The early show

San Francisco Symphony’s Friday 6.5 Series returns for an encore Friday

Local Mozart fans are in for a treat Friday when the San Francisco Symphony takes its audience through a Mozart journey of some of the composer’s least-known works.

Part of the Friday 6.5 Series — which received a “Best of the Best” award from San Francisco magazine during its first season in 2005 — the Mozart concert comes at the tail end of the composer’s 250th birthday.

When Friday 6.5 Series launched last year, San Franciscans eagerly flocked to the Davies Symphony Hall thanks to the early start time of 6:30 p.m., which allows patrons time to have dinner afterwards. Each program also includes an introduction by the week’s conductor to a principal piece of music culled from the program as he leads the orchestra, soloists and chorus through examples that provide a glimpse into the work.

The first program, on Friday, highlights music director Michael Tilson Thomas — about whom the Toronto Star asked, “Can every conductor be Michael Tilson Thomas? Obviously not.” The charismatic Tilson Thomas — who, during his 12 seasons as music director of the San Francisco Symphony, has been praised by critics for his innovative programming — will be both conductor and a pianist for the premiere night. Music critics have referred to him as one of the busiest conductors of the 20th century.

Tilson Thomas will also be conducting the Friday 6.5 Series on Feb. 9 for an evening of French music. That night, the orchestra will perform Berlioz’s song cycle, with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, about whom The New York Times wrote how she impresses “audiences with her creamy singing and chiseled characterizations.”

Also this month, the S.F. Symphony launched “Keeping Score,” a PBS television series with Tilson Thomas hosting, to make classical music more accessible to people of all ages and musical backgrounds through television.

Concert preview

Six programs for Friday 6.5 series

Friday — Michael Tilson Thomas conducts “A Mozart Journey” with Laura Aikin, piano, Jeremy Denk, piano, San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Symphony Chorus

Dec. 8 — David Zinman conductor, Hilary Hahn, violin, San Francisco Symphony

Jan. 26 — Lawrence Foster conductor, Radu Lupu, piano, San Francisco Symphony

Feb. 9 — Tilson Thomas and Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano, San Francisco Symphony

March 16 — James Gaffigan, conductor, Yundi Li, piano, San Francisco Symphony

May 4 — Hans Graf, conductor, Alexander Barantschik, violin,San Francisco Symphony

When: All performances begin at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

Price: Tickets are $25-$110

Info: Call (415) 864-6000 or visit www.sfsymphony.org.

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