New Century Chamber Orchestra headed by Daniel Hope, center, is celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday. (Courtesy Matthew Washburn)

New Century Chamber Orchestra debuts in new Presidio Theatre

Ensemble plays Beethoven in state-of-the-art venue

The headline is correct, but “new” is imprecise: New Century Chamber Orchestra was born in the 20th century and the Presidio Theatre is 80 years old. Yet the entities are meeting on Friday and Saturday when NCCO gives two concerts in the newly rebuilt theater in San Francisco’s Presidio.

NCCO Music Director and violinist Daniel Hope leads the orchestra on Friday, Jan. 24, joining global celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a program of the composer’s Violin Sonata No. 9 “Kreutzer,” Cello Sonata No. 5 and Piano Trio Op. 1 No. 1. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein and cellist Lynn Harrell also are featured.

“The worldwide attention surrounding the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth is testament to the enduring inspiration and delight that his music provides to audiences everywhere,” Hope says. “We look forward to participating in the celebrations with our own special tribute here in the Bay Area.”

On Saturday, Jan. 25, Hope shares the stage with Dinnerstein and Harrell in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and conducts Beethoven’s First Symphony as well. (The program also is at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23 in First Congregational Church of Berkeley.)

The venue, a brilliant recent addition to Bay Area music life, is of special importance. Rebuilt from the ground up after being shuttered for two decades, the Presido Theatre instantly impressed at its opening in September. The 600-seat multi-use theater, with full facilities for music and theater productions, is appealing and welcoming.

It “feels like the theater is hugging you with its curves,” said Peggy Haas, chair of the theater’s board of directors.

Haas, daughter of late Levi Strauss & Co. executive Peter Haas, is the singular source of the nonprofit gift to the community, not only paying for the $40 million project, but seeing it through challenges of planning and development.

Located in the heart of the national park site on the Presidio’s Main Post, the theater — not to be confused with the nearby Presidio movie theater in the Marina — stood vacant and deteriorating since 1994. It is now a home to live theater, film, dance, music, lectures, educational programming and special events.

“There is a dearth of high quality theaters for live performances,” Haas said at the opening, “and many of the available spaces are not accessible to smaller performing arts organizations. The Presidio Theatre offers a place for these groups to showcase their work to a wide range of audiences.” Affordable rental fees will accommodate nonprofit organizations.

Initial users of the theater included the San Francisco Mime Troupe, ODC, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, The Family Crest, Jane’s Declaration of Independence and the John Santos Puerto Rico Del Alma Project.

The new design reserves the original Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, yet the building has an expanded stage, new accessible seating and code-compliant facilities. The project was supervised by Mark R. Hornberger, founding principal of Hornberger + Worstell, which also built the Grand Hyatt at San Francisco International Airport.

Other contributors were historic preservation consultant Knapp Architects, acoustician Dennis Paoletti of Paoletti Consulting and the Meyer Sound Laboratories. At the opening event, the theater’s acoustics were excellent.

IF YOU GO: New Century Chamber Orchestra

Where: Presidio Theater, 99 Moraga Ave., San Francisco Presidio

When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24-25

Tickets: $15 (students) to $67.50


Note: NCCO also appears at 3:30 p.m. Jan 26 at Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael as part of Violins of Hope, a program showcasing music by Jewish composers and restored Holocaust-era string instruments.

Classical Music

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The renovated Presidio Theatre on the Main Post is impressive. (Courtesy Janos Gereben)

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