Play On, California! is our noontime spotlight on the great musicians from our Golden State. From San Diego to Sacramento and from the LA Phil to the San Francisco Symphony, we have a goldmine of local musical talent across our state. So, each weekday at noon, join Dianne Nicolini for homegrown favorites. We’re also updating this blog daily, highlighting in detail some of the incredible efforts taken on by our arts communities to share music on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, their own websites and more! If you have any favorites to add, let us know in the comments.

When the Oakland Symphony finishes its season Friday night at the Paramount Theatre, Leonard Slatkin will be on the podium – he and several others have been guest conducting this season, after the death of Michael Morgan. When Slatkin was Music Director of the Saint Louis Symphony, Morgan was his Assistant Conductor, one of the major early steps in his career. The Oakland Symphony program opens with Circuits, by Cindy McTee, followed by the Symphony No. 2 of Alan Hovhaness, “Mysterious Mountain.” The final work is by Sir Michael Tippett, the oratorio A Child of Our Time, which was written between 1939 and 1941 as a response to the horrendous ‘Kristallnacht’ of the Nazis. Tippett later would say that it was prophetic: “Growing violence springing out of divisions of nation, race, religion, status, color…is possibly the deepest present threat to the social fabric of all human society.” For the oratorio they’ll be joined by soloists and the Oakland Symphony Chorus.

Photo by Wei Luo

After a hiatus of eight years, The Irene Dalis Vocal Competition returns this week. Named for the mezzo-soprano who founded Opera San Jose, it will feature eleven up-and-coming operatic singers in semi-finals on Wednesday, and then the finals on Saturday. There are a few brand-new elements in this year’s competition: the semi-finals will be livestreamed for free from OSJ’s state of the art Digital Media Studio (and viewers will be able to vote for the ‘Audience Favorite,’ who will move on to the finals) and on Saturday, in live performance at the California Theatre, the singers will be accompanied by the Opera San Jose orchestra. They’re competing for almost 10-thousand dollars in cash prizes, and among the judges are mezzo-sopranos J’Nai Bridges and Frederica von Stade.

Photo of Irene Dalis courtesy of Opera San Jose

The California Symphony wraps up its season this weekend with what they’re calling an “Epic Finale” – it includes the live premiere of a work by Young American Composer-in-Residence Viet Cuong called Next Week’s Trees. The work had its first performance online last year, as a part of a livestreamed concert. It’s inspired by a Mary Oliver poem, Walking to Oak-Head Pond and Thinking fo the Ponds I Will Visit in the Next Days and Weeks. Along with that, Donato Cabrera will lead the orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, and with soloist Nathan Chan, Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto. The Bay Area native is Assistant Principal Cellist of the Seattle Symphony. More than a decade ago, he played under Cabrera in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. The concerts are at the Lesher Center, Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday afternoon at 4.

Photo of Viet Cuong by Phil Parsons

In advance of their tour of Central Europe in June, the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra presents its Spring Concert on Saturday in Berkeley. The program, led by Music Director David Ramadanoff, includes the world premiere of a piece written for them by their composer-in-residence Jeremy Cavaterra called Rhapsody on a Windy Night. It was commissioned to help celebrate the 85th anniversary season of the ensemble, founded in Berkeley in 1936. There will also be performances by two of the concerto competition winners, playing movements from concertos by Weber and Rachmaninoff: bassoonist Soumili Mukherjee, and pianist Soren Pang. The concert will end with Saint-Saens’ “Organ” Symphony. On their upcoming tour, the orchestra will be having performances in Leipzig, Prague, and Vienna.

Photo by Mika Watanabe

The Gold Coast Chamber Players in Lafayette are presenting a concert called “Cultural Crossroads” this Saturday night, that includes music that Dvorak wrote when he was visiting America in 1893 – as well as some of the musical traditions that inspired him. The Alexander String Quartet will play his “American” string quartet and quintet (with violist Pamela Freund-Striplen) and they’ll be joined by soprano Michele Kennedy and Native American flute player R. Carlos Nakai. The influence of spirituals and gospel tunes is apparent in his “New World” symphony, and while he stayed in Spillville, Iowa, he had a chance to hear and become fascinated by music of the Iroquois, who lived nearby. There will be traditional spirituals as well as two songs by Florence Price, and a set of tunes for the flute (and they’ll all play an arrangement of “Goin’ Home,” based on the Largo from Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony.)

Photo by Terry Lorant

Pianist Jon Nakamatsu joins the Symphony San Jose to play Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto as part of their Classics Series this weekend in two concerts at the California Theatre. Also on the program is Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and Pavane for a Dead Princess, and Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. Tatsuya Shimono will be conducting. Jon Nakamatsu has been a favorite with Bay Area audiences since his Van Cliburn competition win in 1997, which launched his professional career.

Photo courtesy Jon Nakamatsu

At Cal Performances this Friday, The Tallis Scholars pair a work written in the 15th Century with a new piece written for them by David Lang. His sun-centered, a Cal Performances co-commission, was written specifically to appear on a program with Missa Et ecce terrae motus by Antoine Brumel, also known as the Earthquake Mass, because that translates to ‘And the Earth Moved.’ Its gradual building up of 12 part polyphony is reminiscent of Tallis’s Spem in Alium, even though using far fewer voices. Lang’s sun-centered, although contemporary, reaches back to the time of Galileo, who was accused of blasphemy for proving that the earth revolved around the sun. The 12 voices of the Tallis Scholars will be led by director Peter Philips at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley at 8 on Friday.

Photo by Rodrigo Pérez

To end its 50th anniversary season, the California Bach Society will be presenting three performances of Bach’s Passion According to Saint John around the Bay Area this weekend. Artistic Director Paul Flight leads the 30-voice chamber choir, soloists, and full Baroque orchestra in the concerts, in San Francisco at St. Marks on Friday evening, Palo Alto’s First United Methodist Church on Saturday, and at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley on Sunday afternoon. After each of the concerts, there will be a reception to help the organization celebrate its golden anniversary. Here’s a sample of a performance of the St. Matthew Passion by the California Bach Society that they gave in Berkeley in the Fall of 2016:

Bay Area musicians will be coming together next week for Concert of Compassion, a benefit concert for the people of Ukraine.

