How remarkable is it that the next several days brings us two exceptionally gifted keyboard artists, intent on collaboration with separate string quartets, both of which have also earned their considerable measure of international renown?
Well, to be honest, this being the richly endowed Bay Area, with its treasure trove of musical resources, it's not really that uncommon at all. The better news is that three days separate pianists Joyce Yang's and Marc-Andre Hamelin's San Francisco performances, so the hardcore chamber music devotee can see them both and pick a favorite.
First up is the 26-year-old Korean native Yang, who first wowed the concert world by capturing the silver medal as the youngest contender at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2005. Also the winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Arthur Rubinstein Prize -- both in 2010 -- Yang will be joining San Francisco's own Alexander String Quartet, resident artists at San Francisco State University and at San Francisco Performances, in a 1:10 p.m. free recital Friday in Knuth Hall in the Creative Arts Building on campus. The program, a preview of a longer concert the artists will give at Kohl Mansion in Burlingame on Sunday evening, will be entirely devoted to Brahms' magnificent Piano Quintet in F minor, one of the composer's most popular chamber works. The five artists will give a master class on site following the performance for music students from all over the Bay Area, then repeat the Brahms, augmented by Schumann's "Fantasiestucke" and Britten's String Quartet No. 2, at the 7 p.m. Sunday concert in the Music at Kohl Mansion series.
Our second celebrated pianist is the French-Canadian Hamelin, 52, returning to the San Francisco Performances lineup for the ninth time Monday night to join the Grammy-winning Pacifica Quartet -- also a staple at SFP -- in a 7:30 p.m. program at the new SFJazz Center, which is notable for its depth and diversity. Hamelin, whose list of acclaimed recordings is indeed much longer than your arm, is a bit of a champion of the somewhat neglected 20th-century composer Leo Ornstein, a Russian-born American who died in Wisconsin in 2002 at the age of 108. His Quintet for Piano and Strings, considered by many his most significant work, forms the crux of Hamelin's and the Pacifica's recital and is a work they intend to record together.
Details: Free tickets for Yang/Alexander's Friday performance (1600 Holloway Ave. in San Francisco) are available at 415-338-2467 or http://creativestate.sfsu.edu. Tickets for the concert at Kohl Mansion, 2750 Adeline Drive in Burlingame, are $15-$48, available at 650-762-1130 or www.musicatkohl.org. Tickets for the Hamelin/Pacifica recital, at 201 Franklin Street at Fell in San Francisco, are $25-$68, available at 415-392-2545 or www.sfperformances.org.
OPERA FOR ONE AND ALL: Last year, San Francisco Opera threw open its doors for its first community open house, and some 4,000 people showed up. That, apparently, was enough for General Manager David Gockley to launch a tradition, and Saturday from 10:30 to 2:30 p.m. at War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., marks the second such wide-open invitation. Gockley will be there to welcome individuals and families who are curious about what it takes to mount an opera, as will some singers from the company's Adler Fellows resident program, the San Francisco Opera Orchestra with resident conductor Giuseppe Finzi and director Ian Robertson's redoubtable Opera Chorus.
In addition to the musical presentations, there will be many tempting hands-on activities for visitors, including singalongs with the chorus and singers, workshops in stage combat and prop-making, makeup and costume demonstrations, including a costume booth with photo opportunities and a scavenger hunt throughout the nooks and crannies of the Opera House. Food trucks from Off the Grid will also be on the premises, and there will be an outdoor beer and wine garden open at noon on the loggia of the Grand Tier level. All ages are welcome, with the morning activities geared more to the little ones and more opportunities for adult involvement after noon. Best of all, the entire event is free, and attendees will be eligible to win tickets to S.F. Opera's upcoming productions of Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" (Nov. 13-Dec. 1) and "The Barber of Seville for Families" (Nov. 24 and 30).
Contact Sue Gilmore at email@example.com.