Biblical power struggle at SF Symphony

The commissioned world premiere of Avner Dorman’s “Uriah” by the San Francisco Symphony next week continues a centuries-old tradition of mixing music and politics.

Beethoven had problems with Napoleon (and wasn’t shy to say it in words and music), Verdi agitated against Austrian rule, Prokoviev and Shostakovich had a life-and-death struggle with Stalin, and so on.

Dorman’s work isn’t directed against a contemporary political figure, but it evokes a story from history used to make social commentary about leaders who, for personal gain or increased power, send soldiers to die.

“Uriah: The Man the King Wanted Dead” is a symphonic poem about the last day in the life of Uriah, a Hittite, who lived in Syria around 2000 BC. King David, of Israel and Judah, in love with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (later to become mother of King Solomon), sends Uriah to battle in a situation certain to cause his death.

Dorman, 35, Israeli-born and a Juilliard graduate, has become a major new composer, with an unprecedented eight premieres around the world this season. They include “Azerbaijani Dance” in Carnegie Hall by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta; “Astrolatry,” in the Alys Stephens Center, Birmingham, Ala.; and a yet-unnamed work for violin and piano commissioned by Orli and Gil Shaham, for performance at the 92nd Street Y in New York.

Next week’s symphony program, conducted by St. Louis Symphony Music Director David Robertson — a frequent guest to The City — also includes Paul Dukas’ 1897 “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and two Prokofiev works, the 1917 Symphony No. 1 (“Classical”), and Violin Concerto No. 2, which features soloist Leonidas Kavakos, an Athens-born, Indiana University-trained musician who rose to fame by winning a half dozen major competitions in the 1980s.

The “Fantasia”-featured “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and brief, frequently played “Classical” Symphony seem an unusual program for Robertson, who is known for supporting contemporary music.

Not defensive, he describes the pieces as good music and entertaining, providing a good mix for a program against the world premiere and the 1935 Violin Concerto, which is more conventional than the composer’s other bold compositions.

Robertson finds the balance satisfying, even if he often leads programs of particularly demanding music.

IF YOU GO

San Francisco Symphony

Conducted by David Robertson

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday; 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28
Tickets: $15 to $135
Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org

artsClassical Music & OperaentertainmentmusicSan Francisco Symphony

Just Posted

A collaborative workspace for a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in Coordinape is pictured at a recent blockchain meet up at Atlas Cafe. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Business without bosses: San Francisco innovators battle bureaucracy with blockchain

‘The next generation will work for three DAOs at the same time’

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
Plan Bay Area 2050: Analyzing an extensive regional plan that covers the next 30 years

Here are the big ticket proposals in the $1.4 trillion proposal

Pregnant women are in the high-risk category currently prioritized for booster shots in San Francisco. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Inoculations for immunosuppressed individuals are recommended in the second trimester

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

Most Read