Next month Stéphane Denève will make a return visit as guest conductor of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). This will be his fourth appearance on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall. He previously conducted SFS in 2009, 2012, and 2014. During his last visit his concerto soloist was Isabelle Faust performing Benjamin Britten’s Opus 15 violin concerto. For his next visit he will perform once again with a violin soloist. This time Nikolaj Znaider will perform Carl Nielsen’s violin concerto.
Znaider was part of a major project with the New York Philharmonic under Music Director Alan Gilbert. Over the course of several seasons Gilbert both performed and recorded all six of Nielsen’s symphonies and all three of his concertos, composed, respectively, for violin (1912), flute (1926), and clarinet (1928). All three concertos were released on a single CD this past June, and Znaider was the soloist in the violin concerto. Nielsen received considerable attention when Herbert Blomstedt was SFS Music Director, recording all six symphonies during his tenure. Since then interest in Nielsen seems to have gone into a slump, and both Denève and Znaider will be welcome for their effort to reverse that slump.
Denève will also lead SFS in its first performances of “Une lueur dans l’âge sombre” (a glimmer in the age of darkness). This is the second of three pieces by French composer Guillaume Connesson, which he collected under the title Trilogie cosmique (cosmic trilogy). The first two pieces in the set, composed in 1997 and 2005, respectively, were commissioned by Denève when he was leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The last one was written in 2007 as a wedding present for Denève. As the title suggests, the piece which will be performed is a lyrical reflection on our place in the universe.
If Connesson takes a cosmic view of the real world, his music will be complemented by Sergei Prokofiev’s approach to the world of fairy tales. The second half of the concert will be devoted to fifteen excerpts from the score Prokofiev composed for the ballet Cinderella. Taken as a whole, the selections will constitute an “abridged” account of the story.
This program will receive three performances in Davies Symphony Hall. These will both be given at 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 18, and Saturday, February 20, and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 19. Ticket prices range from $30 to $162. Tickets may be purchased through an event page on the SFS Web site. They may also be purchased at the Davies Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street or by calling 415-864-6000.
The Inside Music pre-concert talk will be given by Laura Stanfield Prichard. It will take place one hour prior to each concert. This event is free to all ticket-holders; and the doors open fifteen minutes before the talk begins. Finally, a free “Program Notes” podcast about Prokofiev’s ballet score hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone will be available for downloading or streaming from the Program Note Podcasts Web page.
This program will also be given a Katharine Hanrahan Open Rehearsal. This will take place in Davies at 10 a.m. on Thursday, February 18. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. for coffee and complimentary donuts, followed by a half-hour talk at 9 a.m. Tickets are $30 for unreserved general admission and $40 for reserved seating in the Loge, Side Boxes, Rear Boxes, and Premiere Orchestra sections. This rehearsal has its own event page with its own hyperlink for the advance sale of tickets, which may also be purchased by phone or by visiting the Box Office.