Wednesday, June 1
Thursday, June 2
The San Francisco Symphony and guest conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy will play a program of Russian music tonight through Saturday, although he says especially Shostakovich’s music rises above any definition that’s described by nationality. Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony will be paired with the first Cello Concerto by Dmitri Shostakovich, with soloist Alexey Stadler.
There’s more information about the program at the San Francisco Symphony website.
Ashkenazy, whose career path began as a concert pianist in Soviet Era Russia, was able to hear the Cello Concerto in its first, pre-premiere performance when he was still a Conservatory student. Mstislav Rostropovich was accompanied by a pianist. “First performances of important composers were announced, people told us, ‘if you have time, Shostakovich’s first cello concerto will be performed with Rostropovich and his accompanist in the Union of Soviet Composers’… Many people came, many composers, many musicians, and Shostakovich sat in the front row by himself, nobody around him for a couple of rows. He was very modest, and very shy… Rostropovich played, of course, magnificently.” Ashkenazy had a few more brushes with the composer: “He was a wonderful person. I played once for him his Trio. I played it with my very good friends from the Conservatory. And he was terribly nice, he said ‘Very good, very good… would you like some tea?’ We said, ‘Maybe you’ll say something about the performance?’ ‘No no, it was very good, you want some tea?’ So we drank tea and left! Never criticized, never said anything – he was very modest, and very devoted to his music.”
Friday, June 3
It’s the return of the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, which every two years brings the best of the Early Music world to the East Bay for concerts (both mainstage and ‘fringe’), symposia, and networking. San Francisco Early Music Society Executive Director Harvey Malloy says this year’s theme is ‘In Concert and In Consort” bringing together international musicians with the deep pool of local talent.
There’s a complete rundown at the Berkeley Festival website.
Just some of the musical matchmaking that went into the programming this year: the Belgian ensemble Vox Luminis, which made its festival debut two years ago, returns for a “Bach family” concert, and will be joined by Philharmonia Baroque Players and Concerto Palatino when they celebrate Purcell and Handel in the final mainstage concert, on the 12th. Juilliard 415, the period instrument group from that conservatory, will join Nicholas McGegan’s chamber group for a Shakespeare-themed performance on Saturday the 11th. Baroque violinist Rachel Podger plays with Voices of Music, including a double concerto with local favorite Elizabeth Blumenstock on the 9th – and Podger is also scheduled to play a joint concert with Kristian Bezuidenhout, the famed early keyboardist. Malloy describes it as “an extraordinary opportunity for our local patrons to be able to hear these two really great performers playing in quite an intimate setting, which they would have not had the opportunity to do anywhere else.”
Wednesday, June 8
Violinist Kenneth Renshaw and pianist Audrey Vardanega will play the three Violin Sonatas by Johannes Brahms this Friday night, as part of the Old First Concerts series. The two are still students (at Juilliard and Columbia University, respectively) but have each been playing concerts in the Bay Area (and around the world) for many years. They first met when they both attended the Crowden School in Berkeley.
There’s more information about the concert at the Old First Concerts website.
Although their last concert playing together was back in the Crowden School days, Renshaw says they have played together informally: “A while back we were just reading sonatas, and we read some of the Brahms, and we said ‘This is great, we should actually try to play all of them some time, perform all of them.’ That then developed into ‘OK, well, where are we going to do that, how are we going to do that?'” Vardanega had played at Old First Church, and suggested it as an ideal venue. It did mean learning the sonatas while juggling studies, and her own repertoire: “I play a lot of solo works by Brahms, and it’s interesting to take a step back and act as the foundation as well as the solo voice every once and a while, and see how Brahms uses the piano in a way to bolster the violin sound. And that’s really helped me and informed my playing of Brahms’s solo works as well… It’s a huge project, learning all three, because each of them is incredibly difficult and requires a lot of … a lot of thinking, also. It’s not just you have to learn the notes, it’s like you have to completely wrap your mind around where he’s going.” Kenneth Renshaw says despite having the same composer and setting of instruments, each of the sonatas is a world of its own. “They all have a very distinct character, but at the same time I think when you listen to them from A to Z, you really get the story of kind of the later part of his life, when he was writing these.”
Thursday, June 9
Friday, June 10
Wednesday, June 15
Thursday, June 16
Friday, June 17
Wednesday, June 22
Thursday, June 23
Friday, June 24
Retiring from San Francisco Opera after a decade long tenure as General Director, David Gockley was honored with a gala and concert called ‘Celebrating David‘ last week. Along with the arias sung by many of the biggest names in opera, Gockley himself presented Renee Fleming with the San Francisco Opera medal, and encouraged his successor, Matthew Shilvock to continue the efforts to “make the operatic garden grow.”
David Gockley began his career at Houston Grand Opera, where he helped establish that company’s national reputation, as well as commissioning a large number of new works, many of which have become contemporary classics. He was there for more than three decades, but when he came to San Francisco, he said at the outset that it was his plan to remain in charge for no more than ten years. It was announced recently that he will continue on as General Director emeritus, but the leadership role will go to Matthew Shilvock, who he described this way in remarks during the gala concert: “My right hand for 14 years, who is so deservedly becoming my successor. As I have said, there is nothing positive that has happened here over the last ten years that does not have his fingerprints all over it.”
KDFC will be airing the concert, which was hosted by Thomas Hampson and Frederica von Stade, as its August San Francisco Opera broadcast. Performers included Renee Fleming, Patricia Racette, Heidi Stober, Brian Jagde, Michael Fabiano, Eric Owens, Rene Pape, Sasha Cooke, and Dolora Zajick, among others.
Wednesday, June 29