Included among the performers are mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and composer/pianist Jake Heggie, with musicians from the San Francisco Symphony, the Bay Brass, members of Artists’ Vocal Ensemble, Ukrainian soprano Alina Ilchuk, and others. It will be conducted by Nicole Paiement and Jonathan Dimmock.  Dmytro Kushneruk, the Ukrainian Consul General, will also speak.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), World Central Kitchen, and Nova Ukraine, as they help refugees who have been displaced from their homes.

The concert is at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco on the evening of Monday May 9th, and is sponsored by The Resonance Project, which seeks to use music as a tool in conflict resolution.

Photo by David Travis via Unsplash

Sunday afternoon, for the first time in collaboration with the Old First Concerts series, the Community Music Center will present the Juliet McComas Keyboard Marathon. It’s named for the late pianist and teacher who began the annual concert in 2004. Fifteen faculty members and special guests will play a program with the theme “Music of the Americas.” Along with Samuel Barber, George Gershwin, and Philip Glass, there are a variety of Latinx and African-American composers, such as Manuel Ponce, Astor Piazzolla and Heitor Villa-Lobos; Nathaniel Dett, Margaret Bonds and Don Byron. There are also Bay Area composers Jon Jang, Bruce Nalezny, and Betty Wong on the program. Those not able to attend the concert at Old First Church have the option of livestreaming the event, which starts at 3pm on Sunday, May 1st.

Photo by Amir Doreh via Unsplash

A look behind the scenes at the creation of an opera is part of the SFFILM Festival tonight – there’s a free screening at the Castro Theatre of the documentary Land of Gold, which tells the story of the John Adams opera Girls of the Golden West. The doc, by filmmaker Jon Else, is narrated by soprano Julia Bullock, who was the star when the opera premiered at San Francisco Opera in 2017. There are interviews with composer John Adams, director/librettist Peter Sellars, and the other singers in the production. There’s also historical context about the early days of the Gold Rush. The opera used the historical letters that Louise Clappe wrote to her sister back east detailing events and conditions of the mining towns as its foundation. Before the screening of the documentary, there will be a performance by some of this year’s Adler Fellows – the free community event is co-sponored by SF Opera.

Photo courtesy SFFILM

There’ll be a world premiere at the upcoming performances by the San Francisco Choral Society – a piece called To a Lost Year, by Chiayu Hsu. They commissioned the piece during the lockdown, so that they could present it in concert when it was safe again to do so. She was chosen from a field of more than a hundred composers to write the piece, which is for chorus and string orchestra. It’s in three movements, beginning with the chaos and uncertainty that everyone was feeling at the beginning of the outbreak, and remembers and honors COVID’s victims, before turning to a more hopeful future. Chiayu Hsu was born in Taiwan, and now teaches composition at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In the piece, she also explores the challenges and dangers that were faced by Asian immigrants, who endured xenophobia, as well as violence during the pandemic. The concert will be led by SFCS Artistic Director Bob Geary this Friday and Saturday evenings at the  First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, on a program with Handel’s Dixit Dominus.

Photo by Duke Photography

The tumultuous life of the artist Frida Kahlo is the subject of a chamber opera called Frida by Mexican-American composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez. Opera Cultura in San Jose is presenting three performances of the work, as it makes its Northern California premiere. The iconic painter, her art, and relationship with muralist Diego Rivera inspire the opera, which is mostly in English (with some Spanish). The musical language borrows from Mexican folk traditions, with a Mariachi influence, as well as music of the 1930s. Kahlo was in a life-altering accident when she was 18 years old, when a bus she was riding in collided with a trolleycar. During her recovery, and afterward, pain defined much of her life – which was reflected in her paintings, including many self-portraits. Opera Cultura aims to perform works by Latino and Hispanic composers, to “create a cultural bridge between communities.” Their performances are this Friday and Saturday evening, with a matinee on Saturday, at the Mexican Heritage Theater.


There’s Water and the Wheel of Fortune at Marin Symphony this weekend, as they pair Mason Bates’ Liquid Interface with Carl Orff’s sprawling Carmina Burana. Conductor Alasdair Neale and the Symphony will be joined by the Marin Symphony Chorus, solists, and the Pacific Boychoir. In Liquid Interface, Mason Bates explores water in all its forms – from sounds of icebergs “calving” to single drops, stormy sea to condensation. The composer was inspired by Berlin’s Lake Wannsee, near where he was living at the time. The piece blends electronics with the sound of the orchestra. Carmina Burana, which involves all of its instrumental and choral forces right from the opening notes of “O Fortuna” was supposed to be the grand finale for the season, but due to a rescheduled earlier concert, there will be one more program in June. The concerts are at the Marin Center Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael.

Photo of Alasdair Neale by Eisaku Tokuyama

A world premiere performance this weekend that had to wait for two years: Michael Gilbertson’s Denial, an oratorio on the topic of climate change and the environment (fitting for Earth Week) will be the centerpiece of the next Mainstage concerts by the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, joined by the vocal forces of Volti and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir. It sets texts from both ancient and contemporary sources. Volti has two other works with environmentalism at their heart: Diana Woolner’s The Fire Cycle, and Earth Song by Frank Ticheli. The concerts open with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending (with concertmaster Robin Sharp as soloist) and ends with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. This was to have been the last concert of the season, but the set of performances that were scheduled for right around the new year have been rescheduled for June. The admission-free concerts are at Herbst Theatre Friday night, in Palo Alto at the First United Methodist Church on Saturday, and Sunday afternoon at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

Photo of Michael Gilbertson by Christina Simpson

Octet, a “chamber choir musical” exploring the world of internet addicts, starts previews this week and opens on the 27th at Berkeley Rep. It was written and composed by Dave Malloy, who turned a section of Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace into the Broadway musical called Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.  The eight actor/singers of Octet provide the complete score (the only other instruments are some percussion, and a pitchpipe. They tell of their particular obsessions and self-destructive behavior using modern technology, as they sit in a meeting in “real life” – whether it’s game playing, trolling others, going down internet rabbit holes, or just pursuing their various obsessions, they’re turning to each other for support. This is the West Coast premiere of Octet, and will run through almost the end of May. It had an off-Broadway run at the Signature Theatre Company in 2019.

