SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY – 14th Season with Michael Tilson Thomas

2008-09 Season opens September 3rd

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The 97th Season of the San Francisco Symphony opens September 3 in a Gala Concert with Yefim Bronfman performing CONCERTO FOR PIANO no. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. The program will also include Chabrier’s JOYEUSE MARCHE (“Marche Française”) and Bernstein’s SYMPHONIC DANCES from SYMPHONIC DANCES from “West Side Story”. The season concludes with Semi-Staged Performances of Gilbert & Sullivan’s beloved operetta, IOLANTHE.


The San Francisco Symphony’s long history of affirming the importance of new music continues during the 2008-09 season with two SFS commissions, two world premieres, two U.S. premieres and 23 SFS premieres. Michael Tilson Thomas will lead the Orchestra in the world premiere of THE B-SIDES by Bay Area electronica/classical composer Mason Bates. “The B-Sides” is a play on pop music’s way of referring to the more alternative (or less popular) songs on the B-side of a record. According to Bates, these five short orchestral snapshots are “informed by the grooves of electronica as well as the modern masters of orchestral sonority, and might also be said to inhabit the ‘flipside’ of the symphonic world – a place where drum ‘n bass rhythms meet fluorescent orchestral textures.”


The SFS and MTT also perform the U.S. premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Violin Concerto No. 2, in tempus präsens, featuring violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. Ms. Gubaidulina, a native of the former Soviet Union, now resides in Hamburg, Germany and was supported early on by Dmitri Shostakovich. Her work is marked by the use of unusual instrumental combinations and tunings, many of them informed by her interest in rare Russian, Caucasian, and Asian folk and ritual instruments. She has been the recipient of many prestigious awards including the Prix de Monaco in 1987 and the Living Composer Prize of the Cannes Classical Awards in 2003. She has received commissions from the Berlin, Helsinki, and Holland Festivals, the Library of Congress, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and many other organizations and ensembles. Gubaidulina’s residency will include two weeks of subscription concerts, each featuring a premiere of one of her works.

Several renowned conductors admired by San Francisco audiences will return to the Davies Symphony Hall podium in the 2008-09 season. Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts the world premiere of Steven R. Gerber’s Music in Dark Times, as well as Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 featuring Yevgeny Sudbin, and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with bass-baritone John Relyea and the SFS Chorus in March. American conductor James Conlon, currently Music Director of the Los Angeles Opera, the Ravinia Festival, and the Cincinnati May Festival, returns to the SFS in March to conduct the Orchestra in Berlioz’s Le Corsaire Overture, Liszt’s Concerto for Piano no 2 in A major, S 125 with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and his own arrangement of Shostakovich’s Suite from Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.


Pianist Lang Lang will return to the SFS in the first week of December 2008 for a week of concerts and events, highlighted by his subscription week performances of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Orchestra under the baton of guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth. As part of the SFS Great Performers series, Lang Lang will perform both a solo recital and a chamber music concert with members of the SFS and Chinese folk musicians. Committed to the importance of music education, Lang Lang will make several visits to San Francisco schools as well as participate in an educational event at Davies Symphony Hall for an audience of Bay Area high school andmiddle school music students. The twenty-five year old pianist has been a returning guest of the SFS since 2000 and last performed with the Orchestra in January 2006, also under the direction of Mark Wigglesworth.

ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER, Violinist and HILARY HAHN, Violinist

Distinguished guest artists returning to perform with the SFS during the 2008-09 season include: Martha Argerich, Emanuel Ax, Leon Fleisher, Stephen Hough, Lang Lang, Garrick Ohlsson, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yuja Wang, and Katia and Marielle Labèque, pianists; Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Leila Josefowicz, and Anne-Sophie Mutter, violins; Dawn Upshaw, Elza van den Heever, Erin Wall, Lisa Saffer and Laura Claycomb, sopranos; Anthony Dean Griffey, tenor; James Morris and John Relyea, bass-baritone.


The San Francisco Symphony’s 2008-09 season offers a twelve-concert Great Performers Series and several special concerts. The series begins in October with the first of four recitals by pianist András Schiff, in which he finishes a complete cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, co-presented with San Francisco Performances. In December, pianist Lang Lang is featured in recital and chamber music concerts. Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and pianist Ivary Ilja perform a program with music by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Medtner in January.

In addition to the artists and visiting orchestras featured on the 2008-09 Great Performers Series, the San Francisco Symphony presents several special concerts including a Halloween night screening of the 1925 classic film THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA starring Lon Chaney and with organist Dennis James providing the haunting accompaniment. There will also be a special organ recital saluting the 25th anniversary of the Davies Symphony Hall Ruffatti organ by Paul Jacobs in April.

STÉPHANE DENÈVE, Conductor and FABIO LUISI, Conductor

Conductor debuts include Stéphane Denève appears with the SFS for the first time in April 2009. Currently in his third season as Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Denève will lead the SFS in the first SFS performance of BLUE CATHEDRAL by Jennifer Higdon. In October, Fabio Luisi, the new Chief Conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle, the world’s oldest orchestra, will conduct the SFS and guest violinist Joshua Bell in Ravel’s TZIGANE and Saint-Saens’ INTRODUCTION and RONDO CAPRICCIOSO for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 28. Also to be performed at these concerts are R. Strauss’ DON JUAN and the first SFS performances of SYMPHONY NO. 4 in C major by Franz Schmidt.

For more information and to purchase tickets on-line: SF SYMPHONY SUBSCRIPTIONS.

Visit Seán on YouTube: Lorena Feijóo – A Look at “Giselle” with Seán Martinfield

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at:



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