Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony open their 2013-14 season Sept. 3 at Davies Symphony Hall with a gala program featuring singer Audra McDonald, the popular Broadway, stage and television performer. The program also includes works by a pair of Georges: Gershwin's "An American in Paris" and Antheil's "Jazz Symphony."
That's the kickoff to a ten-month stream of events -- subscriptions go on sale today -- which includes the first-ever orchestral performance of Bernard Herrmann's full score to Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" (Halloween week, launching a series of film-plus-music programs) and culminates in June 2014 with programs devoted to music by British composer Benjamin Britten. Celebrating the centenary of his birth, the programs include a semi-staged production of his landmark opera "Peter Grimes," as well as a multimedia treatment of his "Four Sea Interludes" (from that same opera) with original video by artist Tal Rosner.
The orchestra's 102nd season -- it's Tilson Thomas's 19th as music director -- includes a year-long focus on J.S. Bach (with performances by pianist Andras Schiff, violinist Christian Tetzlaff and conductor Ton Koopman) and three weeks of programs heavy with Beethoven's lesser-heard works. Led by Tilson Thomas, the Beethoven programs include the complete Mass in C and excerpts from "King Stephen," also a choral work. (Next season will be the San Francisco Symphony Chorus's 40th.)
Those Beethoven programs also will include works by young Bay Area-based composer Mason Bates, whose "The B-Sides," "Alternative Energy" and "Liquid Interface" will be recorded live-in-performance at Davies for release on the orchestra's SFS Media Label. Speaking with a group of music writers last week, Tilson Thomas said that with its recurring focus on Bates and Berkeley-based John Adams (whose "Absolute Jest" the orchestra takes on tour next season), the San Francisco Symphony is "sustaining this San Francisco stream within 21st-century classical music."
Next season also will include a two-week festival, led by Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, pairing works by Mendelssohn and Thomas Ades, both composers having been inspired by Shakespeare and the Baroque. The orchestra will inaugurate a "New Voices" composer initiative, commissioning a work ("Lineage") from Zosha DiCastri, the young Canadian composer/pianist who has been championed by Adams.
Also, the orchestra will convert one of its rehearsal spaces in Davies Symphony Hall to a sort of black box theater, seating 400-450 listeners for a new series of experimental programs, featuring works by such composers as Bates (who has a parallel career as electronica artist DJ Masonic) and Samuel Carl Adams (son of John Adams). Scheduling for the new series is still in process.
The many soloists returning to perform with the orchestra next season include pianists Yuja Wang (along with Bates, she will have a "Project San Francisco" residency), Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Jeremy Denk, Kirill Gerstein, Helene Grimaud, Garrick Ohlsson and Jean-Yves Thibaudet; violinists James Ehnes, Julia Fischer, Leila Josefowicz and Gil Shaham; cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Alisa Weilerstein; and singers Christine Brewer, Stuart Skelton, Toby Spence and Elza van den Heever.
Returning guest conductors include Herbert Blomstedt, Semyon Bychkov, James Conlon, Charles Dutoit and Osmo Vanska. Artists debuting with the orchestra include guest conductors Lionel Bringuier and Jaap van Zweden and pianists Till Fellner and Daniil Trifonov. Numerous works will also have their first performances by the orchestra; these range from C.P.E. Bach's Cello Concerto No. 3 to Dvorak's "Legends for Orchestra" (Nos. 2, 6 and 10) and Ligeti's "Concert Romanesc," as well as Britten's "Grimes" and Herrmann's scores for "Hitchcock!," an evening of excerpts from the master director's films.
Finally, the orchestra's Great Performers Series includes concerts by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (led by Pinchas Zukerman), the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (conducted by Yuri Temirkanov), Kremerata Baltica (with violinist/conductor Gidon Kremer), baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and pianists Murray Perahia, Evgeny Kissin, Katia and Marielle Labeque and Yuja Wang.