This past November violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner gave the first two concerts in a four-concert project entitled Bridge to Beethoven: A Journey in Four Nights. The entire project was initiated by Koh in response to an invitation from Ruth Felt, President and Founder of San Francisco Performances (SFP), which is hosting the entire series. The basic idea was to traverse Ludwig van Beethoven’s ten sonatas for “piano and obbligato violin” (his wording), coupling the selections for each program with a new work specifically commissioned for the project. The first two commissioned composers, whose works were premiered in November, were Vijay Iyer and Jörg Widmann.
The third program in this series will probably be the most unique. The contributing composer will be Andrew Norman, and his work involves the most fidelity to the bridge metaphor of the entire project. He wrote a set of three interludes associated with the three sonatas collected in Beethoven’s Opus 30 publication. These interludes were intended as transitional music, beginning with thematic material from one sonata and transforming it into material for another. Since there can be only two transitions between three sonatas (assuming each sonata is played only once), the “final product” involved a slight perturbation of the original plan. “Bridging I” will serve as an overture for the first of the sonatas in the set, written in the key of A major. “Bridging II” will then provide a transition between the first sonata of the set and the last, written in the key of G major. The G major sonata will then be followed by the intermission. The second half of the program will begin with “Bridging III,” the transition from that G major sonata into the second (C minor) sonata of the Opus 30 collection.
The final program in the series will feature commissioned composer Anthony Cheung, who was invited to write a piece in “conversation” with Beethoven’s Opus 96 sonata in G major, the last of the composer’s ten violin sonatas. The title of Cheung’s piece is “Elective Memory,” which the composer describes as “somewhat of a cross” between selective memory and elective affinities, the title of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s third novel based on a subsequently discredited theory of human relations of the same name. The music is intended to invoke the somewhat rocky encounters between Beethoven and Goethe that took place in 1812, the year in which Opus 96 was composed. The program will begin with the one remaining sonata in the collection, the third of the Opus 12 sonatas, written in the key of E-flat major.
Both concerts will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Herbst Theatre, located at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. The first will be held on Wednesday, March 30; and the second will take place on Saturday, April 2. Tickets for each of the concerts will be available at the Premium price of $65, as well as $55 and $40. City Box Office has separate event pages for the Wednesday and Saturday concerts. Tickets will also be available for purchase from SFP by telephone at 415-392-2545.
Following the completion of the entire project (literally the morning after) Koh and Wosner will return to Herbst for the fourth and final event in the SFP Family Matinee Series. These events are designed to introduce audiences of all ages to the wide breadth of repertoire that SFP offers every season. This particular presentation will revisit the Bridge to Beethoven project by explaining the idea behind it and illustrating the results through selected movements from both the Beethoven sonatas and the pieces commissioned for the project.
This performance will take place at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 3. The venue will again be Herbst Theatre. Tickets for the event will be $10 for children and $15 for adults. Tickets may again be purchased from SFP by telephone at 415-392-2545. In addition, tickets may be purchased online from a City Box Office event page.