The first busy weekend of 2016 will confront serious listeners at the end of this month. Some of these may be hard choices, but all of the alternatives are interesting ones. When he used to write for The New Yorker, Winthrop Sargeant (who was actually born in San Francisco) used to let readers know how he would hop from one venue to another over the course of a single evening. As a matter of policy, this site believes that a fair account of a performance can only be given if that performance is experienced in its entirety. So, while the choices may be hard, they should be made with commitment!
Friday has the advantage that its most interesting option is a free one. This will be the evening of the third of the four Main Stage Concerts presented by the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, all of which are offered free of charge. Music Director Benjamin Simon has a wonderful reputation for imaginative programming, and this one will amount to a fascinating mix of tradition and innovation. The title of the program is Mahler Lite, and it refers to a performance of Gustav Mahler’s fourth symphony using a chamber arrangement for fourteen players prepared by Klaus Simon in 2007. The soloist will be soprano Christine Brandes. The symphony is only 55 minutes long, but it will be the only work on the program. For the first half of the evening Maestro Ben Simon will provide an extended guided tour of the score with assistance from the performers.
This performances will take place on Friday, February 26, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The venue for Main Stage Concerts is Herbst Theatre at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. While there is no charge for admission, supporting members receive priority seating and priority entrance 60 minutes before concert time. General admission begins 45 minutes before concert time.
Once again the final weekend of February will be allocated for the next Humanities West event. The title of the full program, which will begin on Friday evening and run through Saturday afternoon, is Shakespeare & Cervantes. As in the past, the Friday evening session will include a musical performance. The new twenty-voice chorus Gallimaufry will perform settings of texts by both Cervantes and Shakespeare. The ensemble will be directed by early music specialist Shira Kammen, and instrumental accompaniment will be provided by Peter Maund on percussion and Michelle Levy on vielle.
This Humanities West event will also begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 26. The venue will be the Marines’ Memorial Theatre, located just off Union Square at 609 Sutter Street. Single tickets for just this evening event with performance are on sale for $55 in the Orchestra section and $45 in the Balcony. Tickets for the full weekend program will be $125 in the Orchestra section and $90 in the Balcony. The full schedule may be found on a Humanities West event page. Tickets may be purchased in advance through City Box Office, which has set up a single event page for both the full event and the Friday evening program. Tickets may also be purchased by calling City Box Office at 415-392-4400. Phone orders are taken between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays and between noon and 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
Saturday will see the final concert in the second season of the Elevate Ensemble chamber group. The title of the program is Ancient Sounds Meet Modern Minds; and the “ancient sounds” will be those of the harpsichord, performed by historical keyboardist Derek Tam. Tam will also give a pre-concert lecture. The major work on the program will reflect a revived interest in the harpsichord during the twentieth century in Manuel de Falla’s concerto for harpsichord with solo parts for flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, and cello. Falla’s concerto will be preceded by three new works for the instrument, all written by Bay Area composers. These will be “The Color Festivals” by Nick Benavides, “Fera Machina” by Benjamin Sabey, and “la folia” by Danny Clay.
This concert will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 27, preceded by Tam’s talk at 7:30 p.m. The venue will be the SOMArts Cultural Center in SOMA (of course) at 934 Brannan Street. Tickets are $30 with a $5 discount for early purchase. In addition, if seats are available, students will be admitted at the door for $18. Tickets may be purchased in advance from an Eventbrite event page until February 20.
That same evening will also see the second concert in the San Francisco Performances (SFP) Jazz Series. The program will feature the eleventh appearance of pianist Fred Hersch under SFP auspices. On this occasion he will perform in a trio with rhythm support from John Hébert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. All selections will be announced from the stage.
This concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 27. The venue will be Herbst Theatre, located at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Tickets for the concert will be $60, $40, and $30. Tickets may be purchased from SFP by telephone at 415-392-2545. In addition, tickets may be purchased online from a City Box Office event page. That page shows the seating areas covered by each price and the availability in each section of the house.
That same evening the Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP) will be hosting a benefit concert featuring renowned jazz violinist Regina Carter performing from her recent Southern Comfort album. HPP is now in its 26th year; but this is the first time it has arranged such a large-scale fundraiser with the cooperation of a major artist. HPP has evolved into a family resource center, offering case management, prenatal and parenting support, family planning, housing assistance, domestic violence services, mental health services, substance abuse support, child welfare support, job training, a technology center, fatherhood workshops, a food bank, and other services. Over 50% of the organization’s staff are members of the community HPP serves.
[added 2/16, 4:30 p.m.: Those who cannot attend the Music for Multiple Choirs “Grand Tour” concert by San Francisco Renaissance Voices, may be happy to learn that the program will be given a second performance in San Francisco. This will be another option beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 27. The venue will be the Old First Presbyterian Church, located at 1751 Sacramento Street on the southeast corner of Van Ness Avenue. Ticket prices will again be $30 with a $25 rate for students and seniors and $15 for children twelve years old and younger. Tickets may again be purchased in advance online through a Brown Paper Tickets event page.]
This event will be held at the Nourse Theater, located at 275 Hayes Street on the southeast corner of Franklin Street (and almost directly across from the Stage Entrance to Davies Symphony Hall). The performance will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 27. Ticket prices at $135, $85, and $55. Tickets are being sold by City Box Office, both over the telephone (as above) and online through an event page.
