Michael Tilson Thomas & the San Francisco Symphony Announce 2009-10 Season

Orchestra’s 98th Season Features Expanded Commissioning Activities and Ambitious Composer and Artist Residency Project as Part of SFS’ Multi-Year Centennial Initiatives

New Project San Francisco Artist and Composer Residencies Feature
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Composer George Benjamin
Season Includes Six SFS Commissions by:
Peter Lieberson, Osvaldo Golijov, John Adams,Rufus Wainwright, Victor Kissine, and Thomas Larcher

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, March 2, 2009 – Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) today announced details of the San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) 2009-10 season, including the Orchestra’s Centennial Initiatives—a multi-year expansion of its commissioning activities, an ambitious composer and artist residency project, and special programs, concerts and events designed to draw new audiences to orchestral music in Davies Symphony Hall and beyond, as the Orchestra prepares to mark its 100th season in 2011-12. The 2009-10 season marks the launch of Project San Francisco, an innovative composer and artist residency program with Yo-Yo Ma and composer George Benjamin, and also includes six world-premiere SFS commissions. Highlights of the SFS’s 98th season also include a three-week Mahler Festival recorded and filmed for SFS Media, a two-week U.S. tour, a new season of Keeping Score television episodes on PBS, and an eclectic 34-week season of engaging programming reaching audiences in new and creative ways. Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the Orchestra in eighteen weeks of concerts, in programs pairing works of the core classical repertoire with works new to or rarely heard by Davies Symphony Hall audiences.

Subscription series tickets for the San Francisco Symphony’s 2009-10 season go on sale to renewing subscribers and the general public starting today, Monday, March 2, at 10 a.m. Ticket information is available through the San Francisco Symphony Web site at www.sfsymphony.org, through the SFS Ticket Services Office at 415-864-6000, and at the box office at Davies Symphony Hall. Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas said of the new season:

“As we begin our fifteenth season together. I have the opportunity once again to reflect on the special chemistry that the Orchestra and I have the privilege of sharing with our audiences. It has been my great pleasure to work with the wonderful musicians of the SFS for many years, during which we’ve developed a personally nuanced approach to music, both the familiar and the new. The 2009-10 season is full of exciting commissions, works heard all too rarely, and well-loved music—all of which we are eager to share with our appreciative, adventurous, and enthusiastic audience, and with the great Bay Area community that supports us.”

“Our 2009-10 season offers a wealth of powerful musical experiences, reflecting the inspired partnership between the Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas,” said SFS President John D. Goldman. “It is an ambitious season, one that expands the Orchestra’s repertoire and builds upon our long-standing relationships with some of the world’s greatest artists. At the same time, we are reaching out to audiences everywhere through a new season of Keeping Score on television and online. As we head toward our centennial season in 2011-12, the San Francisco Symphony continues to be a pioneering center for the creation, performance, and dissemination of symphonic music. Our aim is to build powerful and lasting connections with listeners, locally and globally. Especially at times like these, music offers the kind of reaffirmation the world so urgently seeks, and we are honored to be a force through the musical gifts we offer.”

The San Francisco Symphony’s multi-year Centennial Initiatives, building in momentum toward the Orchestra’s Centennial Season of 2011-12 and continuing into its second century, encompass artist and composer residencies, an expanded initiative to commission new repertoire, festivals, and other special concerts, events, and programming. The Centennial Initiatives aim to strengthen the SFS’ role as one of the country’s leading arts institutions and to attract new audiences to orchestral music, on stage, in the community, and beyond, through the Orchestra’s extensive recordings, television and radio broadcasts, web sites, and education and community activities. Providing for the basis of future growth through the Centennial Season, the San Francisco Symphony and the musicians have ratified a new four-year contract. The agreement will foster artistic excellence, enhance vital education programs, and engage audiences in new ways while maintaining the organization’s fiscal strength and maneuverability in difficult economic times. The collaborative process results in a new minimum scale, and provides mutually agreed upon changes in health care and defined pension benefits. SFS media agreements have been updated to ensure that the Orchestra continues to be on the leading edge among arts organizations, engaging a broader and more diverse audience for its music.

Project San Francisco, the SFS’ new multi-faceted composer and artist residency program and part of the Orchestra’s Centennial Initiatives, brings some of today’s most significant musicians and composers to San Francisco to collaborate with the SFS in concerts, chamber music, lectures, and education and community events. In the 2009-10 season, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and British composer George Benjamin, two artists with long ties to the San Francisco Symphony, join the SFS for its first Project San Francisco residencies. Project San Francisco expands the orchestral repertoire and deepens connections between SFS guest artists, the Orchestra and its community.

