The title of the second of the four Main Stage Concerts presented by the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra (SFCO) will be the annual celebration of the New Year. The title of the program will be A Musical Countdown, referring to a gradual decrease in solo resources followed by an overall decrease of the entire ensemble. If this sounds a bit puzzling, here are the details.
The program will begin with Joseph Haydn’s Hoboken I/105 sinfonia concertante in B-flat major. This requires four concerto soloists on, respectively, oboe (Peter Lemberg), bassoon (Karla Ekholm), violin (Eugene Chukhlov), and cello (Eric Gaenslen). This will be followed by Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1064R concerto with solo parts for three violins: Grace Huh, Sofie Ledor, and Chili Ekman. The next stage in the countdown will be Aaron Copland’s “Quiet City,” extracted from incidental music written for a performance of a play by Irwin Shaw of the same name. This provides extended solo writing for English horn (Kathy Conner) and trumpet (John Freeman), performing with only the string section.
The program will then shift to the decreasing ensemble with a performance of Joseph Haydn’s Hoboken I/45 symphony in F-sharp minor. This is a relatively conventional symphony in four movements. However, the Presto Finale has a decidedly unique Adagio coda. It consists of a relatively simple melody that is repeated with no variation other than the removal of instruments with each repetition. This has come to be called the “Farewell” symphony, because the musicians could leave the stage once they no longer had anything left to play. The final iteration then dissolves into a duet for the first-desk violinists, turning into a solo for the concertmaster by the time it has reached the final measure.
Note that all soloists will be members of the ensemble. In addition this concert will be presented in memory of SFCO founder Edgar Braun. As always, the conductor will be Benjamin Simon. In addition, because this is the giving season, it seems appropriate to acknowledge those organizations whose support makes these admission-free concerts possible: the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation, the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, and grants from the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund.
The San Francisco performance of this concert will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 3. Admission is free, but those with Supporting Member status by virtue of making donations receive priority seating guaranteed until fifteen minutes before concert time. Doors open 45 minutes before concert time. The performance will take place in Herbst Theatre, located at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Tickets are not required for this event.