Festival program is inspired by Shakespearean and literary themes, dance, and the Baroque
Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, whose compelling command of the repertoire ranges from early music through core classical works and new music, returns to the SF Symphony to lead the Orchestra and Chorus with violinist Leila Josefowicz and guest vocal soloists in a two-week Mendelssohn-Thomas Adès festival October 3-13 at Davies Symphony Hall. The festival’s musical focus explores and juxtaposes the works of the two composers in orchestral and chamber settings of music influenced by Shakespeare, dance, literature, and the artists’ mutual fascination with the Baroque. Thomas Adès performs two of his own works and music by Ravel at the piano and harpsichord in an October 3 chamber concert with SF Symphony musicians.
Week 1: October 3-6
The festival’s opening orchestral program, beginning October 3 at 2 pm, features the first SFS performances of Adès’ Three Studies from Couperin and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3, Scottish on a program with Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, performed by Leila Josefowicz. Illuminating Mendelssohn and Adès’ shared enthusiasm for the Baroque, the program also includes the first SFS performances of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Overture and Passacaille from Armide (1686).
Also on October 3, at 8 pm, Thomas Adès will perform two of his compositions, Piano Quintet, and Sonata da Caccia for Oboe, Horn, and Harpsichord, at the keyboard with members of the Orchestra in a chamber concert at Davies Symphony Hall. Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp and Ravel’s Chansons madécasses, with Adès on piano, round out the program.
Week 2: October 10-13
In a program inspired by William Shakespeare and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heras-Casado conducts the SF Symphony and Chorus with a cast of soloists including soprano Audrey Luna (Ariel), mezzo-soprano Charlotte Hellekant, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, tenor Alek Shrader, and baritone Rod Gilfry in the Orchestra’s first performances of scenes from The Tempest, Adès’ acclaimed second opera (his first was Powder Her Face). Luna sang the role of Ariel at the Metropolitan Opera in 2012 under Adès’ direction. The program also includes Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the first SFS performances of Die erste Walpurgisnacht.
Hellekant’s SFS debut and only previous performances were in 1992 under Conductor Laureate and then-Music Director Herbert Blomstedt, performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. Luna, Leonard, Shrader and Gilfry will all make their SFS debuts with these performances.
About Pablo Heras-Casado
Pablo Heras-Casado enjoys an unusually varied conducting career, encompassing the great symphonic and operatic repertoire, historically-informed performance, and cutting-edge contemporary scores. In 2011 he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York, beginning a four-year term, including an annual concert season at Carnegie Hall. He made his first conducting appearances with the SF Symphony in 2010, conducting the music of Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Liszt, and Kurtág. He returned in 2012 and 2013, with programs encompassing Stravinsky, Prokofiev, de Falla, Ravel, Liszt, Magnus Lindberg, and Luigi Dallapiccola.
In the 2013-14 season, Heras-Casado debuts with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, and Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, as well as at the Metropolitan Opera, where he conducts Verdi’s Rigoletto. He returns to Carnegie Hall and the Caramoor Festival with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the New Year’s concerts of Staatskapelle Berlin. Other highlights, in addition to his performances with the San Francisco Symphony, include engagements with Münchner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Ensemble Intercontemporain. He also tours with Freiburger Barockorchester and guest conducts a series of concert and opera performances at the Mariinsky Theatre.
This month, Harmonia Mundi releases Heras-Casado’s recording of Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Freiburger Barockorchester. A second album, featuring Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2, Lobgesang, follows in March 2014. Also this fall is the release of a disc on Sony featuring Plácido Domingo in baritone arias by Verdi with the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, conducted by Heras-Casado.
Recognized also for his work with contemporary music, Heras-Casado is a laureate of the 2007 Lucerne Festival conductors’ forum. In summer 2013, he returned for the third time to co-direct the festival’s Academy at the personal invitation of Pierre Boulez.
Heras-Casado is the holder of the Medalla de Honor of the Rodriguez Acosta Foundation, and in February 2012 was awarded with the Golden Medal of Merit by the Council of Granada, his hometown, of which he is also an Honorary Ambassador. His 2011 DVD recording of Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny from Teatro Real received the Diapason d’Or.
About Thomas Adès
Renowned as both a composer and a performer, Adès works regularly with the world’s leading opera companies and festivals. He has conducted the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC, Finnish and Danish Radio Symphony Orchestras, the London Sinfonietta, and many others. The SF Symphony co-commissioned and performed his work Polaris with original video from Tal Rosner during its 2011-12 Centennial season. The Orchestra and Leila Josefowicz performed Adès’ Violin Concerto (Concentric Paths) in 2009.
Last season, Adès made his Metropolitan Opera debut both as a conductor and as a composer, leading the Met premiere of his 2004 masterpiece, The Tempest, in a new production by Robert Lepage that was also seen internationally as part of “The Met Live in HD” cinemacast series. He also led the Boston Symphony in performances of his piano concerto In Seven Days and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – both with Kirill Gerstein – as well as Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony and Luonnotar with soprano Dawn Upshaw. During the 2013/2014 season, Adès returns to the Boston Symphony to conduct a program of Mendelssohn, Ives, Franck, and his own Polaris.
Adès’ first opera, Powder Her Face, has been performed all around the world, was televised by Channel Four, and is available on a DVD and an EMI CD. Most of the composer’s music has been recorded by EMI, with whom Adès has a contract as composer, pianist and conductor. Recently released to outstanding reviews, The Tempest is also available on an EMI CD. The disc was awarded the prestigious Diapason d’Or de l’année and Adès won the 2010 Classical Brit Award for Composer of the Year.
Adès’ most recent works include In Seven Days, a collaboration with video artist Tal Rosner, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and London’s Southbank Centre, and Lieux Retrouvés, a work for cello and piano written for Steven Isserlis and commissioned by Aldeburgh Festival and Wigmore Hall. Adès’ music has attracted numerous awards and prizes, including the prestigious Grawemeyer Award (in 2000, for Asyla), of which he is the youngest ever recipient.
About Leila Josefowicz
An outstanding advocate and champion of contemporary music for the violin, Leila Josefowicz is a frequent collaborator of several leading composers, and works with orchestras and conductors at the highest level around the world. She has also been awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, joining prominent scientists, writers and musicians who have made unique contributions to contemporary life.
Violin concertos have been written especially for Leila Josefowicz by Colin Matthews, Steven Mackey and Esa-Pekka Salonen, while John Adams and Luca Francesconi have recently been commissioned to write new pieces for her. The latter will be given its world premiere by Josefowicz in February 2014 with Susanna Mälkki and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Salonen concerto was first performed by Josefowicz with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by the composer, before subsequent performances throughout Europe and North America. She also gave the premiere of Matthews’ Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra before performing the piece with the Orchestre national de Lyon and the BBC Symphony and Finnish Radio Symphony orchestras.
During the 2013-14, season Leila Josefowicz performs John Adams’ Violin Concerto with the Sydney Symphony and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer. Elsewhere, she appears with the BBC Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony and Toronto Symphony orchestras, the Orchestra della Scala, and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai. In addition to her San Francisco Symphony performances, Josefowicz also has engagements this season with the Chicago Symphony and Baltimore Symphony orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and National Symphony Orchestra. Josefowicz also appears in recital at London’s Milton Court Concert Hall and Handelsbeurs Concertzaal in Belgium.