San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra brings young spirit to the stage

Courtesy PhotoGreat woodwinds: From left

Oboist Liam Boisset, featured soloist in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra’s opening concert this weekend, could be a poster child for the group.

The 17-year-old from Pleasant Hill, winner of the youth orchestra’s 2012 concerto competition, will display his passion and technique in a performance of Mozart’s 1777 Oboe Concerto in C Major on Sunday.

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But he admits he didn’t really understand the concerto until the orchestra visited Mozart’s hometown in Austria earlier this year. He says, “Just being there and taking in the atmosphere showed me how to approach playing it. I want everyone in the YO to hook into the Salzburg spirit when we play the concerto in Davies Hall.”

Preparation for the competition was intensive and thorough. Beginning each practice session by running through the entire work with a metronome, he says, “somehow gave me an overwhelming sensation of musical liberty.”

Boisset’s work with the orchestra — a free program that since 1981 has provided students ages 12 to 21 with training and experience — also has made him a particularly conscious, responsive musician.

He says, “Never before had I played in an ensemble that demands such acute knowledge of the inner workings of the music from every musician. The orchestra has helped me decide that music is the only possible thing I could spend the rest of my life studying.”

Sunday’s concert, conducted by music director Donato Cabrera, also includes Copland’s “El Salon México” and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1.

Over the summer, Cabrera led members of the SFSYO on the group’s eighth European tour to major halls in Berlin and Munich in Germany, Salzburg in Austria and elsewhere; the group won a coveted ASCAP award for adventurous programming of American music on foreign tours.

The full orchestra, with more than 100 members, has a busy weekend. In addition to Sunday’s concert, it also will appear in the San Francisco Symphony’s fifth annual “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) community concert Saturday, playing “El Salon México” and José Pablo Moncayo’s “Huapango” — music in Mexican folk-dance style.

The program, a co-presentation of the symphony and VivaFest! (a San Jose-based Mexican heritage festival), features theater great Luis Valdez narrating and reciting poetry and prose in English, Spanish and Nahuatl, the indigenous language of the Aztecs.

The concert also features the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, dancers of Los Lupeños de San José and Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán playing mariachi hits.

Pre-concert festivities in the lobby include refreshments, face painting, paper flower making and an art exhibition celebrating Dia de los Muertos.

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