Monday, March 01, 2010

Tell Me Again How This is Innovative.

Highlights of the 2010-11 San Francisco Symphony season (read the press release PDF here):

  • There'll be a big focus on Beethoven. (A focus on Beethoven? Really? Very innovative! Just what we need!)
  • John Adams is Project San Francisco Composer-in-Residence, but we're not getting anything new or unfamiliar from him. We're getting repeats of El Nino and Harmonielehrer. Note that he's also new-music big guy at the LAPO.
  • Lots of Mahler, this time celebrating the anniversaries of his birth and death.
  • Yuja Wang is Artist in Residence. Compare what she'll be doing to what Ann-Sophie Mutter is doing at the NYPO, which will include playing several world premieres.
  • Rufus Wainwright will deliver the work he was originally contracted to deliver this season.
  • The real commission for the season is from Avner Dorman. David Robertson conducts, not MTT.
Works never performed before are:
  • Feldman, Rothko Chapel
  • Ellington, various songs
  • Revueltas, Sensemaya
  • Villa-Lobos, Ciranda das sete notas
  • Berg, Three Pieces from the Lyric Suite
  • Debussy, Fantasie for piano and orchestra
  • Shostakovich, Symphony No. 12
  • Kurtag, Grabstein fur Stephan
  • Weill, Symphony No. 2
  • Mozart, couple of piano concertos
  • Rouse, The Infernal Machine
  • Silvestrov, Elegy
  • Schnittke, Moz-Art ala Haydn
  • Khatchaturian, Violin Concerto
Highlights for me will include some of the above (I don't care about the Mozart juvenalia; I do care about Rothko Chapel), plus various works by Dutilleux, Mendelssohn (A Midsummer Night's Dream, evidently the complete incidental music), RVW's Second Symphony, and the Missa Solemnis.

Oh, well - sadly, I'll be missing Rothko Chapel. It's on a program with - this is very innovative - the Mozart Requiem, a piece I never want to hear again.

The European tour - but not SF - gets the great Christian Tetzlaff in the Berg violin concerto.

I finally found the season calendar, and I'm sorry to say that it looks like a damn dull season, especially when contrasted with the excitement and new works at both NY and LA.


Anonymous said...

The Weill Second Symphony is a treat.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That's good. I went through the whole season and there are maybe three programs that interest me, largely because they dole out the interesting music with the dull. Gah.

(I put up a new link and a small revision since you posted the comment.)

Kyle L said...

You could skip Mozart's requiem, and still make it for the Feldman. Just walk out afterwards.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That seems like a waste of money, since I have a perfectly good recording of Rothko Chapel at home. I'll hear it some day on a better program.

Michael Walsh said...

Man, it's going to be painful to renew this year.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I think it's possible to come up with five to ten programs I want to see, but it's tough. I caught all three George Benjamin programs this year, and I know I'm just not going to buy three tickets to Adams programs.

Janos Gereben said...

I find dissing the Mozart Requiem passing strange. If you're tired of it, OK, but it still remains one of the greatest works in my universe (your universe may differ).

For a comparison of SFS commissions with those of other orchestras - including teeny-tiny ones - see last few graphs of

Cheers, Janos

Lisa Hirsch said...

As it happens, I dislike the Requiem, as opposed to be bored of it.

That aside, any overplayed work, no matter how great, deserves some dissing. Traviata? Boheme? Figaro? Beethoven symphonies?

Lisa Hirsch said...

And let's make Janos's link clickable; it is to his SFCV article about next season.

For those not wanting to click through, Alan Gilbert and the NYPO have seven world premieres; Dudamel and the LAPO have nine. They're also getting a bunch of Ades and Gubaidulina, and each has Esa-Pekka Salonen as a guest conductor. He'll be doing Bluebeard's Castle in both locations; at the NYPO, he has a couple of weeks of Bartok, Ligeti, and Haydn.

Henry Holland said...

I take back the idea that the SFS season couldn't possibly be as dull as the LAPO one! :-) said...

It's interesting to read your negative take on it all, Lisa.

