‘Keeping Score’ a tell-all forum for music

Many musicians and music lovers remember Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, talks and brilliant Norton Lectures at Harvard University.

Today, the mantle of the chief musician-philosopher-lecturer-entertainer is worn by the San Francisco Symphony’s Michael Tilson Thomas. In addition to scintillating introductions from the stage and extensive work with young people, Thomas’ forum for speaking about music is the 6-year-old, always-growing “Keeping Score” project.

These illustrated lectures and musical adventures — created and supported by hundreds of musicians, scholars and technicians — can be seen and heard on TV, DVDs, CDs and radio around the world.

New “Keeping Score” programs about Gustav Mahler, which will be broadcast on KQED-TV starting at 9 p.m. Thursday, will reveal that Bernstein-Thomas touch to newcomers — their ability to place music in a universal context, speak to all interests and command attention.

The complex Mahler Symphony No. 7, for example, is illuminated by Thomas’ intercutting of “start-and-stop” music and the strings’ harsh pizzicatos with scenes from a 1926 F.W. Murnau film classic.

The Mahler Project is in two segments, each two hours long, airing on KQED now, being telecast nationally later and published as a DVD set. “Keeping Score” on DVD already has offered enlightenment on works by Berlioz, Stravinsky, Ives and others.

Another new “Keeping Score” series is for radio, being broadcast nationally and locally on KQED, KALW and KDFC. This year’s 13-program series is about works that changed the course of classical music.

The Web component — www.keepingscore.org, which has been active since the project’s start — provides companion content.

Mission control for the TV programs is in a truck parked on the Franklin Street side of Davies Symphony Hall. A director, an assistant director and a switcher coordinate the cuts from one shot to another.

The music is recorded in Davies Hall before live audiences. It’s a challenging but rewarding approach. Noises and coughs are a nightmare for engineers, but there is no substitute for the sound of live music.

Using 13 cameras, director Gary Halvorson and his team translate concerts to visuals, which symphony general manager John Kieser calls “a ballet of camerawork.”

Thomas is involved with every aspect of “Keeping Score,” from writing to narration to conducting and post-production processing. Why?

“At this point in my life,” the 66-year-old conductor says, “the whole purpose of performing and musicmaking is passing things on. People were so generous to me in my youth and cluing me into a lot of back stories and important information that made the music come alive.

“This is a way of doing that.”

Keeping Score

On TV: KQED, Ch. 9
9 p.m. Thursday: “Gustav Mahler: Origins,” followed by Mahler’s Symphony No. 1
9 p.m. April 21: “Gustav Mahler: Legacy,” followed by music featuring baritone Thomas Hampson

On radio: “13 Days When Music Changed Forever” continues through June
KQED-FM, 88.5: 9 p.m Saturdays
KDFC-FM, 90.3: 6 p.m. Sundays
KALW-FM, 91.7: 9 p.m. Mondays
Upcoming programs:
Saturday-Monday: “Oct. 29, 1787: The Premiere of Don Giovanni in Prague”
April 23-25: “Aug. 8, 1803: Parisian Piano Maker Sebastien Erard Gives One of His Sturdy New Creations to Beethoven”

artsClassical Music & OperaentertainmentSan FranciscoSan Francisco Symphony

Just Posted

Badly needed rain cooled off pedestrians on Market Street in The City on Wednesday. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Storm door opens in San Francisco — what will the rains bring?

‘Come Monday, fire season in Northern California should be done’

Newly appointed City Attorney David Chiu will play a key role in an upcoming legal battle between gig economy companies and The City. (Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock)
City Attorney David Chiu faces immediate test in major gig economy lawsuit

DoorDash and Grubhub are suing San Francisco over price controls

FILE — In-N-Out Burger, the popular California fast-food chain, is resisting San Francisco's public health rules that require indoor diners to show proof of vaccination. (J. Emilio Flores/The New York Times)
When it comes to San Francisco vaccine rules, In-N-Out should heed Biblical advice

Burger chain’s vaccine fight distracts from its tasty burgers and French fries controversy

The Walgreens at 4645 Mission St. in The City is among those slated to close. <ins>(Courtesy photo)</ins>
Walgreens says it’s closing five SF stores due to crime. Where’s the data?

Walgreens should be transparent, enlighten city leaders about crime’s effect on business

Lake Hennessey, a reservoir for Napa, looked dry in June. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday issued a proclamation extending the drought emergency statewide and asked residents to redouble water conservation efforts. <ins>(Mike Kai Chen/New York Times)</ins>
Newsom declares drought emergency across California

State closed out its second-driest water year on record

Most Read