The San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s new Concert Hall hosted its first orchestral concert Saturday. Marin Symphony music director Alasdair Neale was the guest conductor as the Conservatory Orchestra played John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” and Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” with Conservatory composition student Keisuke Nakagoshi featured as the soloist in Prokofiev’s fiendishly difficult “Piano Concerto No. 3.”
The opulent 445-seat hall is the final, crowning touch in the school’s $80 million move from the Sunset to Civic Center.
Already graced with a City Hall sitting on rollers, the better to bounce about in the next quake, San Francisco now has a music complex filled with metal springs to counteract sound vibrations. The building at 50 Oak St., built by San Francisco’s own SMWM architectural firm, has hundreds of cylindrical metal devices embedded in the walls with heavy springs to pull against the vibration caused by sound. Kirkegaard & Associates, the acousticians in charge, use these spring mounts to assure isolation between halls and practice rooms, which are fairly piled on top of one another.
Kirkegaard — veterans of the Carnegie Hall reconstruction, Chicago Orchestra Hall, Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall and the improvement of Davies Hall — has overseen every aspect of the new building’s acoustical preparation, virtually guaranteeing excellent new music facilities. The Conservatory complex now completes The City’s performing arts center, right next to Davies Hall, the War Memorial Opera House, Herbst and Orpheum theaters and the Civic Auditorium.
Originally built as a ballroom at 50 Oak St., the Concert Hall is a new, different space, but it contains preserved and well-cleaned pilasters, cornices and ceiling ribbons. The stage is large enough for a full orchestra, and the chorus-audience seating behind the stage provides space for performances of works for orchestra and chorus.
Other facilities in the new building include the 120-seat Osher Salon, a 140-seat recital hall, the Kimball Green Room for artists preparing for a performance, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Student Lounge, the Phyllis Wattis Atrium (a three-story high entrance space), the Milton Salkind Terrace, 44 studios, 14 classrooms, 33 practice rooms, a 6,500-square-foot music library, the percussion suite, the keyboard lab, recording and electronic music studios, academic and administrative offices and some 100 Steinway and Yamaha pianos.
Those facilities offer more than 300 concerts and recitals annually, most of them free student and faculty music events. The school itself is expected to go well beyond the Sunset census of 314 students in the collegiate and 430 in the preparatory divisions, and about 400 taking adult extension classes. Recent student bodies included representatives of 21 countries and 31 states; the international publicity generated by the new building is likely to increase both figures.