Acclaimed Slovakian conductor Juraj Valčuha makes his conducting debut with the San Francisco Symphony in Bartók’s Suite from The Wooden Prince, Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor featuring French cellist Gautier Capuçon May 29-31 and June 2 at Davies Symphony Hall. A June 1 concert also features Capuçon playing Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, followed by the Orchestra performing Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World. Having led major orchestras throughout Europe and the United States in his relatively young career, Juraj Valčuha is Chief Conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Torino. During 2012-13, he debuts with the New York Philharmonic and the Filarmonica della Scala Milan, and returns to the National Symphony in Washington, D.C., the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, Maggio Musicale Florence, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris. In 2011-12, he conducted a new production of Puccini’s La bohème at Teatro La Fenice Venezia. With his RAI Orchestra he appeared on tour in the “Abu Dhabi Classics” series with Yo-Yo Ma and Evgeni Bozhanov.
Gautier Capuçon made his SFS debut in 2009 with conductor Semyon Bychkov, performing Schumann’s Cello Concerto. Recent highlights include performances with the Munich Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris with Paavo Järvi, London Proms with the Radio France Philharmonic and Myung-Whun Chung, Dresden Philharmonie, a tour with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, appearances with the Bordeaux, Monte-Carlo, Lyon and Lille orchestras, Camerata Athens with Sir Neville Marriner, a trio tour through Italy with Katia Labèque and Victoria Mullova, and a tour with the New Zealand Symphony. His recording of the Dvořák and Herbert cello concertos, released in 2009 with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and Paavo Järvi, was named a Gramophone Editor’s Choice. Additional recordings include the Haydn Cello Concertos, a disc of 20th-century works for cello and violin with his brother Renaud entitled Face à Face, and Schubert’s Trout Piano Quintet, which was hailed as the Disc of the Month by Classic FM. Since 2007 Capuçon has been an Ambassador for the Zegna & Music project, which was founded in 1997 to promote music and its values.
Bartók’s Suite from his lesser known ballet The Wooden Prince saw its SFS premiere in 2005 under conductor David Zinman. Not as widely performed and harmonically diametric from Bartók’s other ballet The Miraculous Mandarin, The Wooden Prince is a stylistic homage to his earlier influences of Debussy, Strauss and Wagner, and uses a large, fortified orchestra including two saxophones. A fellow Hungarian, friend and colleague of Bartók, Zoltán Kodály wrote Dances of Galánta – named after a town where he spent his childhood – for the 80th anniversary of the Budapest Philharmonic Society in 1933. The SFS did not perform the work until 1953 under conductor Ferenc Fricsay.
Dvořák’s last solo concerto, the Cello Concerto in B minor saw its SFS premiere in 1923 under conductor Louis Persinger with Walter V. Ferner as soloist. Using a recurring theme resembling American folk music, it was suggested that Dvořák was heavily influenced by the music of Native Americans and that he used this inspiration in the Cello Concerto.