Tuesday, March 21, 2023

San Francisco Symphony Season Announcement Date: March 28

San Francisco Symphony has announced the date of its season announcement: it's a week from today, on Tuesday, March 28, at 10 a.m. I have a page of predictions of works that might appear at SFS, because they're composed by Esa-Pekka Salonen or a collaborative partner or because Salonen has conducted them elsewhere. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Cast Change Announcement: NY Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra

Conductor Karina Canellakis has withdrawn from some of her upcoming programs because she's expecting a child in May. Here are notes about the conductors who will leading those programs.
  • Jonathon Heyward, New York Philharmonic, April 27-29. The program is as originally scheduled:  Brahms’s Violin Concerto, with Christian Tetzlaff, Zosha Di Castri’s Lineage, and Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra
  • Osmo Vänskä, Philadelphia Orchestra, April 20-22. Perry Study for Orchestra, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24 with Inon Barnatan, Beethoven Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)  
Best wishes to Canellakis for the easiest possible childbirth.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

VFO Beats the VPO

On Saturday night I went to Vallejo to hear the new-ish Vallejo Festival Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Conlin. I'd never heard the orchestra or the conductor before, and I'm ever so happy to report that the concert was exemplary in every way: a well-played, well-conducted, stylistically-appropriate all-Sibelius concert with a really wonderful singer. It was all deeply satisfying. This is why it's good to see whatever you can; you never know when you'll hear a better concert by a regional orchestra than you heard days earlier with a world-famous ensemble.

I did not manage to get one point into my review: this was one of the few programs I've seen where the conductor's and soloist's comments from the stage truly added to the program, owing to the ability of both to connect sincerely and openly with the audience. That is very hard to do, so even more hats off to Thomas Conlin and soprano Katherine Whyte. I'm looking forward to the next Vallejo Festival Orchestra concert, you bet.

A Head-Scratcher

The last time that I attended a program conducted by Christian Thielemann was the 2015 Bayreuth Tristan und Isolde. It was transcendentally beautiful, so stunning that I came out of Act II raving about how gorgeous it had been. I believe I used the phrase "HOLY MOTHER OF GOD" to describe it.

So when Cal Performances announced a three-day series with Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic, I looked over the programs and decided to come to tonight's Mendelssohn and Brahms concert. And hoo boy, it was the worst money I have ever spent. 

The first half of the program was the Hebrides Overture and "Scottish" Symphony. Let me sum this up briefly: Mendelssohn with no charm is no good.

The second half of the program was Brahms's Symphony No. 2, and....it was just bad, fussy and overly controlled, with little sense of the big picture in any of the movements. (That was true of the Mendelssohn as well.) This is the most genial and sunny of the Brahms symphonies, and those qualities were also lacking. Thielemann's conducting was that of a blunt instrument, with little delicacy or grace or subtlety. 

I wonder whether I would have responded to that Tristan as I did if I had been able to see Thielemann, who was, of course, conducting from the mystic abyss, the invisible Bayreuth orchestra pit. I try not to be too influenced by what I am seeing, but Thielemann was really unpleasant to watch, in part because he looked sour and unhappy the entire time, and partly because of his particular vocabulary of movements. As I said to a friend afterward, we've had decades of visual goodness with SFS's music directors, from Blomstedt's attentive courtliness to MTT's energetic precision to Salonen's sheer grace. 

As for the VPO, let me say first that I am wary of getting too specific about the sound of any orchestra playing in Zellerbach. It's a concrete nightmare made half-decent by a Meyer Constellation system, but there's almost always something a little artificial about the sound there. The orchestra sounded...pretty good, but I would not have guessed them to be a legendarily great orchestra. The principal horn played a couple of solos very beautifully and I'd love hear more of him. The flutists were playing regular silver flutes, not the wooden instruments that you can see in some photos of the orchestra. 

The timpanist was oddly retiring or the placement of the timpani made him difficult to hear, or something. I own that I have gotten very used to the playing of SFS's principal timpanist, Edward Stephan, who is assertive and a great presence; it's possible that ten years ago I wouldn't even have noticed that the VPO timpanist wasn't very noticeable.

Thielemann and the VPO elsewhere:

  • Zachary Woolfe, NY Times. Loved the Strauss and is a bit circumspect about the other works.
  • Joshua Kosman, SF Chronicle. Loved the Strauss, thought the Schoenberg awful. "Yet there wasn’t much to savor [in the Schoenberg], as Thielemann drove the orchestra’s string players into a bare-knuckled series of confrontations. Melodies burst across the stage like missile blasts; it was as if any infusion of tenderness or lyricism would be taken as a sign of weakness." That last phrase predicted what last night was like.
  • David Bratman, SFCV. This is very even-handed and the concert didn't deserve even-handed treatment. When you're allegedly one of the greatest orchestras in the world, you should be held to the highest possible standards. See the above: I would have been a lot meaner if I'd been reviewing this program, obviously. I eventually concluded that Thielemann conducted as though he hated the music, the orchestra, the audience, and maybe himself.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Oldie But Goodie, 2018 Edition

I drafted this blog post in January, 2019, so, four years ago. I have no idea why I never published it. So, for your amusement, my look back at 2018:

People are publishing their 2018) best-of lists. As usual, I haven't heard enough new CDs to have opinions, and I attended way fewer concerts than I usually do, owing to a combination of overwork, failure to buy tickets, disinterest in most of the SFS season, and more jujitsu than I'd done in the last few years. Still, I have a few highlights and opinions on important news stories.

