The San Francisco Symphony’s seasons usually feature dozens of visiting artists. For the centennial season, they will number in the hundreds.
Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas has invited six of the nation’s oldest and most prominent orchestras, about 600 musicians in all, in addition to the participation of world-renowned conductors and soloists.
All but two of the orchestras are older than San Francisco’s centennial cast. The Los Angeles Philharmonic (founded in 1919) also has one of the globe’s youngest music directors, 30-year-old Gustavo Dudamel.
Having conquered audiences here over the years while still in his 20s, leading both his Venezuelan youth orchestra and the Philharmonic, Dudamel told The San Francisco Examiner he is eager to return: “This is such a wonderful occasion and we are happy to salute our West Coast neighbors and participate in the grand celebration.”
Others in the American Orchestra Series are the country’s oldest: the 169-year-old New York Philharmonic, led by Alan Gilbert; the 120-year-old Chicago Symphony, directed by Riccardo Muti; the 111-year-old Philadelphia Orchestra with Charles Dutoit.
The 129-year-old Boston Symphony, led by Ludovic Morlot, will also participate, with Morlot replacing James Levine, who resigned as music director in March for health reasons.
The youngish Cleveland Orchestra, now 92, is led by Franz Welser-Möst, one of Europe’s most active symphonic and opera conductors.
Each orchestra is bringing one or more new works it had commissioned along with a dizzying variety of music. Rather than the usual plethora of audience-pleasing selections, these concerts represent a cross-section of music, including treasures not as well-known to regular concertgoers.
One Los Angeles Philharmonic concert pairs John Adams’ “Tromba lontana” and Enrico Chapela’s Concerto for Electric Cello with Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5.
The Chicago Orchestra brings the young contemporary Mason Bates’ “Alternative Energy,” 20th-century great Arthur Honegger’s “Pacific 231,” and the 19th-century romanticism of Franck’s Symphony in D minor.
The Cleveland concert mixes Mendelssohn’s “Scottish Symphony” with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6, and contemporary Finnish Kaija Saariaho’s “Orion.”
Shostakovich is represented the most, probably because the other great symphonist of the recent past, Gustav Mahler, is played so frequently here. The Philadelphia Orchestra also presents Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, alongside Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber,” and the Ravel Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Gustavo Dudamel conducts works by John Adams, Enrico Chapela, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Berlioz; with Johannes Moser, electric cello
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Ludovic Morlot conducts works by Berlioz, Elliott Carter, Bartók, John Harbison, Ravel and Mahler; with Richard Goode, piano, and Elizabeth Rowe, flute
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Muti conducts works by Arthur Honegger, Mason Bates, Franck, Schubert and Anna Clyne
Franz Welser-Möst conducts works by Mendelssohn, Kaija Saariaho, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Thomas Ades and Smetana; with Nicolaj Znaider, violin
New York Philharmonic
Alan Gilbert conducts works by Berlioz, Magnus Lindberg, Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, Bartók, Debussy and Ravel; with Yefim Bronfman, piano, and Glenn Dicterow, violin
Charles Dutoit conducts works by Hindemith, Ravel, Shostakovich, Behzad Ranjbaran, Rachmaninoff, Debussy and Scriabin; with Louis Lortie, piano