In January 2010, as part of Project San Francisco’s 2009-10 Artist-in-Residence program, Yo-Yo Ma joins MTT and the SFS for performances of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2 and Brahms’ Double Concerto, with violinist Colin Jacobsen. Ma also performs a chamber music concert with members of the SFS and a recital with pianist Emanuel Ax, including an SFS co-commissioned world premiere from Peter Lieberson and music from Schumann and Chopin. Yo-Yo Ma will also participate with the SFS in Project San Francisco’s educational activities for music students. The Project San Francisco Artist-in-Residence program is made possible by the generous support of Marcia and John Goldman. Complete details of the Yo-Yo Ma: Project San Francisco Residency will be announced at a later date.

These are Yo-Yo Ma’s first subscription season concerts with the SFS since 1994. Yo-Yo Ma first performed with the San Francisco Symphony in 1970 under Seiji Ozawa in Saint‑Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1. In 1983 he returned to the SFS for concerts of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with then-guest conductor MTT. He has graced the Davies Symphony Hall stage many times since and performed with all SFS Music Directors. Ma was guest soloist for the San Francisco Symphony’s Opening Gala in the 2005-2006 season and in 2008 he performed with MTT and the Orchestra at Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night celebration of Leonard Bernstein. The performance was nationally broadcast on Thirteen/WNET New York’s GREAT PERFORMANCES television series and is now available on DVD from SFS Media.

In January 2010, Project San Francisco shines the spotlight for two weeks on the work of British composer George Benjamin. As Phyllis C. Wattis Composer-in-Residence, Benjamin will lead the SFS in the West Coast premiere of his new Piano Concerto, Duet with pianist Nicholas Hodges. Benjamin also leads the SFS in his earliest orchestral work, Ringed by the Flat Horizon; Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole and Mother Goose Suite; and Oiseaux exotiques, written by Benjamin’s composing mentor, Messiaen. Conductor David Robertson, a longtime champion of Benjamin’s music, leads the SFS in the composer’s Dance Figures, a West Coast premiere, and Jubilation. In addition, Benjamin joins SFS musicians as pianist in a chamber music concert, and participates in pre-concert lectures and SFS educational programs. The Phyllis C. Wattis Composer-in-Residence Program began in the 2008-09 season with a successful and acclaimed two-week residency with esteemed Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina.

George Benjamin first appeared with the SFS in 1992 as conductor, pianist, and Artistic Director of the Wet Ink Festival, the SFS’ celebration of contemporary composers. Over the course of the festival the SFS performed his At First Light and the U.S. premieres of his works Antara and Piano Sonata. Benjamin also performed an improvised piano accompaniment to the silent films Ben-Hur and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. In 1999 he made his subscription series conducting debut with the SFS, leading his own works Viola, Viola (with former Principal Viola Geraldine Walther and current Acting Principal Viola Yun Jie Liu) and Three Inventions, and Ligeti’s Piano Concerto featuring Pierre-Laurent Aimard. At other times the SFS has performed his Palimpsest, Sudden Time and Three Studies for Solo Piano.

“Having always regarded [the SFS] as a quite wonderful orchestra, I’ve been particularly struck in recent years by the development of a remarkable new glow and warmth in their sonority,” Benjamin said. “Their loyalty and interest in my work over the decades touches me more than I can say. In a program that I will conduct, performances of my oldest and newest orchestral works will be juxtaposed with music by my teacher, Messiaen, and also by an earlier composer particularly close to my heart, Ravel.”

As an integral part of the SFS’ Centennial Initiatives and the expansion of its music commissioning activities, the SFS in 2009-10 offers six world premiere performances of new works. In addition to MTT and the Orchestra’s world premiere of a new SFS-commissioned work by Victor Kissine, pianist Emanuel Ax performs the world premieres of three SFS co-commissions written specifically for him by three of music’s most esteemed composers, Peter Lieberson, Osvaldo Golijov, and John Adams. Former SFS Resident Conductor Edwin Outwater leads the Orchestra in the world premiere of the multi-genre composer and singer Rufus Wainwright’s Five Shakespeare Sonnets, an SFS commission, with Wainwright performing. Christoph Eschenbach returns to conduct the world premiere of a new SFS-commissioned work by Austrian composer Thomas Larcher.

The 2009-10 season features 20 works never before performed by the SFS, including the world premieres and six first SFS performances conducted by Tilson Thomas. The Orchestra performs the U.S. premiere of composer Detlev Glanert’s new work Shoreless River (Fluss ohne Ufer) with Semyon Bychkov on the podium. David Robertson conducts the first SFS performances of Australian composer Brett Dean’s Carlo, and Edwin Outwater leads the Orchestra in Claude Vivier’s Zipangu. Conductor Osmo Vänskä joins the Orchestra to lead the first SFS performances of John Adams’ Slonimsky’s Earbox and fellow Finn Aulis Sallinen’s Symphony No. 1. Christoph Eschenbach conducts the first SFS performances of Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony.


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