Courtesy Berkeley Rep

A documentary about conductor Marin Alsop (available for streaming this week through PBS’s “Great Performances”) follows her career from her childhood, when she decided what she really wanted to do was to lead an orchestra. At nine years old, she’d already been playing the violin for years (her parents were both professional musicians: her father was a violinist and her mother was a cellist) when she saw a Young People’s Concert hosted by Leonard Bernstein. She continued to study and play violin, forming an ensemble of classically trained women string players called “String Fever” that played swing-inspired music – but she still wanted to conduct. She was able to study with Bernstein at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Summer home of Tanglewood – and there’s archival footage of them interacting during masterclasses. Alsop would go on to be the first woman named conductor of a major US orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, in 2007 – and also led the Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra in Brazil, and currently also leads the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Having been told at a young age that she couldn’t become a conductor because girls don’t do that, she says: “Don’t tell me I can’t do something”. For more than 20 years, she was Music Director of the Cabrillo Festival of New Music in Santa Cruz, and throughout her career has been teaching and mentoring young composers – including Joseph Young, now Music Director of Berkeley Symphony. You can watch the full documentary, called “The Conductor” here.


Next season will be the tenth that Donato Cabrera has been the Music Director of the California Symphony, and to mark the occasion, he’s programmed a season of works the ensemble has never played in its 36 year history. There are also lots of women composers and soloists represented – beginning with their opening concert in September, which includes Anna Clyne’s DANCE, written for the soloist who will be playing it, Inbal Segev. In the second concert, pianist Elizabeth Dorman joins them for a performance of Gerald Finzi’s Eclogue for Strings, sharing the program with 20th Century Polish composer and violinist Grażyna Bacewicz’s Concerto for String Orchestra. In February, Maria Rudutu is the soloist for Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with music from Chevalier de Saint-Georges and César Franck. Next March, they’ll explore “Mahler’s Inner Circle,”  with works by Alexander Zemlinsky, Mahler’s wife Alma, as well as the California premiere of a symphony by Hans Rott. The season wraps up with the third commissioned piece by Young American Composer-in-Residence, Viet Cuong, along with music by Hector Berlioz and William Walton.

Photo by Art Garcia

Students from some of the top music conservatories around the US and Canada will be taking part in a streaming benefit concert this Saturday, to raise funds to aid the Ukrainian people. The concert, called Unite for Ukraine will be hosted by The Violin Channel, and introduced by violinist Midori. The schools represented are the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, New World Symphony, Colburn School, Cleveland Institute of Music, Curtis Institute of Music, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. A quartet of musicians from the SFCM’s Roots, Jazz and American Music (RJAM) program will be taking part, playing Eddie Harris’s Freedom Jazz Dance. Colburn School musicians will play movements from Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s Concertino for Violin and String Orchestra, performed by Anais Feller and Academy Virtuosi – part of the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices, resurfacing music suppressed by the Nazis during World War II. During the concert, which begins streaming at noon (Pacific) on Saturday, viewers will be able to make donations which go toward humanitarian aid, supplies and transportation, as well as medical services.

Photo by Alexei Scutari via Unsplash

Violinist Randall Goosby and pianist Zhu Wang give a recital performance at Davies Symphony Hall on Wednesday night, as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s “Spotlight Series”. They’ll play works by Antonin Dvorak, William Grant Still, and Edvard Grieg. The two worked together on Goosby’s first release for Decca Classics, called “Roots,” which was released last year (he was signed to Decca when he was only 24); two of the pieces on the program, the Sonatina by Dvorak, and William Grant Still’s Suite for Violin and Piano appear on that recording. The remaining work on the program is Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 3. Randall Goosby will be returning to the stage of Davies Symphony Hall this September, when he’ll make his debut with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony playing Florence Price’s Violin Concerto No. 2. (That month will also mark his second performance at the famed Hollywood Bowl in LA, playing a concert with Itzhak Perlman).

Photo by Kaupo Kikkas

Opera San José concludes its season with something they’ve never done before – a musical. But even though West Side Story began on Broadway, Shawna Lucey, the General Director of OSJ says it’s “perfectly suited to the operatic stage… Our job is to promote not only promising new talent and incubating new artists, but also to amplify American works, particularly those which speak to our current societal issues.” The Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim retelling of the story of Romeo and Juliet, set among the gangs of New York City has a special resonance with director Crystal Manich, who’s wanted to stage it for almost 30 years. She was born in Puerto Rico, and lives there now – but grew up in Pennsylvania. She says the show can benefit from her background, “infusing other cultural elements that are not on the page.”  Teresa Castillo and Noah Stewart are singing Maria and Tony, and the conductor is Christopher James Ray. There will be seven performances at the California Theatre, opening Saturday and running through the first of May.

Photo by David Allen

One of hazards of being a composer is having your music appear on a concert with Beethoven… or as John Adams put it: “Another rite of passage that one must endure, if you’re to be a ‘classical composer,’ is to share the bed with one of the large guys.” But a piece that Adams wrote called Infinite Jest fits the bill quite nicely – it’s a concerto for string quartet and orchestra that Redwood Symphony will be playing this Saturday night, with members of the Grace Note Chamber Players (Claudia Bloom, Geoffrey Noer, Andrew Lan, and Glenn Fisher) making up the ‘solo’ quartet. Adams wrote the piece for the centennial season of San Francisco Symphony, and decided to use as motivic material many themes from Beethoven’s late string quartets, symphonies, and other works. Music Director Eric K will be conducting the all-volunteer orchestra at Cañada College Saturday night in Redwood City, beginning with Aaron Copland’s Outdoor Overture, and ending with the concert with Beethoven’s mirthful Symphony No. 2.

Redwood Symphony

It’s a chance to see operas in their early stages by up-and-coming West Coast composers – West Edge Opera and Earplay chamber orchestra are presenting Snapshot this weekend. Scenes from five new works are included:

  • A look at racing driver Enzo Ferrari’s rise to success (The Dark Horse by composer Cesar Cancino and librettist Scott DeTurk)
  • Lilith, by Michael Kaulkin, based on a 1960s novel about a World War II vet who is drawn into the world of a delusional patient named Lilith at the mental institution where he works
  • Jean Ahn’s Remembrance, in which a young boy who has lost his mother and sister in the Korean war cries in confusion
  • A 15-year-old girl who has left home looks for community and love amid dangers in Gabrielle Rosse’s Cristina Doesn’t Need Saving
  • And, from an opera that’s in development through West Edge’s Aperture program, “a surreal coming of age story” from composer Ryan Suleiman and librettist Cristina Friès called The School for Girls Who Lost Everything in the Fire.

The performances are Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 3 at the Taube Atrium Theater at the Wilsey Center.