Moving on to the last day of the weekend, Sunday will see the second concert in the regular subscription series of American Bach Soloists (ABS). The title of the program is Alexander’s Feast, and it will be devoted entirely to the music of George Frideric Handel. Thus, the featured work will be his HWV 75 ode with a libretto by Newburgh Hamilton adapting John Dryden’s ode “Alexander’s Feast, or the Power of Music.” When this ode was first performed, Handel interpolated three concertos between the vocal movements. Two of those concertos will be included in this performance, the HWV 318 concerto grosso in C major and the HWV 294 concerto in B-flat major for “Harp, Lute, Lyrichord, and other Instruments.” Music Director Jeffrey Thomas will lead the ABS instrumentalists and the American Bach Choir. Soprano Anna Gorbachyova will be making her ABS debut, joining tenor Aaron Sheehan and baritone William Sharp. Harpist Maria Christina Cleary will also be making her ABS debut.
The San Francisco performance of this program will take place on Sunday afternoon, February 28, at 4 p.m. in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. This is located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street. Ticket prices are $72, $51, and $30. They may be purchased online through the event page on the ABS Web site. In addition, discounted tickets are available for students aged 21 and under with valid identification. These can only be purchased by telephone at 415-621-7900.
The 23rd season of Noe Valley Chamber Music will continue with a duo recital by violinist Kristin Lee and pianist Hyeyeon Park. The featured work on the program will be Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 47 (“Kreutzer”) violin sonata in A major. They will also play the fantasy on themes from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, which Pablo de Sarasate originally composed for violin and orchestra but was subsequently published in a version with piano accompaniment. Each of the performers will also present a solo work. Lee will play the second of the six sonatas for solo violin that Eugène Ysaÿe published as his Opus 27. This is the one with an explicit reference to the opening of Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1006 E major partita for solo violin. In a related vein Park will play Ferruccio Busoni’s solo piano version of the final (Chaconne) movement from the BWV 1004 solo violin partita in D minor.
This recital will take place at the Noe Valley Ministry at 1021 Sanchez Street. It will begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 28. General admission is $30 with a $25 rate for seniors and $20 for students. Admission is free for children aged twelve or less. Also, there is a discounted rate of $25 for adults if tickets are purchased online in advance at a Brown Paper Tickets event page. Tickets at the student rate may also be purchased in advance.
That same Sunday will mark the beginning of the 2016 Schwabacher Debut Recitals series, presented jointly by the San Francisco Opera Center and the Merola Opera Program. The opening concert will feature the return of the Artistic Director of the New York Festival of Song, Steven Blier, who will serve as piano accompanist for soprano Amina Edris, baritone Edward Nelson, and bass-baritone Brad Walker. Blier has a highly eclectic approach to repertoire. This is evident from the program he prepared, which will bring together the composers (in alphabetical order) Harold Arlen, Georges Bizet, Hoagy Carmichael, Noël Coward, Edvard Grieg, Carlos Guastavino, Ernesto Nazareth, Cole Porter, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Ned Rorem, Anton Rubinstein and Joaquín Turina. This will be the first of four concerts in the series, whose other dates will be as follows:
March 6: Pianist John Churchwell will accompany bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch in a showcase of recent American composers, including Ricky Ian Gordon and Glen Roven.
March 20: Baritone Efraín Solís will sing Maurice Ravel’s song cycle Histoires Naturelles (natural histories), accompanied by pianist Robert Mollicone. His program will also highlight songs by the pioneering Mexican composer and songwriter María Grever. The program will also include songs by Franz Schubert and other composers.
April 24: Baritone Kihun Yoon, performing with pianist Mark Morash, will offer a selection of Korean art songs, along with selections by Jacques Ibert, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The 33rd season of the Schwabacher Debut Recitals will begin on Sunday, February 28. All four concerts will be held on Sunday afternoons at 5:30 p.m. All recitals will take place in the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater at the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, located on the fourth floor of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue, on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Single tickets will be sold for $30, and the price for the full four-recital subscription will be $100. Tickets may be purchased at the San Francisco Opera Box Office in the lobby of the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Avenue on the northwest corner of Grove Street. They may also be ordered by calling the Box Office at 415-864-3330. In addition, single tickets may be purchased through the Web page of the Schwabacher Debut Recitals. That Web page has a hyperlink for each concert from which tickets may be purchased. Student rush tickets, subject to availability, will be available for $15 at the Atrium Theater at 4:30 p.m. on the date of each recital. There will be a limit of two tickets at this rate, and valid identification will be required. As always, artists, programs, schedules, and ticket prices are subject to change.
[added 2/16, 4:45 p.m.: Finally, cellist Robert Howard will continue his series of three house concerts on the last Sunday in February. The title of the program will be Vienna to Potsdam, and his guests will be the husband-and-wife duo of Owen Dalby on violin and Meena Bhasin on viola. Howard will join them in a performance of the serenade for string trio by Ernő Dohnányi, and they will also play the string trio composed by Gideon Klein while he was a prisoner in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Tickets are still available for a donation of $80 made at a Web page for making reservations. Information about the venue is provided once the ticket has been confirmed. The program will begin at 5:30 p.m. The music will be preceded by a discussion of the music to be performed and followed by information conversation with the performers over food and drink. The program itself should last about an hour.]