Wednesday, April 8, 2009

San Francisco Symphony Present Three Week Festival of Schubert & Berg

Dawn To Twilight Festival May 27 to June 13 at Davies Symphony Hall and The Flint Center in Cupertino

Festival Artists include violinists Julia Fischer and Gil Shaham, pianist Yefim Bronfman, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, sopranos Laura Aikin and Kelley O’Connor, tenors Nicholas Phan and Bruce Sledge, bass-baritone Jeremy Galyon and SFS Principal Clarinet Carey Bell

Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) explore the music of Franz Schubert and Alban Berg in a three week festival, May 27-June 13 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco and the Flint Center in Cupertino. Dawn to Twilight: A Schubert / Berg Festival illustrates how Schubert’s music heralded the beginning of a new Romantic age, and how Berg harnessed contemporary modes of composition to express his own unique voice, taking Romanticism forward into modernism. The pairing of these two Viennese masters will serve to create an illuminating view into each of their unique musical languages. Highlights of the festival include the first SFS performances of Schubert’s Mass No. 6 featuring the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, MTT’s performance on piano in The Shepherd on the Rock (Der Hirt aus dem Felsen) as part of his signature “Schubert / Berg Journey” concert, and in a pre-concert recital of Schubert’s Rondos for Piano Four Hands also featuring Yefim Bronfman and Julia Fischer on piano. Other works to be performed over the course of the three week festival include Schubert’s Rosamunde Overture; his Symphony in B minor; Unfinished, and his Symphony in C major, The Great. Works by Berg will include his Seven Early Songs (Sieben frühe Lieder), Three Pieces for Orchestra, and the SFS’s first performances since 1980 of his Chamber Concert (Kammerkonzert) featuring Yefim Bronfman and Julia Fischer. Michael Tilson Thomas has long been drawn to Schubert’s music. “I find in Schubert a personally touching and amazingly sophisticated sense of direction, on almost any level of human thought you can imagine. He uses harmony to describe every possible shading of the human condition. Like the really great melody composers, he has the ability to write tunes that you think must somehow always have existed,” he said.

“It has to do, too, with how music can reflect life. So much of what Schubert does, and so much of what Berg does, concerns the exploration of musical ambiguity. You hear a particular note and you think it’s going in a certain direction—it has a certain message and a certain meaning—and then all at once you discover that it is leading someplace entirely different. Schubert uses these methods to suggest some kind of surprise. You expected one thing, and in fact something different happens: something magnificent, or disappointing, or elating, or humbling. Berg uses exactly these methods to suggest some still deeper level of ambiguity or ambivalence.”

“…nothing theoretical was driving Berg’s music. The most extraordinary thing about Berg is that in every piece, there is always a moment that—even on first hearing, even to the unsophisticated listener—is so radiantly beautiful, that you think, ‘I must hear that again.’ That’s the mystery: Why would someone who could write as beautifully as this write other music that is so challenging? I think that’s what draws you back to the music. Eventually you discover that it’s all the same moment—that these lyrical, melting moments are just another way of looking at the basic situation that he is presenting…What drove Berg was his desire to share all of what it is to be human, to be alive.”

FESTIVAL SOLOISTS
Soloists for the festival include pianist Yefim Bronfman, violinist Julia Fischer (who will also perform on piano during the pre-concert recitals held on June 3 and 4), mezzo-sopranos Michelle DeYoung and Kelley O’Connor, soprano Laura Aikin, tenor Bruce Sledge and bass-baritone Jeremy Galyon. Tenor Nicholas Phan makes his SFS debut as part of this festival. MTT will conduct and perform on piano when he leads his trademark “A Schubert and Berg Journey” concerts which also feature SFS Principal Clarinet Carey Bell. Violinist Gil Shaham returns to the SFS as part of Dawn to Twilight to perform Berg’s Violin Concerto, a work he played in 2004 with the Orchestra at Davies Symphony Hall and on tour. On Sunday, June 7, Bronfman and Fischer perform an evening of chamber music with members of the SFS.

FESTIVAL BENEFIT EVENT
On Monday, June 1, Tilson Thomas and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade will perform the music of Viennese master Franz Schubert in an evening at the Carolands Chateau to benefit the San Francisco Symphony and its many education and community programs. Following this salon-style performance, guests will enjoy one of several small dinner parties in the Chateau’s signature rooms. A limited number of tickets are available from the Volunteer Council of the San Francisco Symphony by calling 415.503.5500.

TICKET INFORMATION
Tickets for all Dawn to Twilight: A Schubert / Berg Festival concerts in Davies Symphony Hall are priced from $25 to $130. Flint Center concert tickets are priced from $45 to $62. All tickets are available through SFS Ticket Services at 415.864.6000, and online through the SFS website at www.sfsymphony.org.

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