Local news story of the year: In an amazing coup, Esa-Pekka Salonen will be the next music director of San Francisco Symphony.

Second biggest local surprise of the year (after E-PS): Nic McGegan to retire after 30-odd years as music director of Philharmonia Baroque.

Local non-story of the year: Two and a half years after the announcement of Nicola Luisotti's departure from San Francisco Opera, there's no new music director in sight.

Favorite local cast changes: Irene Theorin stepping in for Evelyn Herlitzius in the SFO Ring, on almost no notice, and singing the heck out of Brünnhilde; Music Director Designate Salonen stepping into the concerts vacated by MGT, and being Salonen, MDD, improving the program.

Big news (mostly) elsewhere: Abusive behavior resulted in the firings, resignations, or suspensions of James Levine (Met), Daniele Gatti (Royal Concertgebouw....but the Rome Opera hired him not long after, astonishingly), Charles Dutoit (after more than 20 years of stories! was fired from or withdrew from engagements with eight different orchestras, as well as being fired ("stepped down") from the Royal Philharmonic, where he was music director, but....he now has a job in Russia), David Daniels (famed countertenor), William Preucil (teacher; longtime concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra), D. Kern Holman (musicologist), Massimo La Rosa (principal trombone of the Cleveland Orchestra), Stephen Shipps (chair of the string dept. at UMich), organist James David Christie, maybe principal oboist Lian Wang and associate principal trumpet player Matthew Muckey of the NY Philharmonic (the Phil was vague about why they were fired).

Two points about the above list:

1. That's a long list of prominent men.
2. There are more predators out there.

Better big news elsewhere, although....: Lots of conductor turnover, but somehow women still aren't being appointed to many highly visible positions, while some conductors have multiple prestigious appointments. Yes, I'm looking at you, Andris Nelsons, and you, Yannick Nezet-Seguin. There's so much talent out there that double appointments are not necessary or a good idea. I don't believe that even the youngish and energetic can adequately manage a big-budget orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Belated Museum Mondays

Photo of a dress on a mannequin. The mannequin is gold-colored. The dress is sleeveless and strapless, with a bodice of gold cloth flowers. The rest of the dress is floor-length and bell-shaped, very structured and made of gold-embroidered heavy cream fabric. It has a short train. In front, there's a cutout revealing the mannequin's legs and showing the inside of the skirt, which is lined with metallic gold fabric.

Guo Pei Exhibit
Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
September, 2022


Friday, March 03, 2023

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Sibelius in Vallejo

Here's a program of interest to Sibelius fans:

Music From The Land of Midnight Sun
Performed by the Vallejo Festival Orchestra, Soprano Katherine Whyte
Conducted by Maestro Thomas Conlin

Sibelius songs: “Spring is Flying,” “Was it a dream?,” “The Tryst,” “Autumn Night,” “Sigh, Rushes, Sigh,” and “Black Roses”, all for soprano and orchestra

Sibelius, Finlandia

Sibelius, Second Symphony

Saturday, March 11, 2023, 7:30 p.m.
The Empress Theatre, Vallejo Center for the Arts
330 Virginia St, Vallejo, California 94590
Tickets $29 - $97 — Call (707) 552-2400 or Visit EmpressTheatre.org

This is the enterprising conductor and orchestra that performed a Wagner program last year with soprano Othalie Graham. Looking forward to this program!

Stuff I Expect to See in SF

Photo take on a misty day of a bare tree against an abstract, silvery building

Walt Disney Concert Hall Garden
March, 2017
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Between this year's and next year's goings-on at the LA Phil, I would bet a few bucks that we will be seeing works or programs like these in San Francisco sooner or later:

  • Felipe Lara, Double Concerto for Flute and Bass, because Susanna Mälkki is conducting it with SFS Collaborative Partners Claire Chase and esperanza spaulding.
  • Bryce Dessner, Double Concert for Two Pianos, because the composer is a Collaborative Partner
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen, Fanfare, which apparently features Collaborative Partner Pekka Kuuisisto
  • Nico Muhly, Shrink by another Collaborative Partner
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen, Karawane
  • Herbert Blomstedt conducts Schubert 6 and Beethoven 7
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Sibelius violin concerto (Lisa Batiashvili) and John Adams Naive and Sentimental Music....with the San Francisco Symphony, on a weird one-day runout to Los Angeles.
  • MTT conducts Tchaikowski 5 and Stravinsky Petroushka
Also guessing that there's a Ring revival coming at the Paris Opera because Gustavo Dudamel is conducting a well-cast semi-staged Das Rheingold in January, 2024. It's part of the orchestra's celebration of Frank Gehry, architect of Walt Disney Concert Hall, and he's the scenic designer.

