So, do you know where the smallest bones in your body are? There are three of them, tiny enough to all fit on a dime -- the malleus, the incus and the stapes, collectively called the ossicles. They're in your middle ear, carrying on like the itty-bitty hammer, anvil and stirrup they essentially are in order to do the amplifying work you need to hear.
Bay Area composer Edmund Campion wants you to use them to sit up and take notice of his new work, "Ossicles (Tiny Bones)," which will have its world premiere Oct. 3, when conductor Joana Carneiro and the Berkeley Symphony open their concert season in Zellerbach Hall.
Campion, winner of the Rome Prize, the Nadia Boulanger Award and a Fulbright scholarship, also is a music professor at UC Berkeley and co-director of its Center for New Music and Technology, from which all sorts of interesting auditory experiments emanate. His website, www.edmundcampion.com, has intriguing examples aplenty from past works, but the focus of the new piece, according to advance reports, is "the physical aspect of sound, the wonder of sound and the miracle of cognition."
Also on the program is hot young Italian pianist Alessio Bax, who will provide the familiar stuff, hopefully with great fire and flourish, with his performance of the sweepingly Romantic Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Bax, who does duets frequently with his pianist wife, Lucille Chung, won both the Leeds and Hamamatsu international piano competitions early in his career and is also the winner this year of both the Martin E. Segal and the Andrew Wolf Chamber Music awards.
The final work on the Berkeley Symphony program is the Wagner tone poem " Siegfried's Idyll." Concert time is 7 p.m. Tickets, $15-$74, are at 510-841-2800 or www.berkeleysymphony.org.
NADJA STICKS AROUND: To no one's great surprise, fiery and fervent violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who has largely succeeded on her promise to raise the profile of the Bay Area's New Century Chamber Orchestra since she took over as music director five years ago, has renewed her commitment to the ensemble, signing on for three more seasons. Also still in place is the featured composer residency program she brought with her. This week's season-opening concerts, taking place all around the area, will highlight Iowa native Michael Daugherty, the oldest of five brothers, professional musicians all, and a current professor of composition at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The program, titled "Daugherty Perspectives" is a wide-ranging sampler featuring his "Viva" for solo violin, with the always vivacious Salerno-Sonnenberg doing the honors. The other works are his "Viola Zombie" for two violas; "Regrets Only" for violin, cello and piano; "Sing Sing J. Edgar Hoover" and "Elvis Everywhere," both for string quartet and tape; and his "Strut" for chamber orchestra. The Serenade for String Orchestra in E major by Josef Suk is the only non-Daugherty work on the program.
The season opens at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, with repeat performances at 8 p.m. Friday at Berkeley's First Congregational Church, 8 p.m. Saturday at the Yerba Buena Center for Performing Arts in San Francisco and 5 p.m. Sunday at Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael. Tickets, $29-$59, are available at 415-392-4400 and www.cityboxoffice.com for all but the Mountain View seats, which are sold at 650-903-6000 and www.mvcpa.com. There is a $15 discount for ticket buyers under age 35.
Note: If you'd like to hear Salerno-Sonnenberg and company for free, drop into Cal Performances' annual Fall Free for All Sunday. The New Century Chamber Orchestra will be playing selections from its Daugherty program at 11 a.m. in Zellerbach Hall as part of a daylong festival of free music, dance and family events.
DON'T MISS: The incomparable Emanuel Ax, a longtime friend and collaborator with the San Francisco Symphony, is in town for this week's series of concerts and a master class for students. And what a delicious program it is. Ax will play the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 as a centerpiece for a Michael Tilson Thomas-conducted bill that also includes Copland's music from "Our Town," Debussy's "Le plus que lente," Delius' "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring," Grieg's "The Last Spring," the Rachmaninoff "Vocalise" and Delibes' "Cortege of Bacchus" from "Sylvia."
Things get under way early Thursday, with a 10 a.m. rehearsal at Davies Hall that is open to the public for $22-$40. Evening performances at Davies are at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and Ax will sign CDs in the lobby following each evening performance. Concert tickets, $15-$156, are at 415-864-6000 or www.sfsymphony.org.
Contact Sue Gilmore at email@example.com.