The annals of classical music history are filled with stories of the stars who got their "big break" by filling someone else's shoes at the last minute -- 25-year-old Leonard Bernstein famously subbing for a stricken Bruno Walter comes to mind, as does 17-year-old Lang Lang filling in for Andre Watts.
Augustin Hadelich, however, might seem to be leapfrogging his way up the career ladder.
The 29-year-old violinist is making his San Francisco Symphony debut in this week's concert series at Davies Symphony Hall as a replacement for German violinist Julia Fischer, who canceled in December. He has quite a history of being the substitute star -- he made his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut as an emergency fill-in in 2008 at the Hollywood Bowl, where he wowed them with his prowess with the Prokofiev Concerto No. 2. Two years later, he debuted with the New York Philharmonic as a last-minute replacement for Nikolaj Znaider at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Fest.
Though he has curriculum vitae in common with many rising young instrumentalists -- an Avery Fisher career grant in 2009, the gold medal at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in 2006, where he also swept many of that event's ancillary awards -- there are circumstances in Hadelich's background that render him unique. He was born in Italy in 1984 to German parents who raised him and his two older brothers on a farm in Tuscany. He was far enough from centers of high culture that his early training on violin had to come at age 5 from his father, a cellist, and be furthered by a series of concert violinists who were passing through the region on assignment or vacation. Although his immense talent was obvious from the beginning, his development was violently interrupted at age 15 when tractor fuel caught fire on the family farm, severely burning his upper body, including his bowing arm. It took two years, several surgeries and much hard work at rehabilitative therapy before he was able to return to the violin.
But return he did, and with a sweet vengeance that fueled him through his summa cum laude studies at Italy's Istituto Mascagni in Livorno. Composition studies at Hanns-Eisler Academy in Berlin followed (he composes some of his own cadenzas for use in concert), and he went on to New York's famed Juilliard School of Music, where his violin teacher, Joel Smirnoff, was able to filter through the myriad musical influences he had been exposed to and set him on the unified trajectory that led to his triumph in Indianapolis the year before his graduation.
For his first appearance with the San Francisco Symphony, Hadelich performs the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major Wednesday through Saturday nights at 8 p.m. The four programs, led by S.F. Symphony Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt, will also include Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 5. Tickets, $15-$150, are at 415-864-6000 and www.sfsymphony.org.
'TIS THE SEASON FOR ANNOUNCEMENTS: The heavyweights on the Bay Area classical music scene -- the San Francisco Opera and Symphony -- have already laid bare their plans for the 2013-14 season. Now many of the rest of our finest ensembles and arts presenters are following suit.
The biggest news from San Francisco Performances, which rolled out its season announcement this week, is that the longtime main concert venue, the Herbst Theatre, will be closed for renovations for at least two years. Fortunately for them, the beautiful new SFJazz Center and the recently restored Nourse Theatre, both also located in the Civic Center, will be able to accommodate many of their music events. Davies Symphony Hall and the S.F. Conservatory of Music will also host, as will the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (for dance events in particular), St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco and St. John's Presbyterian in Berkeley. Of the more than 50 events coming in the organization's 34th season, which launches in October and runs through May 3, 2014, some highlights include the performance of Bach's complete Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Dutch artist Pieter Wispelwey in two programs on Nov. 9; a recital by brilliant British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote on Jan. 24; and a program of contemporary and classic works, including Bach, by fabulous mandolinist Chris Thile on Feb. 14-15. Subscriptions are on sale now; single tickets become available Aug. 5. See a complete season lineup at www.sfperformances.org, or call for a brochure at 415-677-0325.
Meanwhile, both the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Berkeley Symphony have recently announced their new seasons. Nicholas McGegan's acclaimed period orchestra will move its San Francisco concerts from the Herbst into the SFJazz Center, with a clear highlight being countertenor David Daniels and soprano Carolyn Sampson singing in a "Pergolesi in Naples" program that includes that composer's famed "Stabat Mater" on Oct. 2-5. Joana Carneiro and her orchestra open their season Oct. 3 in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall with a Cal Performances co-commission -- the world premiere of Edmund Campion's "The Ossicles." Cal Performances, meanwhile, is set to announce its new season Tuesday. Websites to check for the particulars: www.philharmonia.org, www.berkeleysymphony.org and www.calperformances.org.
Contact Sue Gilmore at email@example.com.