And the SFS program feature about Gabriella Smith discloses that "The Symphony will present Breathing Forests [Smith's organ concerto] next season as part of the California Festival: A Celebration of New Music."

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Monday, February 27, 2023

New This Week

I've got a couple of items up at SFCV today:

Come in the near future: a bibliography of everything I read about Tár! And an anecdote or two that didn't make it into the piece, featuring some conductors.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Backstage Protocols

There's been some reporting about changing COVID-19 protocols for performing arts audiences, for example, Joshua Kosman's article about San Francisco Opera retaining its masking requirement, but not much that I have seen about what's happening offstage. That is, how are arts organizations protecting their performers and crew, whether instrumentalists, singers, actors, stage crew, or ushers?

You might remember that earlier in the pandemic, San Francisco Symphony and West Edge Opera both had to cancel a performance because of late-breaking positive COVID tests.

I asked San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony about their current protocols, and here's what these organizations told me. I'm planning to ask around a bit more; many organizations know me from my reviews.

  • San Francisco Opera: "The Company continues to meet with the team of UCSF doctors who have guided us since the beginning of the pandemic. We have testing protocols in place for aerosol generating activities (rehearsals and performances) that are responsive to the community risk level."
  • San Francisco Symphony: "Our current protocols require that musicians receive symptomatic testing, and chorus and vocal soloists are tested prior to each service. Additionally, the San Francisco Symphony requires full vaccination for all musicians and staff to participate in any Symphony-sponsored activities at Davies Symphony Hall, Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall, or any other locations of such activities. Our current protocols were made based on guidance received from the San Francisco Symphony’s Health and Safety Task Force—which includes medical professionals from UCSF and private practices—and the organization remains as nimble as possible and we may adjust protocols in response to new guidance as we receive it."
So...I certainly see some potential gaps here: "responsive to the community risk level" might mean that testing depends on case rates in San Francisco or some larger geographic area. "Symptomatic testing" means that people with asymptomatic cases aren't getting tested. Do wind players generate less aerosolized risk than singers? As expressed, that is the assumption.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

New Music at the NY Phil

David Geffen Hall
Photo courtesy of the NY Philharmonic (I think)

In today's SF Chronicle Datebook, Joshua Kosman speculates about who's next as the LA Philharmonic music director, and like everyone else, reaches no conclusion. He has linked to my own speculation on the subject.

I want to add just one thing to what he says about orchestral innovation elsewhere in the United State:  over the last 14 years, the NY Philharmonic has done more than you might think, if you're not reading orchestra season announcements. 

From the orchestra's web site, here's a bit from Alan Gilbert's bio about his eight years as music director:
Gilbert’s tenure as Music Director at the New York Philharmonic was defined by the expansion and redefinition of the symphony concert experience. In 2010, the Orchestra performed the New York Premiere of Ligeti’s avant-garde opera Le Grand Macabre. In 2012, Gilbert led the Philharmonic 360 performance at the Park Avenue Armory. Gilbert was also responsible for CONTACT! and the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, two new-music series that together unveiled 92 World Premieres.

When Gilbert left the orchestra, the CONTACT! series was in danger of being cancelled (and I think eventually was). Sadly, the NY Times reported that, for all the new music in the series, it didn't reach many people because so many of the premieres were for small ensembles and were performed in small venues.

Here is some information from outgoing music director Jaap van Zweden's bio about his new music efforts:

Highlights from recent Philharmonic seasons include the launch of Project 19, the multiyear initiative marking the centennial of the 19th Amendment with commissions by 19 women composers, including Tania León’s Stride, which was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music; the new, staged production of Schoenberg’s Erwartung and Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle; his first Young People’s Concert; and works by Barber, Beethoven, Bruckner, Philip Glass, Mozart, Steve Reich, Ellen Reid, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Nina C. Young, and more, including the school-age participants in the New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers Program.

Jaap van Zweden’s most recent recording is the 2020 release of the World Premiere of David Lang’s prisoner of the state, following the 2019 release of Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth,

Yeah, this isn't on the scale of what MTT and Esa-Pekka Salonen did and are doing at their respective orchestras, but these efforts at the NY Phil were certainly forward movement from the days of Mehta, Masur, and Maazel. 

Previously: Speculation: LA Philharmonic's Next Music Director

Friday, February 17, 2023



Photo of Davies Symphony Hall, a three-story concert hall seen from outside. The second and third stories have wide bands of floor-to-ceiling windows and the lobbies on both floors are brightly lit from within.