The celebration of Helgi Tomasson at San Francisco Ballet continues, in his last season (after 37 years) as the company’s Artistic Director. Two of the programs on this week contain his choreography: Program 5 has two of his dances: “The Fifth Season” (with music by Karl Jenkins) and the world-premiere run of “Harmony” (with music by Jean-Philippe Rameau). “Harmony” is the last premiere he’ll have with the company as Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer. Program 6 goes back to “Prism,” a work he created in 2000 for New York City Ballet, where he had danced for 15 seasons, and brought to San Francisco the following year. That’s set to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Also on that program are two world premieres: Christopher Wheeldon’s “Finale Finale” (to music of Darius Milhaud) celebrates Tomasson’s career, as well as the ability for the dancers to return to performance; and Dwight Rhoden’s “The Promised Land” speaks to the resilience we’ve had to have in the past few years, and how to push through difficulties. As he describes it: “You think back and you move forward.” Program 5 is now running through the 16th, and Program 6 runs from Wednesday the 6th through the 15th. And in a few weeks, on the 24th, there’s a one-night-only performance called “Helgi Tomasson: A Celebration” with seven of his works represented.

Photo – San Francisco Ballet

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has won a Grammy for Best Choral Performance for the recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, the “Symphony of a Thousand” – which included the vocal forces of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Los Angeles Master Chorale, the National Children’s Chorus, and the Pacific Chorale. It was recorded live at Walt Disney Concert Hall at the end of May/beginning of June, 2019 – ending the LA Phil’s centennial season with – if not a thousand – 346 performers taking part: eight solo singers, two mixed choruses of adults, and a children’s choir. (In 2012, Gustavo Dudamel’s “The Mahler Project,” featured concert performances of all nine of Mahler’s symphonies within the span of a month.) The recording was also nominated for Best Engineered Classical Album, but that went to “ChanticleerSings Christmas” – the eighth Christmas recording the men’s choral ensemble has released, with seasonal works from the Renaissance as well as gospel tunes… staples of their always-popular Christmas concerts.

Photo by Vern Evans

There’s a baseball-themed family concert this Sunday with the Santa Rosa Symphony called “Francesco at the Bat…” as Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong wears his baseball jersey and cap to lead them in Olympic music by John Williams, a musical setting of the classic poem “Casey and the Bat,” and a singalong performance of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” There will also be a play-by-play announcer explaining how musicians have to warm up before they play, the same way athletes do. Helping to round out the program are the favorites “Flight of the Bumble Bee,” “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” and Elgar’s “Nimrod” from the Enigma Variations. The concert is at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall in Rohnert Park, and will have an instrumental “petting zoo” for kids an hour before the 3pm performance.

Photo by Eduardo Balderas via Unsplash

The 2022-23 season of the San Francisco Symphony will be launched with the gala opening concert on September 23rd (with the annual “All San Francisco” concert the day before). There are 15 weeks of concerts led by Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, a European tour in the Spring, and four weeks of Orchestral Series programs conducted by Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas, in November, January, and next Spring. They’ll also begin a four-year partnership with the acclaimed stage director Peter Sellars with a production of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex this summer. Among the world premieres will be a work by the winner of the first Emerging Black Composers Project, Trevor Weston, as well as Samuel Adams and Magnus Lindberg. The SoundBox series returns, with several of the Collaborative Partners curating programs (Nicholas Britell, Pekka Kuusisto, and Nico Muhly). Pianist Igor Levit will be the 2022-23 Artist-in-Residence, with playing two concertos with the orchestra, with Chamber Series program appearances, and a Great Performers Series recital. Returning guest artists include Yuja Wang, Hilary Hahn, Lang Lang, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and many more, and among the artists making their debuts with the Symphony are Conrad Tao, Beatrice Rana, and Randall Goosby.

Photo by Andrew Eccles

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Bartonand composer Jake Heggie have been friends as well as musical collaborators for years – and they appeared together on an album that she released called “Unexpected Shadows” that’s been nominated for a 2022 Grammy in the Best Classical Solo Vocal category. This Sunday afternoon Barton makes her debut at Cal Performances, with Heggie on the piano. Included on the program are works by Schubert, Brahms, Florence Price, and several pieces composed by Heggie, including the West Coast premiere of “What I Miss the Most” – just as the pandemic was beginning, they asked friends (including mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, Broadway star Patti LuPone, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) to provide texts for the song cycle. Jamie Barton helped the San Francisco Symphony launch its season last fall, as one of the singers featured in the ”Homecoming” concert. Here’s a piece from her album:

A new choir called 21V has its first concerts this weekend, challenging some long-held musical and social assumptions with a program called Beyond Binary. The singers, alto and soprano voices of all gender identities, are trying to break down the idea of “us vs. them” with works by contemporary composers of the Americas. The concerts will include a work they commissioned for the hundredth anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, by composer Charles Griffin and text by Christina Springer called Praise Song for Tulsa. There are also works by Gabriela Lena Frank (Pollerita Roja) and Rex Isenberg that shine a light on gender stereotypes, and Kin to Sorrow, by Stephen Paulus to a text by Edna St. Vincent Millay. The choir’s Artistic Director, Martin Benvenuto will lead the performances – Friday evening at the Taube Atrium Theater in the War Memorial Building in San Francisco, and then the next day in a free concert at the African American Museum & Library in Oakland. The choir hopes to expand the boundaries of music for treble voices, as well as being, as they put it, both “a house of ideas” and “a house of belonging.”

Photo by Jeffry Harrison

Included in the first wave of concerts to be cancelled two years ago was a program by the California Symphonythat was to have included the world premiere of a piece called Illuminate by their Young American Composer-in-Residence, Katherine Balch. It’s for orchestra and three voices, and inspired by a set of poems by French poet Arthur Rimbaud. That work gets its delayed premiere this weekend, in a program Music Director Donato Cabrera is calling “French Impressions.” Also on the program, there’s a piece by Thomas Adès called Three Studies from Couperin that reimagines three harpsichord pieces by the Baroque composer. And there are two more works to finish the program, Danse (by Debussy, with orchestration by Ravel) and Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose), which retells classic fairy tales.

