The Oakland East Bay Symphony gets my vote for some of the Bay Area's timeliest, most audience-friendly musical programming. What could be more appropriate for a concert at 8 p.m. Friday, three days after the election, than one themed "Celebrating Democracy" with some stirring, nonpolitical music by American composers? No matter which side of the political spectrum people might favor, most can unite in the enjoyment of music.
Conducting the concert will be all-American, Washington, D.C.-born Michael Morgan. The program will begin with an exuberant fanfare by African-American composer Adolphus Hailstork. Following on the fanfare's heels will be the world premiere of the orchestrated version of "Homework Suite," one of Gordon Getty's earliest piano pieces. Getty, a San Francisco resident, is most likely the world's very best billionaire composer/philanthropist.
The OEBS program will also include Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto, a work commissioned by the all-American jazz clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman, who rose to fame during World War II. Soloist will be the Oakland Symphony's new principal clarinetist, Bill Kalinkos, a musician equally at ease in both classical and jazz/swing genres. Next on the program will be "Episodes for Orchestra," a work by esteemed UC Berkeley professor emeritus Olly Wilson.
The grand finale will be American legend Leonard Bernstein's irresistible "Symphonic Dances" from "West Side Story," the great conductor-pianist-composer's imaginative, all-American adaptation of the Romeo and Juliet tale.
Kalinkos, who hails from the Queens area of New York City, comes to the Bay Area with an international reputation as a contemporary music specialist. He has performed with contemporary music ensembles Alarm Will Sound, Deviant Septet, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and the National Gallery of Art New Music Ensemble in Washington, D.C., as well as with the Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras, the Spoleto Music Festival and Michael Tilson Thomas' Florida-based New World Symphony. He is currently a member of the music faculty at UC Santa Cruz.
Details: The concert will be at the Paramount Theatre, 2015 Broadway, in Oakland. Tickets, $20 to $70, are available at 510- 444-0801 or www.oebs.org.
SALONEN IN BERKELEY: Cal Performances is bringing one of Great Britain's most storied musical ensembles, the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra, for performances at 8 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. Under the baton of the forward-looking Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, the famed orchestra is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Founded in 1945 by an EMI recording producer named Walter Legge, it had its first concert on Oct. 25, 1945, with more than 60 percent of its players still in the armed services. Sir Thomas Beecham conducted and is reported to have done so for the fee of one cigar.
During its initial years, the Maharaja of Mysore provided generous financial support for the orchestra, and such renowned conductors as Arturo Toscanini, Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwangler, and Herbert von Karajan provided support at the podium. In 1955, when the last of these pre-eminent conductors, von Karajan, was named music director of the Berlin Philharmonic, Otto Klemperer was tapped to serve as Philharmonia's conductor. After he died, the orchestra was headed by Riccardo Muti, Giuseppe Sinopoli, and Christoph von Dohnanyi. Salonen was named to the post in 2008.
Salonen, 54, was born in Helsinki. He initially concentrated on composition and playing the horn before turning to conducting. His classmates at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki were fellow conductors Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Osmo Vanska and composer Magnus Lindberg. All were immersed in new music at the time, and together they formed a contemporary music appreciation group they called Ears Open (in English) as well as an experimental performing ensemble called Toimii. Salonen has continued his interests in contemporary, as well as historical classical music, to the present. Philharmonia's Berkeley visit reflects this broad approach to music-making, with a program consisting of "Helix," one of his own compositions, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, and Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" on Friday; "Wozzeck" by Alban Berg on Saturday; and Mahler's Symphony No. 9 on Sunday afternoon.
Salonen, who is married and has three children, has also been awarded a Grammy and an honorary doctorate from the University of Southern California. He even took a turn carrying the Olympic flame on its way to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Details: Zellerbach Hall is at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Tickets, $30 to $150, are available at 510-642-9988 or www.calperformances.org.
DIRECT FROM POLAND: Yet another orchestra from foreign shores is visiting the Bay Area. The pride of Poland, the Warsaw Philharmonic, conducted by Antoni Wit, concertizes in Davies Hall at 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Their guest soloist is young Yulianna Avdeeva, winner of the orchestra's 2010 Chopin Piano Competition, and that composer's Concerto No. 2 in F minor is the centerpiece of the first program, which also features Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony and Lutoslawski's "Little Suite." Then it's Beethoven's "Emperor Concerto" anchoring the Monday night concert, with the Dvorak Symphony No. 8 in G major also on the bill. Tickets, $15-$93, are at 415-864-6000 or www.sfsymphony.org.
Contact Cheryl North at firstname.lastname@example.org.