Davies Symphony Hall

If you read my blog, or if you've been following the current contract negotiations, you know that SFS has many vacancies, in the winds, the brass, and the strings. I'll note as well that the late Principal Keyboard player Robin Sutherland has not been replaced and neither has former Chorus Master Ragnar Bohlin. I think that there are a couple of endowments supporting the principal keyboard position, but I need to ask; if so, they're restricted and that's what they're supposed to be used for.

The openings are being filled, slowly: Rainer Eudeikis is the new principal cello, and Matthew Griffith is the new associate principal and E-flat clarinet. The second round (!) of principal flute auditions is finishing up this month.

But there are two new auditions listed on the audition page:
  • Principal horn, with auditions to be held in June and July. This would be Robert Ward's position.
  • Second bassoon, with auditions to be held in April and June. 
I've got to assume that Ward is  retiring. He will be missed. (Previously mentioned: the associate concertmaster position from which Nadya Tichman stepped down at the beginning of the current season.)

NB: Steven Dibner is associate principal, not second bassoon. He is not retiring, which I know because I asked him.

Friday Photo

Photo of a graph display take at SFSoundBox. Horizontally symmetric pattern based on a Renaissance painting. Elements include a lute's fretboard and a feathered hat, on a red background.

Photo of a graphic display take at SFSoundBox. Horizontally symmetric pattern based on a Renaissance painting. Elements include a lute's fretboard and a feathered hat, on a red background.
February, 2023


Thursday, February 16, 2023

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Opera San José Falstaff

I'll be seeing Falstaff on Sunday. The reviews are good and it's a wonderful opera.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Speculation: LA Philharmonic's Next Music Director

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch
March, 2017

First, I've updated my previous post on Gustavo Dudamel and the NY Philharmonic with more links, mostly to the NY Times.

With his departure, there will be an opening at the LA Philharmonic, a great orchestra with a forward-looking administration, solid finances, and one of the best (and most architecturally marvelous) concert halls in the country. The names that are being bandied around are:
  • Susanna Mälkki, the orchestra's principal guest conductor until 2022.
  • Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, who was an associate and assistant conductor of the LA Phil and has a good ongoing relationship with the orchestra.
  • David Robertson, whose affinity for new music would fit well with the orchestra's ongoing commitment to expanding the repertory.
I'll note that none of these three is an obvious candidate to slip easily into Dudamel's role as an educator working with youth. Also, as a native Spanish speaker, Dudamel could communicate very directly and naturally with Southern California's large Spanish-speaking population. If having a Spanish-speaking music director is a factor, these conductors might be under consideration: 
  • Lina Gonzalez-Granados, from Colombia.
  • Rafael Payare, Venezuelan like Dudamel.
  • Pablo Heras-Casado, who is Spanish.
If you're thinking about the age and experience levels of the first two, well, LA has a history of taking a chance on young conductors who don't have a 20- or 30-year track record. Zubin Mehta took the job at 26, Esa-Pekka Salonen was offered the job at 31, Dudamel became music director at 26.

UPDATE, February 12: See also: New Music at the NY Phil


Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Music Director Updates


  • Gustavo Dudamel appointed music and artistic director of the NY Philharmonic, effective 2026-27.
  • Lahav Shani will be the next music director of the Munich Philharmonic, leaving the Rotterdam Philharmonic in 2026.
  • Sir Mark Elder to depart from the Hallé Orchestra as of approximately Fall, 2024.

A reminder that Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has been quite clear that she's not interested in being a music director at this time, though it's also the case that the LA position becomes available three years from now. She could have held her position at the CBSO indefnitely! A more likely appointment to the LA Philharmonic is principal guest conductor Susanna Mälkki.

I would expect an announcement about Chicago fairly soon.

Open positions:

  • Hallé Orchestra, when Sir Mark Elder leaves.
  • Rottedam Philharmonic, when Lahav Shani leaves
  • Los Angeles Philharmonic, as of 2026-27, when Gustavo Dudamel leaves for NY
  • Berlin State Opera
  • Indianapolis Symphony, where Jun Märkel is artistic advisor 
  • Sarasota Orchestra, following the death of Bramwell Tovey
  • Seattle Symphony, following Thomas Dausgaard's abrupt departure in January, 2022
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where Riccardo Muti leaves at the end of 2022-23
  • Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra: open in 2024
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic, when Jaap van Zweden leaves in 2024.
  • Oakland Symphony, owing to the death of Michael Morgan in August, 2021.
  • Teatro Regio Turin: Open now with departure of Gianandrea Noseda. The Teatro Regio has not named a new music director.
  • Minnesota Opera: Michael Christie has left. MO has not named a new music director. 
  • Virginia Symphony: JoAnn Falletta is now laureate, but nsuccessor has been named.
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • Marin Symphony, at the end of 2022-23.
  • Vienna Staatsoper, when Philippe Jordan leaves at the end of 2025.
Conductors looking for jobs (that is, as of the near future, or now, they do not have a posting): 
  • Christian Thielemann
  • Osmo Vänskä
  • Alasdair Neale (Not currently seeking a new position)
  • Ben Simon (Not currently seeking a new position)
  • Susanna Mälkki, who leaves the Helsinki Philharmonic at the end of 2023-24
  • MGT (apparently does not want a full-time job, as of early 2022)
  • Krzysztof Urbański
  • Miguel Harth-Bedoya
  • Lionel Bringuier
  • Sian Edwards
  • Ingo Metzmacher
  • Jac van Steen
  • Mark Wigglesworth
  • David Robertson
  • Peter Oundjian
  • Philippe Auguin
  • Kwame Ryan
  • Ilan Volkov
  • Aleksandr Markovic
  • Lothar Koenigs
  • Henrik Nanasi
  • Philippe Jordan, eventually
And closed:
  • New York Philharmonic, with the appointment of Gustavo Dudamel. Note that Jaap van Zweden leaves in 2024 and there will be a two-season gap until Dudamel arrives.
  • Helsinki Philharmonic: Jukka-Pekka Saraste to succeed Susanna Mälkki.
  • San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, with the appointment of Cosette Justo Valdés.
  • Staatskapelle Dresden, with the appointment of Daniele Gatti.
  • Seoul Philharmonic appoints Jaap van Zweden.
  • Royal Opera appoints Jakub Hrůša to succeed Antonio Pappano in September, 2025.
  • Garry Walker: now full-time music director of Opera North
  • Jun Markl: music director of the Malaysian Philharmonic
  • Juanjo Mena: music director of the Cincinnati May Festival
  • Eric Jacobsen is the new music director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
  • Andrés Orozco-Estrada is now music director of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (not to be confused with the Vienna Philhamonic).
  • James Gaffigan appointed Music Director of the Komische Oper in Berlin, succeeding Henrik Nanasi, who left several years ago. 
  • Royal Stockholm Philharmonic: Ryan Bancroft is chief conductor designate. He starts in 2023-24.
  • Anja Bihlmaier is the new chief conductor of the Residentie Orchestra, The Hague.
  • Dalia Stasevska is the new chief conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra.
  • Daniela Candillari named principal conductor of OTSL.
  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, where Klaus Mäkelä, now their artistic partner, becomes chief conductor in 2027.
  • Jonathon Heyward becomes music director of the Baltimore Symphony, succeeding Marin Alsop. Baltimore is not in great shape; they've had terrible management and terrible financial problems, although they've also hired Mark Hanson, who is known to be competent.
  • Thomas Søndergård becomes music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, succeeding Osmo Vänskä. (The NY Times can manage the umlauts in Vänskä, but not the diacriticals in Søndergård. C'mon, you can do better than that.) Two interesting things about Søndergård: he was a timpanist, unusual among conductors, who tend to be pianists; he married his partner, a baritone, less than two weeks ago. Me, I'm wondering whether he was worried that Obergefell might be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, given Justice Thomas's threat in Dobbs.
  • Michigan Opera Theater: new principal conductor is Daniela Candillari.
  • Teatro Comunale, Bologna: Oksana Lyniv becomes music director.
  • Atlanta Symphony: Nathalie Stutzmann to succeed Robert Spano in 2022-23.
  • Carlos Kalmar is now Director of Orchestral and Conducting Programs and Principal Conductor of the Cleveland Institute of Musicas well as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago. 
  • Houston Synphony: Juraj Valčuha to succeed Andrés Orozco-Estrada.
  • Opera de Paris: Gustavo Dudamel succeeds Philippe Jordan.
  • Melbourne Symphony: Jaime Martin becomes chief conductor in 2022. Sir Andrew Davis left at the end of 2019. 
  • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra: Kazuki Yamada replaces MGT when she leaves at the end of 2021-22
  • London Symphony Orchestra: Sir Antonio Pappano becomes Chief Conductor Designate in September, 2023, Chief Conductor the following year.
  • Fort Worth Symphony: Robert Spano to succeed Miguel Harth-Bedoya.
  • Oregon Symphony: David Danzmayr succeeds Carlos Kalmar at the beginning of the 2021-22 season.
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Maxim Emelyanychev has succeeded Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre de Paris: Klaus Mäkelä to succeed Daniel Harding
  • Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Rafael Payare has succeeded Kent Nagano.
  • Richmond Symphony: Valentina Peleggi succeeds Steven Smith.
  • Singapore Symphony: Hans Graf succeeded Lan Shui.
  • BBC National Orchestra of Wales: Ryan Bancroft succeeded Thomas Søndergård
  • BRSO hires Sir Simon Rattle to succeed the late Mariss Jansons, effective 2023.