Photo by Lanz Photography

Berkeley Symphony presents a concert they’re calling “Reimagine” as their 50th anniversary season continues… and there’s an emphasis on family in the program. There’s a sister, a mother, and a grandfather in the musical works: Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, Reena Esmail’s Meri Sakhi Ki Avaaz (My Sister’s Voice), and the Prokofiev classic Peter and the Wolf. Music Director Joseph Young leads the concert at the First Congregational Church Friday evening. The piece by Esmail is for orchestra and two sopranos, one from the Hindustani tradition, and the other singing with Western classical technique.  Peter and the Wolf is “reimagined” with new illustrations by three local artists, and narrated by illustrator and graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton. (And there’s a 20-page illustrated program with the commissioned artwork that will be shown during the performance.)

Photo by Jeff Roffman

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra have several California performances coming up… In their first ‘long-haul’ tour concerts in exactly two years, they’ll begin at Stanford Live on Saturday the 19th, with a Cal Performances appearance in Berkeley on Sunday afternoon, the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa Tuesday night, before having a five-day residency in Santa Barbara at Music Academy of the West.

They be joined by soprano Nicole Cabell at the Bing Concert Hall, who will perform George Walker’s Lilacs for voice and orchestra, a “ravishing exploration of longing and loss” with text by Walt Whitman. Also on that program is Dvorak’s American Suite, and Schumann’s Second Symphony.

The programs for Berkeley, Costa Mesa, and the first Santa Barbara concert include the Corsaire Overture by Berlioz, Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin – Suite, Symphony No. 7 by Sibelius, and Ravel’s La valse.

There’s also a work called The Spark Catchers by contemporary composer Hannah Kendall, which “depicts the working lives of the women who worked in the Bryant and May match factory… and how they had to keep a watchful eye, catching any stray sparks that might set the factory alight.” Rattle describes it as a piece that always grabs orchestras and audiences by the lapels, and never lets go.

On Saturday, the LSO presents a Family Concert, with a wide selection of excerpts to introduce younger listeners to classics by Copland, Beethoven, Mozart, and more.

Their final performance on Sunday the 27th is the Music Academy of the West’s 75th Anniversary Community Concert, along with MAW Summer Festival fellows who won auditions to perform in London with the LSO, playing alongside them. At the center of that program is Bruckner’s ‘Romantic’ Symphony No. 4.

This is the final season of Rattle’s music directorship of the LSO, and he says plans for the coming year include works on a grand scale – the sort that were not possible during the height of the pandemic. (One performance planned for June in London will be Berlioz’s colossal Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale, which will fill St. Paul’s Cathedral (and include nearby landmarks and public spaces).

Photo by Oliver Helbig

Spanning a wide swath of geography, a program called “From Persia to Iberia” at Noe Music this Sunday afternoon will show how musical traditions overlap and influenced each other. The trio performing the program are Persian singer Mahsa Vahdat, harpist Bridget Kibbey, and percussionist John Hadfield. They’ll be playing originals, as well as traditional tunes. Mahsa Vahdat has collaborated with Kronos Quartet and Kitka, bringing traditional Persian singing to a wider audience, and Kibbey (who’s been described at “the Yo-Yo Ma of the Harp”) has been adding to the harp repertoire and exploring traditions from around the world, including South America, as well as Sephardic and Persian music. John Hadfield has played with groups as diverse as the Silk Road Ensemble, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. On Saturday morning, Kibbey and Hadfield will offer a program for kids about their instruments called “Swish, Pluck, Snap!”.

The Santa Rosa Symphony launches the four-season series “Rach and the Hollywood Sound” this weekend, when music director Francesco Lecce-Chong leads them at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall. Rachmaninoff’s Romantic First Symphony is paired with Nino Rota’s Ballet Suite from La Strada (while many of Rota’s scores were written in Italy, he had great Hollywood success with his scores to The Godfather films). The other work on the program is concert music by Oscar-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, a work called From the Other Place. They’ve also announced their next season – which will include soloists like pianists Awadagin Pratt and the Naughton sisters (they’ll play the world premiere of a concerto by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich); and violinists Jennifer Frautschi and Bella Hristova. There’s a special Beethoven’s Ninth program in December, and in February of 2023, Bruno Ferrandis returns to conduct a mostly French program.  There’s also the second installment of the “Rach” series that they’re launching this weekend.

Photo by Anastasia Chernyavsky

There are a couple of Bay Area concerts this weekend that will be raising money for Ukrainian refugee relief:

On Saturday, at Golden Gate Park’s Bandshell on the Music Concourse, a free event called “Slava Ukraini!” (Glory to Ukraine!) will begin a series of concerts that will seek donations to World Central Kitchen, which has been helping get food to displaced persons in Ukraine and surrounding countries since the crisis began. It’s the first of nearly a dozen shows planned in March, with close to 40 performers involved. It’s organized by Sunset Piano, Illuminate, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, and the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council.

And on Sunday afternoon, Herbst Theatre will be the site for a chamber music fundraiser, Refugee Crisis Relief for Ukraine, including music by Ukrainian composers, and performers from many Bay Area ensembles and organizations. That’s organized by Nova Ukraine, with partners that include the Consulate General of Ukraine in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Girls Chorus joins forces with Artist-in-Residence Bobby McFerrin this Sunday as they return to live performance for the first time in over two years. The concert at the Bayview Opera House will include works by the singer, including from the album that gives the program its name: Circlesongs. The improvisatory-style of the compositions come out of group singing techniques, layering vocal lines to create spontaneously composed choral works. The SFGC will also present the world premiere of a commissioned work called In Stillness I Sing, a piece by Theresa Wong, created during the pandemic, with texts written by Premier Ensemble choristers about their experiences in lockdown. They’ll be joined for that piece by pianist Sarah Cahill. There are also two previous commissions on the program: Pamela Z’s Pen Pal, and (2021 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer) Tania León’s Rimas tropicales.

Photo by Ben La

The Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is in the midst of a North American tour with dates in California this week – on Thursday the 10th he’s at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, Friday the 11th he’ll be at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall, and on Sunday in Berkeley through Cal Performances. This fall, he’ll be starring in San Francisco Opera’s new production of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice. He’s had a very busy season already, making his Metropolitan Opera debut at the end of 2021 in Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice. Aside from his vocal skills, he’s gotten attention for another of his passions – breakdancing. His Instagram page includes photos from the concert halls of the world, as well as some freestyle breakdancing in the plaza at Lincoln Center in New York.

