Yes, yes, I know that I am far behind in reporting on 2012-13 season announcements. Sorry! But the other week when I was home sick, I went through the prospectuses from some of the major presenters. In the process, I marked up a paper calendar with everything I'd like to see - excepting those choruses and new music ensembles that I watch - and oh, man, decisions, decisions.
That said, here's what's up with the San Francisco Symphony season.
Of course, it's not as great as 2011-12, the centennial season, which has been exceptional in the range of music offered. The most obvious lack is in the visiting orchestras. Instead of the American Orchestra series, we get the Russian National Orchestra - with Patrick Summers conducting! - and the Warsaw Phil. The second most obvious lack is in the new music area...but that's par for the course. On the down side, there's a focus on Beethoven...on the up side, at least it's early, rare, and unusual works, mostly. There's plenty to look forward to; I found a good 16 or 17 programs I'd go see, plus I have question marks on a bunch more.
Because of circumstances I can't recall, Semyon Bychkov conducts the first two subscription concerts; I'm passing on the first, but the Shostakovich 7th (Leningrad) is a do-not-miss in my book. A couple of weeks later, MTT has a program of Mahler 5, accompanied by a new work by Samuel Carl (Son-of-John-Coolidge) Adams. (Okay, yes, it has crossed my mind that of all the composers SFS could commission a new work from....it's tough being the composing child of a famous composer, because, yes, people will wonder about it if you land commissions from SFS, Carnegie Hall, and the New World Symphony. No, I have not heard a note of his compositions, so I have no basis for saying whether he is better or worse than any other under-30 composer getting commissions from major symphony orchestras.)
Vassily Petrenko returns with a program I'm hot and cold about: a work by Arvo Part and Bartok's Third Piano Concerto, paired with....Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome. Um. Leave after the first half?
Vladimir Jurowski debuts with a program of the Rach Second Piano Concerto and an arrangement of Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible. Another debutant, Jaap van Zweden, has a Wagner/Mozart/Brahms program, which gets a maybe from me. MTT returns with hot and cold running Chinese pianists: Yuja Wang and Lang Lang swap in and out of a program that also has the Rachmaninov Second Symphony and assistant concertmaster Mark Volkert's Pandora, a world premier that I'm especially looking forward to. Then Yefim Bronfman is back with yet another new work, Jorg Widmann's piano concert, which is paired with Symphonie fantastique.
MTT then leads a gorgeous-looking French program that I'll just have to skip unless there's a last-minute substitute in the vocal department. Couldn't we have Sasha Cooke or Susan Graham for those songs instead of you-know-who? Charles Dutoit guests with two programs, of which the second, Poulenc and Berlioz, is the one I'll definitely see. Yan Pascal Tortelier, whom I loved the last time he was here, returns with a Debussy / Strauss / Mendelssohn program - maybe, maybe not, but how often will I get to hear the Strauss Oboe Concerto?
MTT conducts selections from Mozart's unfinished Zaide and Bruckner 7, then leads a Berio / Beethoven PC 4 (Yuja Wang) / Brahms 1 program, followed by Mahler 9. Herbert Blomstadt is here in April and both programs look good, though they're heavy on the Beethoven. Wagner/Lidholm/Beethoven and Beethoven/Nielsen. I suppose I can skip the Beethoven violin concerto if I want. Christoph Eschenbach leads a program of Schoenberg, Brahms, and Dvorak; it's a must-see because Matthias Goerne's presence on the first half.
Then we get the MTT weird-Beethoven concerts. First, a program of the Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, a Sonatina for Mandolin and Fortepiano (!), the Cantata on the Death of Joseph II, and the Second Symphony (a great and underrated work); second....well, weird stuff, my beloved Fourth Symphony, and a repeat of John Adams's Absolute Jest. I hated it the first time around and am curious to see what I'll think the second.
Lastly, MTT takes another crack at the Missa Solemnis. Good luck! It was a near train-wreck the first time around, in June 2011. It's a great lineup of soloists (Laura Claycomb, Sasha Cooke, Michael Fabiano, and Shenyang), and I seem to recall reading something about visual accompaniment, which gives me the fear. I'll be on hand anyway, giving the visuals the gimlet eye and burying my head in the score.
Marek Janowski returns with a program that I would ordinarily pass on, except that I've never heard the conductor live and I'd like to (Schumann and Brahms). David Robertson has a tasty program and great soloist; Carter's Variations for Orchestra, Ravel Concert for the Left Hand with mighty Marc-Andre Hamelin, Rhapsody in Blue, and La Valse. Juraj Valcuha brings Kodaly (Dances of Galanta), the Dvorak cello concerto (which, alas, I don't like much), and Bartok's Suite from The Wooden Prince, while Kiril Karabits conducts a don't-miss program of Honegger's Pacific 231, the Britten Double Concerto (Barantschik and Vinocour), and Silbelius First (didn't I just hear that? Yes, I did).
Roberto Abbado shoehorns one new work, by Ivan Fedele, among Schumann and Schubert, then MTT has two programs celebrating the hundredth birthday of Le Sacre du Printemps: Rite plus Agon and the Violin Concerto (Shaham) and Rite plus Renard, some songs, and Les Noces. Woo hoo!
The season closes with West Side Story.
Minor Update: Compose Your Own subscriptions go on sale June 19. I'm hoping this year will be less painful than last.