Dudamel to NY Philharmonic

Gustavo Dudamel
Photo courtesy of NY Philharmonic

Gustavo Dudamel will be the next music and artistic director of the New York Philharmonic, succeeding Jaap van Zweden. Here's the announcement that just landed:

We are thrilled to announce today that Gustavo Dudamel will join the NY Phil as Music and Artistic Director in the 2026–27 season, serving as Music Director Designate during the 2025–26 season. Dudamel will become part of a storied legacy that includes Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini, and Leonard Bernstein. 

“I am grateful to the musicians and leadership of the New York Philharmonic as we embark on this new and beautiful journey together,” said Dudamel. “As the great poet Federico García Lorca said, ‘Every step we take on earth brings us to a new world.’ I gaze with joy and excitement at the world that lies before me in New York City. All of us are united in our belief that culture creates a better world, and that music is a fundamental right. I look forward to the work ahead.” 

More gushing information at the NY Phil web site

His commute to Paris will be half the length, and now the LA Phil will choose a music director to succeed him. (Do not look to the north, please. You had him for 17 years, right?)

In the news:

  • NY Phil press release
  • Javier C. Hernández, NY Times. "Gustavo Dudamel, Star Maestro, to Leave L.A. for New York Philharmonic."
  • Zachary Woolfe, NY Times. "Will Dudamel Be New York's New Bernstein?" Is that the right question here? Regarding reactive appointments, Alex Ross made the same point when Jaap van Zweden was appointed to the NY Phil. I will also stick my neck out far enough to say that the living conductor who most resembles Bernstein is Michael Tilson Thomas.
  • Justin Davidson, Vulture
  • Joshua Barone, NY Times. "Gustavo Dudamel: An Introduction in 10 Recordings." (The only one I know is Adams, Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?, which is fine.)
  • Javier C. Hernández, NY Times. "A Maestro at the Crossroads."
  • James Barron, NY Times. "Can Gustavo Dudamel's Star Power Boost the Philharmonic?"
  • Mark Swed, LA Times. "Dudamel Transformed LA. That's Why NY Poached Him."
One of the things I'm struck by, looking at the list of U.S. orchestra openings and appointments, is how few music directors at the large-budget groups are from the U.S. It's not as though American conductors are less talented than than European and South American peers.

Girls of the Golden West, Redux


Davone Tines and Julia Bullock
Girls of the Golden West
Photo: Corey Weaver/Courtesy of San Francisco Opera

The most recent - probably the last - revision of John Adams's Girls of the Golden West was performed the other week at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I did not see it, but here are some reports.
Previously: my media round-up of the November, 2017 San Francisco Opera premiere.

Monday, February 06, 2023

Belated Friday Photo

Photo. A small strip of sandy shoreline at the bottom of the photo, shallow water in 80% of the rest of the photo, with a line of small brownish wading birds on the shore and a few in flight and about to land. There are a couple of white wading birds mixed in on the shore.

Godwits, on shore and in the air, with a couple of American avocets
Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, Alameda, CA
December, 2022


Museum Mondays

Photo of a child's toy. A white Ferris wheel with toys dangling from it where there would be gondolas for passengers.

Child's toy
Museum of International Folk Art
Santa Fe, NM
August, 2019


Belated Museum Mondays


Photo of a knitted or crocheted artwork. Squares in various shades are knitted or sewn together to make patterns in shades of brown, tan, beige, black, and white. The work is mounted on a green background.

Museum of International Folk Art
Santa Fe, NM
August, 2019

The Man Who Wasn't There


Hand-colored photo postcard of the War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building
Collection of Lisa Hirsch

San Francisco Opera's 2023-24 season, their 101st, has now been announced, and the company also released the names of everyone who will participate in the June, 2023, gala centennial concert. It's quite a line-up!

Conductors: Music Director Eun Sun Kim, former Music Director Sir Donald Runnicles, former Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers

Soloists include:

Sopranos: Karita Mattila, Ailyn Pérez, Patricia Racette, Nina Stemme, Heidi Stober, Adela Zaharia

Mezzo-sopranos: Susan Graham, Daniela Mack

Tenors: Lawrence Brownlee, Michael Fabiano, Brandon Jovanovich, Russell Thomas

Baritones: Lucas Meachem, Brian Mulligan

Bass-Baritone: Christian Van Horn

The wording "soloists include" means that there might be additions, which would be lovely. Not much in the way of basses there! And a raft of singers will be in town for the summer season who aren't listed there. Some singers who've been important to the company in the past aren't listed. I remember some unexpected appearances at the 1996 Gala concert that re-opened the opera house after renovations and also one from the Mansouri Gala a few years later (Joan Sutherland in a non-singing role!). 

But between the centennial season, the gala concert, and next season, I'm struck by a significant absence: former Music Director Nicola Luisotti. I was certain that he'd be conducting something this season, and was truly surprised that he's not on next season or in the Gala. A check of his schedule did reveal that in July of this year, he'll be conducting a triple-cast production of Turandot, directed by (gulp) Robert Wilson, whose productions are demanding. So very likely June will be devoted to rehearsals for that, and Luisotti isn't available. I'm sure he'll be back at some point, given his position in the recent history of the company; maybe it'll be for that Bohème with Pene Pati that Matthew Shilvock mentioned at the opening night concert last year.