This weekend (Mar 5/6) there are some symphonic instrumentalists playing chamber music in the Bay Area – Musicians from Berkeley Symphony have a concert at the Piedmont Center for the Arts Sunday afternoon at 4, with a program that includes Dvorak’s “American” String Quartet in F Major, a string quartet by violist Darcy Rindt (who will be one of the performers) as well as a work for 2 flutes and string quartet by Brian Nabors, who’s the New Music USA Amplifying Voices Composer in Residence at Berkeley Symphony. And at Music at Kohl Mansion on Sunday evening players from the San Francisco Symphony have a program with works by Dvorak, Rossini, and African-American composers Florence Price and Jessie Montgomery.

Photo courtesy of Music at Kohl Mansion

Michael Tilson Thomas has announced he’s going to be scaling back his conducting and administrative responsibilities, following his treatment for brain cancer. In a statement he says he’ll be stepping down as Artistic Director of the New World Symphony and “taking stock” of his life – “It takes strength to meet the demands of the music and to collaborate on the highest level with the remarkable musicians who so generously welcomed me. I now see that it is time for me to consider what level of work and responsibilities I can sustain in the future.” He’ll be continuing working with orchestras in the US and Europe this season, and “the many musical collaborations planned for next season.” But as he says, with his diagnosis, even after surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the future is uncertain. “I will continue to compose, to write, and to mull over your thoughts and mine. I’m planning more time to wonder, wander, cook, and spend time with loved ones… Life is precious.”

Photo of Michael Tilson Thomas by Brandon Patoc

The Centennial season of San Francisco Opera will bring two world premieres by Bay Area composers, alongside Verdi, Puccini, Gluck and Tchaikovsky, and revisit a pair of works that had their US premieres in San Francisco. John Adams’ next opera is Antony and Cleopatra, which will open the season in September, retelling the Shakespeare tragedy (along with texts from Plutarch, Virgil, and others) and starring Julia Bullock and Gerald Finley in the title roles. Then, there’s Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, based on the Pushkin classic. In the second half of October, there’s a work first staged here in 1957, Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites. It’s set in Revolutionary France, with the guillotine looming over an order of Carmelite nuns. New productions of La Traviata and Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice run into December. In the Summer season of 2023, there will be a new co-production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, directed by Amon Miyamoto; Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten, and the second new work of the season, a co-commission premiere by composer Gabriela Lena Frank and librettist Nilo Cruz called El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego (The Last Dream of Frida and Diego) about the groundbreaking artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Photo of San Francisco Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim by Kim Tae-hwan

The 2022/23 Season of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall is out – with several major projects planned – including a six-program series called “Rock My Soul,” curated by soprano Julia Bullock, which will highlight the achievements and collaborations among Black women artists. There’s also a continuation of the Pan-American Music Initiative, showcasing Latin American Symphonic and Choral Music. John Adams is celebrating his 75th year, and he’ll conduct his opera Girls of the Golden West in a concert performance (its LA premiere) next January that will be recorded for future release. In December, Gustavo Dudamel will lead the LA Phil in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. He’ll open the season with a celebration of John Williams’ film music; there’s a 10-day Rachmaninoff marathon with Yuja Wang playing all four piano concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Michael Tilson Thomas and Zubin Mehta will return to conduct, and Susanna Mälkki will lead the US premiere of an LA. Phil-commissioned Double Concerto by Felipe Lara for flutist Claire Chase and bassist Esperanza Spalding. Other guest artists include Anne-Sophie Mutter, Mitsuko Uchida, Lang Lang, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma.

Photo courtesy Fidelio Arts

Isata Kanneh-Mason makes her San Francisco Performances recital debut at Herbst Theatre on Monday, Mar 7. The program includes works by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Sofia Gubaidulina, with a new work by Jamaican-born British composer Eleanor Alberga. As part of the musical Kanneh-Mason family, she frequently performs with her siblings, including her brother, Sheku… but as a soloist has already released two albums on Decca Classics – The Piano Music of Clara Schumann (which debuted at No. 1 on the UK classical charts) and last year’s Summertime.

Photo by Robin Clewley

Putting to the test Stravinsky’s line “All composition is frozen improvisation,” pianist Vicki Ray brings together improvisatory pieces by composers like Bartok and Poulenc, but also works by avant garde jazz composers like Cecil Taylor and Harold Budd… It’s the next Piano Spheres concert Tuesday night at the Colburn School’s Zipper Hall in Los Angeles. With titles that contain the word “Improvisation,” “Fantasia,” and “Impromptu,” she’ll capture the  spontaneity of creation on the performing stage. In this video, from a 2018 Piano Spheres performance, she plays Pierre Jodlowski’s Série Bleue for piano and backing track.

Pianist Hilda Huang flew from New York to San Francisco at the end of last year, to record a performance for the Noontime Concerts series at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral. (The recital is embedded on that page). It’s part of their series that’s been running for more than 30 years that they call the “Musical Lunch Break.” The program includes a sonata by Beethoven and partita by Bach. Her association with Bach goes back a long way – when she was only 11 years old, she was one of the featured performers in a documentary called “Bach and Friends,” which also had appearances by Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, and the Emerson String Quartet. You can see some of that documentary here, with a performance that she gave at a retirement home in Baltimore.

Festival Mozaic will be introducing their 2022 Artist-in-Residence in an upcoming recital this month. Violinist Abigel Kralik will be joined by pianist Maxim Lando for the concert, which will include works by Richard Strauss, Ravel, and Jessie Montgomery. Kralik, whose mother was Nicaraguan-American and father was Hungarian has lived in Dublin, Budapest, and Paris, and now lives in New York City, where she got her Master’s degree from Juilliard, studying with Itzhak Perlman. The concert is at the Templeton Performing Arts Center, north of San Luis Obispo on the 23rd – and in mid-April, she’ll be playing chamber music by Mozart and Tchaikovsky with friends.

Photo by Jiyang Chen

Handel’s Messiah returns for seasonal performances in Northern and Southern California – the American Bach Soloists and American Bach Choir will be filling up the spacious acoustics of San Francisco’s historic Grace Cathedral on Thursday and Friday evening, led by Jeffrey Thomas, their Artistic Director. And they’ll also head to Weill Hall at the Green Music Center for a Sunday afternoon performance. In Los Angeles, the LA Master Chorale returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall for a performance of the work, with a chamber orchestra and 48 singers, led by Artistic Director Grant Gershon. They’ve decided to cancel the (40th annual) Messiah Sing-along that had been scheduled for Monday the 20th. Instead, they’re inviting people to join them for free outdoor caroling on the Jerry Moss Plaza at the Music Center. That begins at 6pm on Monday.

