner) and the art of disappearing by Bruce Christian Bennet and Twilit by Addie Camsuzou (both world premieres and Earplay commissions), and you can experience them all on 10 February at Herbst Theater in San Francisco.
Cal Performances presents A Thousand Thoughts, a live documentary / concert / discussion focusing on the Kronos Quartet and its contributions to musical life for the past almost half century; Terry Riley will also be on hand, to celebrate his 85th birthday and his long working relationship with the quartet; that's 13 February in Zellerbach Hall.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, led by Nicole Paiement and joined by guitarist David Tanenbaum, will play Leo Brouwer's Cuban Landscape with Rain, Alexina Louie's Winter Music, and Peter Sculthorpe's Nourlangie on 21 February; the concert is free but reservations are recommended..
The New Moon Duo (mezzo-soprano Melinda Martinez Becker and pianist Anne Rainwater, joined this time by special guest Natalie Raney on cello) presents the world premiere of Canto Caló by Nicolas Benavides, along with pieces by Gabriela Lena Frank, Enrique Grandados, Manuel de Falla, Tania León, and Brahms, on 28 February at Old First Concerts.
Cal Performances presents the Eco Ensemble at Hertz Hall on 29 February, when they will play pieces by Myra Melford, Ken Ueno, Cindy Cox, Keeril Makan, and Edmund Campion.
Here are some things that strike me from the current listings at the Center for New Music: cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir performs Portraits on 1 February; Areon Flutes and the Siroko Duo play new music for flutes by Izabel Austin, Michael Kropf, Chelsea Loew, Julie Barwick, Jane Rigler, and Igor C Silva on 8 February; the MANA Quartet playing the west coast premieres of works by Belinda Reynolds, John Halle, and Randy Woolf, along with works by Kevin Villalta, Philip Glass, and others on 13 February; the Mana Sax Quartet and the Friction String Quartet joining John Halle to perform his "obliterations and reconfigurations" of jazz standards by Monk, Rodger, and others on 14 February; new music for vibraphone and oboe by Eldad Tarmu (with Glenda Bates) on 21 February; pianist Jared Redmond performing contemporary works for piano by Pierre Boulez, Ji-ye Noh, Jung-eun Park, Kurt Rohde, Michael Finnissy, Giacinto Scelsi, and himself on 26 February; and music by Kyle Hovatter performed by the Colibri Duo alongside artwork by Josh Dorman on 28 February.
Jazz & Folk
Myra Melford has arranged an Evening of Jazz Duos Onstage for Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall on 9 February, when you can hear saxophonist Tim Berne and pianist Matt Mitchell as wekk as saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and pianist Kris Davis.
The fabulous Dianne Reeves returns to the SF Jazz Center from 20 to 23 February to celebrate Nights in Brazil with guitarist Ivan Lins.
The Nora Stanley Quintet appears at the SF Jazz Center for two performances on 22 February.
On 25 February you can celebrate The Harlem Renaissance at 100 at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco, where the Marcus Shelby Quartet will perform, Cynthia Glinka will lead swing dancing, and then Mark Cantor will show films of some of the great artists of Harlem, such as Bert Williams, Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Willie “The Lion” Smith, the Nicholas Brothers, and more.
San Francisco Performances presents Edward Simon in a solo jazz piano program on 26 February as part of its Salon Series.
Cal Performances presents The Chieftains in The Irish Goodbye, part of their farewell tour, on 28 February in Zellerbach Hall.
The Martha Redbone Roots Project comes to Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on 28 February.
Living Legend Taj Mahal brings his quartet to the SF Jazz Center from 27 February to 1 March.
San Francisco Ballet offers two programs this month: Program 2 runs from 11 to 22 February and features Bespoke (music by Bach, choreography by Stanton Welch), Sandpaper Ballet (music by Leroy Anderson, choreography by Mark Morris), and a piece to be named later; and Program 3 runs from 13 to 23 February and features The Infinite Ocean (music by Oliver Davis, choreography by Edwaard Liang), The Big Hunger (a world premiere, with music by Prokofiev, featuring pianist Yekwon Sunwoo, and choreography by Trey McIntyre), and Etudes (music by Knudåge Riisager, after Carl Czerny, with choreography by Harald Lander staged by Johnny Eliasen, with Artistic Advisor Lise Lander).
The Paul Taylor Dance Company returns to the Yerba Buena Theater under the auspices of San Francisco Performances with two programs: Program A (Company B, Esplanade, and the west coast premiere of Concertiana) on 19, 22, and 23 February, and Program B (Cloven Kingdom, Polaris, and Piazzolla Caldera) on 20 and 21 February.
San Francisco Performances presents The Day, performed by dancer Wendy Whelan and cellist Maya Beiser, with choreography by Lucinda Childs and music and words by David Lang, at Herbst Theater on 27 and 28 February.
On 29 February at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the San Francisco Girls Chorus and Berkeley Ballet Theater, joined by The Living Earth Show and the Amaranth Quartet, all come together for Rightfully Ours, an evening inspired by the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment and the on-going struggle for social justice; the guest choreographers are Alexis Borth, Raymond Ejiofor, Danielle Rowe, Vanessa Thiessen, Chuck Wilt, Ky Woodward-Sollesnes and the composers are Sahba Aminikia, Carla Kihlstedt, Libby Larsen, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Ysaye Barnwell, Angélica Negrón, and Aviya Kopelman, the latter two with world premiere works.
On 19 February the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco hosts a showing of the 1924 Austrian film The City Without Jews, accompanied by original music performed live by violinist Alicia Svigals (performing on one of the Violins of Hope instruments) and pianist Donald Sosin; I saw the film a year or so ago when this restored version had its premiere at the Jewish Film Festival in San Francisco, where it was presented jointly with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival; it's a provocative and enjoyable movie, though its light satirical touch (including a scene parodying the seminal Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari) is darkened for us, and rendered a bit inadequate, by our knowledge of the horrifying real-life tragedy that happened a few years later. At the Festival showing, the grand-daughter of Hugo Bettauer, who wrote the novel on which the film was based (for this and other activist works for social justice, he was murdered by a fascist thug), spoke briefly, describing how her dead grandfather had been a powerful presence in her family's refugee life in the United States, and how seeing this film had helped her understand the history of her family and their times. It was a short speech, but one of the most effective I've heard.
Two fabric-related shows both open at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on 13 February: Threads of Jewish Life: Ritual and Other Textiles from the San Francisco Bay Area and Levi Strauss: A History of American Style.
Dawoud Bey: An American Project, a retrospective of the photographer's exploration of African-American life and history, opens at SFMOMA on 15 February.
Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective of the late quilt-maker's stunning works, opens at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive on 19 February.
Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI opens at the de Young on 22 February.
31 January 2020
27 January 2020
24 January 2020
20 January 2020
a detail of Watts Riot by Noah Purifoy, which I saw at the de Young Museum in Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, 1963 - 1983
17 January 2020
13 January 2020
10 January 2020
06 January 2020
a detail of The Adoration of the Magi, by Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi, in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC; today is the feast of the Three Kings (or Magi, and the day is also known as Epiphany or Twelfth Night)