Everest: An Immersive Experience

Rob Hall, Doug Hansen, Beck Weathers, Jan Arnold

I reviewed Opera Parallèle's Everest: An Immersive Experience, for SFCV. Here's the media roundup. 

Sunday, February 05, 2023

emergency shelter intake form at San Francisco Sypmphony


Photo. Three singers, two men in informal clothing and one woman in a gown, standing in front of an orchestra, reading music from music stands and singing.

The Chorus of Inconvenient Statistics
Photo: Kristen Loken, care of San Francisco Symphony
Official caption:
Edwin Outwater conducts the SF Symphony, Conrad Tao, Gabriel Kahane, Alicia Hall Moran, Kristen Toedtman, Holcombe Waller, Community Music Center Choir, and Skywatchers Ensemble in a performance of emergency shelter intake form at Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday, February 2, 2023. Photo credit: Kristen Loken.

Somewhat unusually, I reviewed San Francisco Symphony for the San Francisco Chronicle the other day. This is my third review for the Chron since fall, 2014. Joshua Kosman is available almost all of the time, and his usual backup is Steven Winn, who was a critic for the Chron for many years.

This was quite a program, with Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F (Conrad Tao, piano) paired with Gabriel Kahane's emergency shelter intake form. The latter has been described as a song cycle and as an oratorio, and I went with oratorio, given the forces involved and the give-and-take between the mezzo soloist Alicia Hall Moran and the Chorus of Inconvenient Statistics.

I admit to being a little surprised by the pairing, but eventually settled on "works crossing genres," considering that Kahane's music is pop-, Broadway-, folk-, and blues-inflected, while Gershwin definitely blended genres. Tao's performance was spectacularly good, and because I saw the program twice - I had a subscription ticket and my partner also went Friday - I can report that Friday night he played and sang an encore, Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life," which was fabulous. I am now extremely sorry that I missed Tao's SoundBox program last month.

There are a few things that I could not squeeze into my review; the Chron has a fairly strict word limit, in my experience, and I did my best to stick to it. (My SFCV reviews have ranged from 650 words to 1200 words, and they've never dinged me on length.) Maybe I should have asked for another fifty to one hundred words? Here's what didn't make it in:

  • Somewhere along the way, I cut the phrase "Tom Lehrer-esque" to describe the hilarious "certainly we all can agree". I mentioned this on Twitter and Kahane said that he thought of the song as an homage to a dear friend, now deceased. I gotta say that knowing Kahane's demographic and that of father, pianist/conductor Jeffrey Kahane, I bet that there was Lehrer in the household. Okay, turns out that I am privileged to introduce the Kahane family to Tom Lehrer.
  • I know that a couple of the songs sounded influenced by minimalism; there are significant ostinatos, etc.
  • There was gorgeous solo playing from Robert Ward (French horn) and Mark Inouye (trumpet). In the third song, there is a big French horn solo at the start, and the second time around I realized that it picked up on melody in the second song.
  • Keyboard player Marc Shapiro worked very hard and very brilliantly, way at the back and alternating between celesta and piano.
  • Kahane's text-setting is really good.
  • I wish I'd squeezed in something about the many times the words reflect the heartless impersonality and brutality of the miserable system we have for providing even the barest of bones of housing to the unhoused. emergency shelter intake form is utterly heartbreaking, and I should have included these points.
  • My partner, the public health researcher, wishes that there had been more inconvenient statistics.
  • Lisa Hirsch, SF Chronicle
  • Patrick Vaz, The Reverberate Hills
  • Simon Cohen, SFCV. I'm interested to see that the writer uses a lede that I abandoned after three sentences: a comment on the utter failure of SF to provide adequate housing for those in need and how that plays out in Civic Center.

Monday, January 30, 2023

MTT Here and There

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, gave concerts in the last few weeks with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and SFS. One of the programs (Debussy, Messiaen, Villa Lobos) was the same at the both orchestras. Jean-Yves Thibaudet played piano in both the Messiaen and Debussy Fantasy. Here's some of the reporting.
  • Joshua Kosman, SF Chronicle (Debussy, Messiaen, Villa Lobos in SF). Here's why we heard essentially no Messiaen from MTT over the years: "Where [JK] and other listeners heard vibrant orchestral colors and rapturous expressiveness, Thomas claimed to detect cheap theatrical tricks, easy to pull off and not really worth the effort." The first and only previous performances of Trois Petites Liturgies with SFS were in 1979, with Jeffrey Kahane as pianist, conducted by.....Michael Tilson Thomas.
  • Richard S. Ginell, SFCV (Debussy, Messiaen, Villa Lobos in LA)
  • Richard S. Ginell, SFCV (Mahler 9 in LA)
  • Alex Ross, The New Yorker (Both concerts in LA. The illustration gave me a bit of a start because MTT's glasses are blue, his favorite color, not red.)