A seven-hour history of works by women composers – pianist Sarah Cahill gives a concert called “The Future is Female” at BAMPFA (The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive) this Saturday. She’s been curating a project with the same name for quite some time, assembling existing works, and commissioning new pieces from contemporary composers like Regina Harris Baiocchi, Mary Watkins, and Theresa Wong. It complements the current exhibition called “New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century.” There are more than 70 composers represented in the program, which will begin at 2 and run through 9pm. It’s also a bit of a preview of the recording project that Cahill has underway – the first of three albums is set to be released in March. 

The men of Chanticleer have begun the final part of their annual “A Chanticleer Christmas” tour – which takes them across the country after Thanksgiving, returning to California in the days leading up to the holiday. The program begins with a candlelit processional, to a chant, and then tours through music history from the Renaissance to today, with traditional carols, seasonal songs, and finishing with Gospel favorites. The ensemble has shows in the Bay Area, in Palo Alto, Petaluma, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara and Carmel – and Tuesday night they’re on stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.  You can hear the Chanticleer Christmas special, recorded live in concert in New York earlier this month this Sunday night at 8 on KDFC.


Photo by Lisa Kohler

Felix Klieser is a remarkable horn player – he’s recorded six albums in the past eight years, and has recently begun as Artist-in-Residence with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for the next two years. That he plays his instrument at all is unexpected, because he was born without arms: he plays the horn’s keys with his left foot. He’s going to be the guest at the next Salastina virtual “Happy Hour” Tuesday from 10 to 11am.

There are plenty of options around for fans of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker – here are a couple of notable ones – in the Bay Area, San Francisco Ballet (which has the distinction of being the first company to stage the ballet in the United States, back in 1944) is presenting performances through the 30th at the War Memorial Opera House, with choreography by Helgi Tomasson, and more than 150 dancers. Across the Bay, Oakland Symphony and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir join forces with Oakland Ballet for Graham Lustig’s staging on the 18th and 19th, at the Paramount Theatre. New Ballet in San Jose presents the “San Jose Nutcracker” in the California Theatre from the 18th to the 22nd… and for those with shorter attention spans, they’re offering “My Very First Nutcracker,” a one-act reduction for families with kids. That’s the intended audience for “Nutcracker Sweets,” the 13th year of the 50-minute production by the Mark Foehringer Dance Project SF at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason’s Center for Arts and Culture. It’s got a nine piece chamber orchestra providing the score.

Photo by Erik Tomasson courtesy San Francisco Ballet

A tradition that grew out of nostalgia for caroling gets repeated this weekend and next in Northern California… Unsilent Night takes place in Berkeley and Sacramento on the 11th, and in San Francisco on the 18th (and also in Arcata further north on the 21st). Composer Phil Kline wrote a piece of music that he split into four layers – and participants walk together playing one of four separate recordings, either on a boombox, or with an app on their phone and speaker. The effect is a “shimmering soundscape” that moves with the people as they stroll along a set route. This year there are more than 35 locations around the country (and world) taking part in the celebration.

Image courtesy Unsilent Night

LA Master Chorale continues its celebration of the season with its “Festival of Carols” this Saturday afternoon at Walt Disney Concert Hall – as Jenny Wong leads 62 singers in a program of traditional carols, classic arrangements, and new works. Among the pieces being performed are arrangements by former composer-in-residence Shawn Kirchner, and pieces by contemporary composers Rosephanye Powell and Reena Esmail. There still remain a performance of Handel’s Messiah on the evening of December 19th, and free outdoor Carols on the Plaza the following evening, Monday the 20th.

Philharmonia Chorale will be returning to live performance this Thursday through Sunday, celebrating the season with J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. It’s the first time they’ve had a concert in 2 years, and 15 years since the ensemble last performed the work. Music Director Richard Egarr will be leading them for the first time since taking on that role. They’ll be accompanied by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, with soloists Lydia Teuscher, Avery Amereau, Gwilym Bown, and Ashley Riches. There are four performances, first at Herbst Theatre, then the Bing Concert Hall at Stanford, and two performances at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Photo courtesy PBO

Pianist Stephen Hough has also been a composer for many years – but until now, he’s never written a string quartet. In Costa Mesa tonight, the Takacs Quartet will be giving the world premiere of his first, called “Les Six Rencontres,” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. It was commissioned by local patrons Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting, and is inspired by the members of “The Six,” the group of French composers from the early part of the 20th Century that included Poulenc and Milhaud. The Takacs Quartet was planning to make a recording that included a work by Maurice Ravel from the very beginning of the 1900s, and Henri Dutilleux, from 1970, and wanted a work that might bridge that divide. In six movements, Hough imagines encountering the members of The Six.

Photo by Jiyang Chen

The annual Grawemeyer Award for Composition has been awarded to Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, for her opera based on Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando. The title character begins as a man in Tudor England, and becomes a woman during the course of a life that spans centuries. The story’s gender-fluidity was decades ahead of its time, and Neuwirth has extended it into the present day. It was the first opera by a woman to be presented by the Vienna State Opera, and along with that fact and the honor of the award, there’s a prize of $100,000. Previous winners of the Grawemeyer include Esa-Pekka Salonen and John Adams, and Kaija Saariaho. Neuwirth is only the fourth woman to win since the prize was established in 1985.

This Saturday morning on the broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera, it’s Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice, which had its world premiere at LA Opera shortly before the pandemic began, in early 2020. It’s based on the play by Sarah Ruhl, which in turn is based on the mythological story of Orpheus, but told from Eurydice’s point of view. Aucoin says he has a fairly dark take on Orpheus. “I think there’s something slightly untrustworthy about how much Orpheus loves to grieve. There’s this sense, even in the original myth, that he sort of would prefer to be grieving the death of Eurydice than actually being with her.” In the opera, the character of Orpheus is split in two – when he’s a ‘regular guy,’ it’s a baritone – and when he’s using his godlike musical talents, he’s joined by a countertenor, to provide a “halo of sound.” Aucoin is no stranger to cross-discipline collaborations – he’s the co-founder of the American Modern Opera Company, AMOC, which brings together musicians, dancers and singers to make new works in experimental ways. And he says although it’s a great honor to have his work on the stage of the Met, he used to work there on the music staff as a pianist and coach, and says he’ll always be most excited about sitting in a room with a blank piece of paper, which is where he says the action really happens. 