I was actually really happy to see a number of the works listed. Not that I'll get to much; I still don't have my own little group's schedule (for SSV. I do have OSJ's).

If I didn't like a work, I could understand not wanting to hear it. But anything I enjoy I continue to enjoy, despite the number of times I've heard or played it. (I will say, though, that there are some works I'd be happy never to play again; some works that I enjoy listening to are not as enjoyable to play!) It's interesting to me that you finally have had enough of certain works.

... and no, I'm honestly not trying to start an argument! I'm just commenting on how different we all can be. :-)

Lisa Hirsch said...

LAPO's season looks good on its own, looks like genius next to SFS.

Patty, here's the problem: in the press releases and at the press conference, SFS congratulated itself every other sentence on how forward-looking and innovative they are. It's all smoke and mirrors, lots of hand-waving to conceal a middle-of-the-road season with very little new or interesting music on it. That's my problem. If they'd presented it as a return to tradition, I'd still be pissed, but at least I wouldn't feel lied to.

And I don't think it's good for any organization to keep playing the same. old. music. We don't need all that Beethoven, which we get every other year.

John Marcher said...


First of all, there can never be too much Beethoven and I for one am happy not to see him shuttled out to the "My Favorite..." summer schmaltz this time around but given the prominence he merits.

True, it may not be the most adventurous season, and no one will think Salonen has taken over as Music Director, but really, what is the use of all this carping when the SFS is offering the rest of its season at half price and begging people to buy tickets?

They're following the same path SFO has traveled, hoping for similar results. I would love to see a more adventurous season too, but for now, I'm happy we aren't reading about the imminent demise of SFF and stories about how thinly spread MTT is while the orchestra is about to go under.

I believe sometimes it's appropriate that we look at organizations which are important to our community and deserving of our support with a bitten tongue once in awhile.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Well, John, I disagree with just about everything you say, to the point where I'm going to hoist your comments to a separate posting to respond. The "bitten tongue" part is...well, it sounds as if you're suggesting to me that I mute myself on this blog, which exists so that I can freely express my own opinions on whatever I damn well please. No arts organization is well-served by a critical community that doesn't say what it's thinking.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

JM, I don't necessarily disagree with everything you're saying -- I kind of feel that people who object to symphonies playing Beethoven are to some extent just objecting to the whole symphonic set-up -- but your last paragraph makes me think that you basically agree with what Lisa is saying, you just feel that we need to be quiet about it. I'm not sure why -- the Symphony's only importance to the community is the music it plays, and if a sizeable number of those interested in such music find the season uninteresting or overly conventional . . . well, how else is the Symphony going to know what exactly the objections are? And if they're not satisfying the public most interested in symphonic music, then why should they survive? (And are things truly that grim for them?)
I disagree with the idea that the only measure of success is financial, and that the only way to achieve financial success is by the most conservative programming possible. I think the Symphony season, like the Opera's, is respectable, but the amount I'm going to spend on tickets will be dropping next year, I'm sure. And the same-old same-old programming is not how you reach out to potential new patrons. And I definitely agree with Lisa that SF Symphony should stop patting itself on the back for its adventurous innovative ways.

John Marcher said...


Mute yourself? Absolutely not! But I think constructive criticism is of greater impact, especially coming from one capable of presenting it with a well-formed, informed opinion. Your follow-up post makes a better case for your issues regarding the season and how it's being presented.

Patrick, I agree with you Lisa on the self-congratulations, but I see some elements in the season schedule and MTT's comments that I think I'll write about in depth and post later tonight.

Lisa Hirsch said...

"With bitten tongue" really does imply saying X while thinking Y, though.

Anonymous said...

The piece I really want to hear live is the Shostakovich Twelfth - a work which can fly or sink like a stone; it'll be interesting to hear which - though I'm less than enthused about sitting through a Liszt piano concerto to get to it. Rest of that program seems good, though: I like "Fingal's Cave", a potboiler old enough that it doesn't get played that much any more, and Kurtag is always interesting.