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Tip of the Day

I've discovered that you can often find scores of new music on line at the publisher's web site.

For example:

San Francisco Opera 2023-24

War Memorial Opera House at Dusk
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

SF Opera announced its 2023-24 season the other day; herewith the lineup, with some comments. Parts of this were known in advance because SFO announced the three contemporary works in the season announcement for 2022-23, and they have indicated a plan for MD Eun Sun Kim to conduct one Verdi and one Wagner opera each season, leading up to an eventual Ring.

Fall, 2023:

Opening night gala concert, conducted by Music Director Kim, with tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak.


Verdi, Il Trovatore. Kim/Arturo Chacon-Cruz, Angel Blue, George Petean, Anita Rachvelishvili. David McVicar production, seen here in 2009. Classic barn (and baby) burner. I see two potential issues: Chacon-Cruz doesn't strike me as having the right kind of voice for Manrico, and Rachvelishvili has been cancelling a lot owing to some health problems. This is 8 months out, so we'll see.


Mason Bates (c), Mark Campbell (l), The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Michael Christie/John Moore (Steve Jobs), Sasha Cooke (Laureen Powell Jobs), Bille Bruley (Woz), Wei Wu (Chino Otogawa). No announcement of who is singing Chrisann Brennan, Jobs's girlfriend and the mother of his daughter Lisa. I saw this in 2017 at its Santa Fe Opera premiere and liked the music a lot. The libretto had big problems: the incredibly embarrassing and racist-trop role of Otogawa, advising Jobs from beyond the grave while being a "magic Bhuddist" and the poorly-written women's roles. An SFO co-commission.


Wagner, Lohengrin. Kim/Simon O'Neill (Lohengrin), Julie Adams (Elsa), Brian Mulligan (Telramund), Judit Kutasi (Ortrud), Kristinn Sigmundsson  (King Henry). David Alden production previously seen twice at Covent  Garden; not the production used in 2009 2012. My friend Mark Berry reviewed it at CG and liked it better the second time under the revival director, who is also directing this revival.

Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels (c), libretto by Rhiannon Giddens, Omar. John Kennedy/Jamez McCorkle (Omar), Taylor Raven (Fatima), Brittany Rene (Julie), Norman Garrett (Abdul and Abe), Daniel Okulitsch (Johnson and  Owen), Barry Banks (Auctioneer and Taylor). SFO co-commission.


Donizetti, L'elisir d'amore. Ramon Tebar/Pene Pati (Nemorino), Slávka Zámečníková (Adina), David Bižić (Belcore), Renato Girolami (Dulcamara). Production new to SFO, by Daniel Slater.


Summer 2024:


Mozart, Die Zauberflote. Kim/Amitai Pati (Tamino), Christina Gansch (Pamina), Lauri Vasar (Papageno), Kwangchul Youn (Sarastro), Anna Simińska (Queen of the Night), Zhengyi Bai (Monastatos). No Papagena announced. Production new to SF, by Barrie Kosky, set in the 1920s and using a lot of animation. It's been done in LA and Chicago and is popular.


Kaija Saariaho (c), Sofi Oksanen and Aleksi Barrière (l); Innocence. Clément Mao-Takacs/Ruxandra Donose, Claire de Sevigne, Rod GIlfry, Miles Mykkanen, Kristinn Sigmundsson, Lucy Shlton, Vilma Jaa. US premiere, SFO co-production. Innocence got excellent reviews from Zachary Woolfe (NY Times) and Alex Ross (TNY). "Sung in English, Finnish, Czech, Romanian, French, Swedish, German, Spanish and Greek with English supertitles." I've been looking forward to this ever since Matthew Shilvock said, at the public annual meeting about five years ago, that the company had commissioned a "very interesting woman composer." My only disappointment about this is that Susanna Mälkki, who led the premiere, isn't conducting at SFO.


Handel, Partenope. Christopher Moulds/Julie Fuchs (Partenope), Daniela Mack (Rosmira), Carlo Vistoli (Arsace), Nicholas Tamagna (Armindo), Alek Shrader (Emilio), Hadleigh Adams (Ormonte). The same Christopher Alden production seen in 2014; a revival was canceled owing to the pandemic. The music is great but I kinda hated this overly-jokey production.


Other commentary: I'm wondering if this is the first season with productions by brothers. I like this season, because what's not to like about an eight-opera season with three new operas? (And five new operas over two seasons!) I will say that I'd hoped to go another decade without seeing The Magic Flute, but I'm intrigued by the Kosky production. I'm not much of a fan of Elisir, but I am a fan of the adorable and golden-voiced Pene Pati. It's been too long since the last Trovatore (2009) and there just hasn't been much Wagner since the departure of Donald Runnicles (Ring, 2011 and 2018; Lohengrin (2012); Meistersinger, 2015). It's great that Kim will be conducting Wagner annually.