In a special Bay Area musical event, the hallowed 130-year-old Boston Symphony Orchestra is visiting its younger West Coast colleague, the 100-year-old San Francisco Symphony, this week.
For the first time in 15 years, the Boston Symphony performs in The City, the first stop on a West Coast tour that also includes Santa Barbara, Palm Desert and Los Angeles.
“The Boston Symphony Orchestra is delighted to take part in the San Francisco Symphony’s 100th anniversary festivities, presenting two programs that very much reflect the singular spirit of the BSO,” says BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe.
Concerts Tuesday and Wednesday in Davies Symphony Hall are part of San Francisco’s centennial American Orchestras Series, which also features orchestras from Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.
Part of the visiting orchestras program is an innovative American Orchestra Forum discussion series.
“In the orchestral world, we spend a lot of time talking about music,” says San Francisco Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink. “In this centennial season, with the leading orchestras in the country coming to San Francisco, it’s a perfect opportunity to also reflect on the connection points around the music — our communities, our creative inspirations and challenges, and, of course, our audiences. What does our past teach us? And how do we best shape our collective future?”
Just a few months ago, BSO suffered a dramatic loss with the resignation of music director James Levine, who is dealing with recent accidents and illnesses. (Levine remained music director of the Metropolitan Opera, but canceled performances for the immediate future.)
Stepping in to conduct the BSO on tour is Ludovic Morlot, who is in his first season as music director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. The 37-year-old French conductor is familiar with Boston, having served as Levine’s assistant from 2004-07.
His career is now peaking worldwide. Next year, he will combine the Seattle post with that of chief conductor of La Monnaie, Brussels’ famous opera house.
Morlot leads two varied, rich programs. Tuesday’s concert includes Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival” Overture (heard in Davies Hall with alarming regularity even for Berlioz fanatics), Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 (with soloist Richard Goode); Elliott Carter’s Flute Concerto with Elizabeth Rowe (who played at the work’s American premiere last year in Boston); and Bartok’s “Miraculous Mandarin” Suite.
On Wednesday, another imaginative, all-20th century program features John Harbison’s Fourth Symphony, Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé” Suite No. 2 (which won a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance) and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.
Ancient as BSO may be, holding a historically prominent place in the country’s musical life, it is also a leader in 21st-century technology: www.BSO.org is the largest and most-visited orchestral website in the U.S., with some 8 million visitors annually, generating more than $66 million in revenue since its launch in 1996.
Another BSO claim to fame, the Boston Pops, celebrated its 125th anniversary last year with a nationally syndicated special on public television.
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Presented by San Francisco Symphony
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday
Tickets: $31 to $110
Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org