This year’s Grammy nominations include the LA Philharmonic, and San Francisco Symphony, and Chanticleer and the LA-based chorus Tonality. A recording of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, the so-called “Symphony of a Thousand” got two nods, with Gustavo Dudamel leading not only members of the LA Phil, but also the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, LA Master Chorale, National Children’s Chorus, as well as the Pacific Chorale. That’s up for both Best Choral Performance, as well as Best Engineered Album, Classical. (The latter is the category in which Chanticleer Sings Christmas was nominated.) The San Francisco Symphony has two recordings nominated: for Best Orchestral Performance, Throughline, a piece that composer and SFS Collaborative Partner Nico Muhly wrote for the ensemble and conducted, that could be performed and recorded by small groupings of players. The second, for Best Classical Compendium, has Michael Tilson Thomas leading his former ensemble in works of Alban Berg, including the Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham. Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the LA Phil and singer Nora Fischer in music by the late Louis Andriessen called The Only One, which is nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. And the Los Angeles ensemble called Tonality is up for Best Arrangement, Instrument and Vocals, for their recording of the Civil Rights era classic “A Change is Gonna Come,” arranged by Tehillah Alphonso.

A coalition of more than 100 San Francisco-area arts organizations (including KDFC) have come together in an effort to get would-be audiences back into concerts and performances.  It’s called “Bay Area Arts Together,” a communications effort that aims to convince the public that they can return safely and confidently after the upheaval of the past year and a half. The arts can be, and have traditionally been, an important part of the healing process, and bringing together the community in difficult times – and while shifting to virtual offerings has provided some needed continuity, Jennifer Bielstein, Executive Director of American Conservatory Theater says, “We are collectively READY to welcome people into in-person arts experiences again. We’re READY to explore, learn, laugh, be moved, be inspired, and get re-connected to each other.” 

Three operas, one setting that’s changing over time… The collaboration between Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte resulted in some of his best known and loved works, and San Francisco Opera begins the second phase of their trilogy this weekend, with Così fan tutte. The Marriage of Figaro was set at a manor house in America during Colonial times, and that same building is in this opera, set during the 1930s, after it’s become a country club. The final installment, next summer’s Don Giovanni, will take the same structure into the distant future. Directed by Michael Cavanaugh, this middle chapter (which actually was written last) concerns love and tests of fidelity among two pairs of young lovers. There will be five performances between Sunday the 21st and December 3rd, including the opportunity to watch remotely.

Photo by Cory Weaver

There’s a US premiere next week (Friday the 26th and Sunday the 28th) at the LA Phil, led by the woman who conducted its world premiere. Australian Simone Young will be on the podium for Uncertain Planning, a piece that fellow Australian Connor D’Netto composed in 2020, when uncertainty loomed large. The guest soloist for the program is Nicola Benedetti, playing the Violin Concerto of Erich Wolfgang Korngold – who came to Hollywood and wrote memorable scores for films, after early success in opera. Simone Young is known for conducting operas as well as concert symphonic works. The program will end with Brahms’ dramatic Symphony no. 4.

Photo by Andy Gotts

Oakland Symphony launches its subscription season this Friday night with a concert at the Paramount Theatre called “The Music Returns.” It will be guest conducted by Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, and although the programming for the season has been shuffled a little bit, it still has the vision of the late Michael Morgan at its core, who sought to include more women composers, and composers of color in their concerts. Friday’s performance will begin with a piece from 1943 by William Grant Still called In Memoriam, the Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy. Lara Downes will be the soloist for Florence Price’s Piano Concerto, and then the program ends with Beethoven’s epic “Eroica” Symphony. Guest conductors for the remainder of the season include Dr. Leslie B. Dunner, Dr. Lynne Morrow, Kalena Bovell, Eric Tuan, Nicholas McGegan, and Leonard Slatkin.

Photo by Kristin Hoebermann

The LA Master Chorale will be filling Walt Disney Concert Hall with some of Rachmaninoff’s most beautiful music for voices this weekend as they open their subscription season with his All-Night Vigil. Grant Gershon will conduct 80 singers in the piece, which is inspired by, and expands upon the Russian Orthodox choral tradition. It was written in the tumultuous time between the start of World War I and the Russian Revolution, and includes many authentic chants, as well as those that Rachmaninoff crafted, and was among the composer’s favorite of his works. The concerts are Saturday afternoon at 2 and Sunday evening at 7.   

Photo by Tao Ruspoli / LA Master Chorale

A new book by kids, for kids, about one of America’s important composers: Who Is Florence Price? began as a class project at the Special Music School at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City. Price succeeded despite considerable odds, as a Black woman trying to write symphonic classical music in the first half of 20th Century America. 45 middle school students rose to the occasion when English teacher Shannon Potts discovered that there were no materials about Florence Price’s life and career written for a lower school reading level. They had just finished their original version shortly before the pandemic’s arrival, and since then, it’s been revised, given a foreword by composer Jessie Montgomery, and published this week by Schirmer Books. Montgomery says: “This book represents a snapshot into the beautiful minds of children when they are given a chance to fully investigate their history and interests.”

Messalina was the historical wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius – and she was known for being both powerful and promiscuous in that society. Those intrigues behind the scenes inspired composer Carlo Pallavicino to base an opera on her life in 1769. It’s the latest in the series of Baroque era operatic rediscoveries presented by the company Ars Minerva, and its founder and Artistic Director Céline Ricci. When they stage it this weekend at the ODC Theater, it’ll be the work’s North American premiere. This is the second work by Pallavicino that Ars Minerva has rescued from obscurity – in 2016 they presented his The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles. They describe Messalina as “a sex farce with teeth.” There are performances Friday and Saturday night at 7:30, and Sunday afternoon at 2:30.

Photo by Valentina Sadiul

It’s an art installation without a visible footprint – a commission from LA Phil’s Humanities Program. Just outside of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, at the corner of 1st Street and Grand Avenue, an Augmented Reality sculpture and sound exhibit called “Every Voice” is going to be (virtually) in place between this Friday and June of next year. In order to experience it, you’ll need a downloadable app for your phone. Kaneza Schaal and Christopher Myers were inspired by another statue, called “The Harp,” by African-American artist Augusta Savage, which was displayed as part of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and sadly destroyed when the fair came to an end, because there were no funds available to store or preserve it. The new work explores loss and remembrance, “it is a welcome back to audiences, an incantation of lost voices, and a reminder to bring them with us.”

Courtesy LA Phil

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