New era for New Century

The New Century Chamber Orchestra starts a new season — and a new era — this month. When the San Francisco string ensemble plays its first concert of 2008-09, it will be with violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as music director.

Salerno-Sonnenberg, who was named to the post earlier this year after a two-year search for Krista Bennion Feeney’s replacement, officially takes the reins Thursday at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church, serving as concertmaster and soloist in a program of works by Piazzolla, Ginastera, Villa-Lobos and Clarice Assad. Repeat performances are in San Francisco, San Rafael and Palo Alto.

A virtuoso violinist who maintains an international solo career, Salerno-Sonnenberg says she couldn’t be happier about the new job. She made her first appearance with New Century as a guest soloist last September and loved it.

“It was a very positive experience,” she recalled recently during a phone interview from her home in New York. “It became apparent in the first rehearsal that these were superior players. By the time we walked onstage, it felt like I was a teenager again — that time in your musical growth when you’re discovering pieces for the first time and they’re making huge impressions on you. That was such a gift.”

When the call came offering her the job, she jumped at the chance. “It was such an opportunity,” she says. “I want to put this group on the map.”

New Century plays without a conductor, and Salerno-Sonnenberg notes that each member brings something to the mix. “It’s a magical combination of intelligence, talent, perseverance and cooperation,” she says. “You have very individual opinions about every single measure of every piece. It’s a small ensemble, but everyone speaks up,” she says. “It can be tough unless you have a strong leader who can make it work. But once you get used to it, it’s fantastic.”

Salerno-Sonnenberg, who signed a three-year contract with the group, will lead four sets of concerts each season. She intends to bring in top soloists, perform works by living composers, add to New Century’s catalog of Grammy-nominated recordings and expand the string orchestra repertoire. She’s even considering a future performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

“There’s an amazing chamber orchestra version and I don’t think it’s ever been done without a conductor,” she says. “I have huge plans for this group. When you have an ensemble like this that can play anything, you want to play everything.”

IF YOU GO

New Century Chamber Orchestra

When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
Tickets: $16 to $54
Contact: (415) 392-4400; www.ncco.org
Note: Other performances are 8 p.m. Thursday, First Congregational Church, Berkeley; 5 p.m. Sunday, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael; and 8 p.m. Sept. 16, First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto.artsentertainmentNIGHT OUTOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A proposal for a Trader Joe’s location in existing retail space in the bottom floor of the 555 Fulton St. building was up for a vote at the Planning Commission on Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Trader Joe’s approved for Hayes Valley, bringing long-awaited grocery store

New Seasons Market canceled plans at 555 Fulton St. citing construction delays

Gov. Newsom wants $4.2 billion to finish the Central Valley link for the bullet train, but legislators aren’t sold. (Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock; CA High Speed Rail Authority; Shae Hammond for CalMatters)
Bullet train budget battle: Should California spend more on urban transit, not high-speed rail?

By Marissa Garcia CalMatters High-speed rail was supposed to connect California’s urban… Continue reading

Cooks work in the kitchen at The Vault Garden. (Courtesy Hardy Wilson)
Help wanted: SF restaurants are struggling to staff up

Some small businesses have to ‘sweeten the pot’ when hiring workers

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda during a March 2021 press conference. (Credit Ed Reed/EdSource)
How California plans to deter costly special education disputes

Fund is meant to help parents and schools settle differences before heading to court

Hundreds of Britney Spears fans and supporters rallied in support of ending her 13-years-long conservatorship and the removal of her father, Jamie Spears, as her conservator, at the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Ted Soqui, SIPA USA via AP Images)
The Britney effect: How California is grappling with conservatorship

By Jocelyn Wiener CalMatters However improbable, this has become the summer we… Continue reading

Most Read