Concerts feature mezzo-soprano soloist Sasha Cooke and The San Francisco Girls Chorus
Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) conducts the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and SFS Chorus, joined by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and the San Francisco Girls Chorus, in performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 February 27-March 2 at Davies Symphony Hall. MTT, Cooke and the Orchestra will also perform the work five times (in London, Paris, Geneva, Luxembourg, and Vienna) with local choruses during their upcoming European tour in March 2014.
MTT first conducted the work with the SFS in four 1987 concerts, eight years before he would assume the post of SFS Music Director. During his tenure as Music Director, MTT has brought back the work in 1997 and 2002, both times featuring Michelle DeYoung who appears on the 2003 Grammy Award-winning SFS Media recording, and during the Orchestra’s Centennial season in 2011, featuring Katarina Karnéus. The monumental work – Mahler’s longest piece and the longest symphony in the standard repertoire – has been performed a total of 25 times by the Orchestra, dating back to 1976, with 17 of those performances led by MTT.
MTT/SFS Mahler Recording Project
Michael Tilson Thomas has distinguished himself as one of the world’s foremost Mahler interpreters through his and the Orchestra’s award-winning recordings and signature performances. MTT and the SFS’ self-produced Mahler recording project, launched in 2001 and completed in 2010, contains all of Mahler’s symphonies and works for voice, chorus and orchestra. Their recording of Symphony No. 3 was released in 2003, featuring mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, and is paired with Kindertotenlieder. It won the “Best Classical Album” Grammy and 5 stars from Diapason in France. In total, the Orchestra’s Mahler cycle on SFS Media has been recognized with seven Grammy Awards, including three for its recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and the Adagio from Symphony No. 10. Complete box sets of the cycle are available on vinyl and SACD. MTT and the SFS explore Mahler in an episode of their Keeping Score television series, an excerpt of which can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1kRhQK751s.
Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke is a rising star who has been appearing with the San Francisco Symphony since 2009 in music by composers as diverse as Gilbert and Sullivan, Mahler, Debussy, Beethoven, Stravinksy and Berlioz. She most recently performed Viennese classics and American songbook favorites with the Orchestra at the SF Symphony’s glamorous New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball to welcome in the year 2014. Other symphonic engagements of Cooke’s 2013-2014 season include appearances with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic performing Britten’s Spring Symphony, Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony, and performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with both Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin with Tugan Sokhiev and the Columbus Symphony conducted by Jean Marie Zeituni. She makes her debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Cristian Macelaru. Last season she performed the title role in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene at San Francisco Opera. In the summer of 2013 she performed Mahler’s Second Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.
The San Francisco Symphony Chorus
One of America’s most distinguished choruses, the 158-member San Francisco Symphony Chorus celebrates its 40th anniversary in the 2013-14 season, and is known for its precision, power, and versatility. Led by Director Ragnar Bohlin, the Chorus is in the spotlight during many of the 13-14 season’s artistic focal points, such as Peter Grimes, Beethoven’s Mass in C and excerpts from King Stephen with MTT, Bach’s Missa Brevis (Kyrie and Gloria) from Mass in B minor, the first SFS performances of Bach’s Cantata No. 207a, Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten with Ton Koopman, Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht with Pablo Heras-Casado, and Britten’s War Requiem with Semyon Bychkov.
The SFS Chorus performs more than twenty concerts each season and is comprised of 30 professional and 128 volunteer members. Recordings featuring the SFS Chorus have won a total of eight Grammy awards, including three for Best Choral Performance. They were featured on the SFS Media’s recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with MTT and the SFS, which won three 2010 Grammys, including the award for Best Choral Performance. Most recently, a recording of the Chorus’ performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Michael Tilson Thomas and the SFS was released in April 2013.
The San Francisco Girls Chorus
Founded in 1978, the San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) has become a regional center for choral music education and performance for girls and young women ages 5-18. 400 singers from 45 Bay Area cities participate in this internationally recognized program, deemed “a model in the country for training girls’ voices” by the California Arts Council. In the 2008-2009 season, the Chorus sang at the swearing in of President Barack Obama, and can be heard on several San Francisco Symphony recordings, including four Grammy winners: Mahler’s Symphony Nos. 3 and 8, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, The Firebird, and Perséphone and Orff’s Carmina burana.
According to MTT, “the SFGC is a treasure. Their training, musicality, and vibrant spirit are evident whenever they perform. I have enjoyed our long association and look forward to many years of collaboration.”
SFGC has won many honors, including the prestigious Margaret Hillis Award and two ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming in 1999, 2004 and 2011. They have been honored to sing at many national and international venues, including the World Choral Symposium in Kyoto, Japan in 2005. SFGC’s discography continues to grow with a 2-disc set entitled Heaven and Earth. The music represents some of the greatest sacred and secular repertoire ever written for treble voices. Other recordings include: Voices of Hope and Peace, a recording with many exciting SFGC commissions; Christmas, featuring diverse holiday selections; Crossroads, a collection of world folk music; and Music from the Venetian Ospedali, a disc of Italian Baroque music of which The New Yorker described the Chorus as “tremendously accomplished.”