Programs include Mason Bates’ Liquid Interface and The B-Sides and Beethoven’s Mass in C, Symphony No. 7, Romances for Violin and Orchestra and Excerpts from King Stephen
Programs to be recorded for future release on the Orchestra’s SFS Media label
Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) leads the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in two weeks of concerts pairing the works of Ludwig van Beethoven and Mason Bates January 8-18 in Davies Symphony Hall. MTT and the SFS continue their multi-season exploration of the music of both composers, pairing some of Beethoven’s most influential works with those by a composer who similarly expands the classical experience through his use of electronics, found recordings and the rhythms of techno. Festival highlights include Bates’ SFS commission The B-Sides and the first SFS performances of Liquid Interface, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Mass in C, with soloists Joélle Harvey, Kelley O’Connor, William Burden and Shenyang. Both programs will be recorded for SFS Media, the Orchestra’s in-house label.
“One of my goals as a symphonic composer is to bring back the large-scale narrative forms, pioneered by Beethoven, but in the digital age with a 21st-century palette of sounds,” Bates said of his symphonic works. “Beethoven launched the age of programmatic music with the choral finale of his Symphony No. 9—the first symphony to include text and choral writing with symphonic music. After being explored by some of the greatest 19th century composers—Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner—programmatic music was largely forgotten, as the 20th century moved on to the ‘purity’ of serialism and, eventually, minimalism. I’ve found a lot of inspiration in creating big works that work on both a musical and extra-musical level, exploring the programmatic approach with the sounds of the digital age. For instance, recording the actual sounds of glaciers calving for Liquid Interface is, in my own small way, a response to the inclusion of text in the Ninth Symphony.”
The first week of concerts January 8-11 juxtapose Beethoven’s energetic, dance-infused Symphony No. 7 with Bates’ The B-Sides, which was originally premiered by the SF Symphony in 2009. “I had often imagined a suite of concise, off-kilter symphonic pieces that would incorporate the grooves and theatrics of electronica in a highly focused manner,” says Bates, whose work as a DJ under the moniker DJ Masonic highly informs his approach to electronics. “So, like the forgotten bands from the flipside of an old piece of vinyl, The B-Sides offers brief landings on a variety of peculiar planets, unified by a focus on fluorescent orchestral sonorities and the morphing rhythms of electronica.” Also on this program are Beethoven’s Romances for Violin and Orchestra Nos. 1-2, featuring SFS Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik.
Please note that The B-Sides replaces the previously announced Alternative Energy, which will be performed and recorded in the fall of 2014.
SF Symphony Concerts January 15-18 feature Beethoven’s powerful Mass in C major, excerpts from King Stephen, and the first SFS performances of Bates’ Liquid Interface. The Mass in C features soloists Joélle Harvey, Kelley O’Connor, William Burden and Shenyang. While it is much less frequently performed than his massive Missa solemnis, the Mass in C is considered by many critics and scholars to be one of the composer’s underrated masterpieces. Of Liquid Interface, Bates remarks, “Water has influenced countless musical endeavors—La Mer and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey quickly come to mind. But after living on Berlin’s enormous Wannsee and seeing this huge body of water transform from an ice sheet thick enough to support sausage venders, to a refreshing swimming destination heavy with humidity, I became consumed with writing a new take on the idea. If the play of the waves inspired Debussy, then what about water in its variety of forms?” These varying states are illustrated in Liquid Interface, most notably with an actual recording of glaciers breaking into the Antarctic. “Again, the distinguishing elements of Liquid Interface are not just the electronic sounds, but more so the way that these expanded palettes articulate large narrative forms,” Bates explains.