SF Symphony boasts notable fall imports

October features an unusually rich influx of visiting artists to Davies Hall. San Francisco Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink enumerates only the guest conductors.

“We welcome back two old friends: Semyon Bychkov, making his 10th appearance with us, and James Conlon, who first conducted the orchestra in 1978.

“Then it’s time for two talented newcomers to take the stage: 34-year-old British conductor Daniel Harding, leading one of the oldest and most revered of European ensembles, the Dresden Staatskapelle, and the exciting young Spaniard Pablo Heras-Casado, who conducted the Staatskapelle earlier this year, is making his debut here now,” Assink says.

Soloists at these concerts are special too. Appearing with Bychkov is fellow Russian Kirill Gerstein, the pianist in Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” The program also includes Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin” and Walton’s Symphony No. 1.

Conlon’s soloist is the brilliant artist Joshua Bell, playing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, which anchors the unusual concert of three overtures, one by Wagner and two by Dvorak.

A young but already much acclaimed pianist Alice Sara Ott appears with Heras-Casado, playing the virtuoso Liszt Piano

Concerto No. 1 between the premiere of György Kurtág’s “Grabstein für Stephan” and Shostakovich’s Symphony
No. 12 (“The Year 1917”).

Harding’s soloist is Rudolf Buchbinder, in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. In addition to Schumann’s “Manfred” Overture, the Staatskapelle will perform Brahms’ Symphony No. 2.

It is no surprise that the 462-year-old Dresden orchestra plays a classics-only concert, yet there is a big difference between conservative programming on the tour schedule and more balanced programming at home.

“It is quite understandable,” Harding said, “that an orchestra whose musical traditions and history are so important and well-documented will tend to be a little conservative on tour.

“It is not every day that people far from Dresden can hear this very special way of performing the central German repertoire, and they are rightly proud of their heritage and distinct voice. It is gratifying that you know the programming in Dresden is far more adventurous than one might imagine. I would think that over time this will seep into tour programming as well.”

Harding also called attention to Dresden’s East German past, a persistent factor: “The isolation of the former East European orchestras during the Cold War played a huge part in preserving their individual playing traditions, and these have incalculable cultural worth. This is now changing [slowly], but in a way that does not damage the backbone of their increasingly rare tradition.”

IF YOU GO
San Francisco Symphony

Where: Davies Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: Today through Oct. 30
Tickets: $15 to $155
Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org

Conductor lineup
Bychkov/Gerstein: 8 p.m. today-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday  
Conlon/Bell: 8 p.m. Oct. 21-23, 2 p.m. Oct. 24
Dresden: 7 p.m. Oct. 24
Heras-Casado/Ott: 2 p.m. Oct. 28, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 29, 8 p.m. Oct. 30

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