Weekend at the SFS: Esa-Pekka Salonen & Leila Josefowicz [Preview]

BY NATHAN CRANFORD

This weekend at Davies Hall, famed Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen will be leading the San Francisco Symphony in two evenings of Nordic-influenced classical music. Salonen is a conductor and composer whose Violin Concerto will be performed in addition to works by Richard Wagner and Jean Sibelius, who is considered by many to be Finland’s greatest composer.

The evening begins with a performance of Jean Sibelius’ tone poem Pohjola’s Daughter, Op. 49. The tone poem is based upon a character from the Finnish national epic Kalevala, which is considered to be one of the most significant examples of Finnish literature. Sibelius had originally wanted to name the tone poem after the epic’s shamanistic hero Väinämöinen (pronounced VI-na-MER-nen), but his publisher insisted upon naming the work after the beautiful maiden from the northern land of Pohjola, whom Väinämöinen wishes to marry. In addition to perfectly capturing the essence of the narrative, Sibelius musically evokes the chilled, wintery beauty of the northern lands and its mythology. As a matter of fact, the word pohjola is now used in the modern Finnish language to refer to the Nordic countries.

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Climb the Totem of Life with Cirque du Soleil [Review]

Cirque du Soleil: Totem | October 28 – December 18, 2011 | AT&T Park– Parking Lot A | San Francisco

I had been looking forward to last Wednesday night for a few weeks. I had heard all the ‘hoopla’ and now it was my turn to be counted among the millions of wowed viewers. As I walked down 2nd Street to the Grand Chapiteau just south of AT&T Park in San Francisco and readied myself for a night of Totem, I realized that I was hopelessly excited to check out the company’s 31st show. I mean, Cirque du Soleil is a household name with an extraordinary track record of amazing its audiences. In fact, the Montreal-based spectacular celebrated its 27th year of enchantment this past June. And this was my first Cirque ever.

Unicycles & Bowls. Photo by Daniel Desmarais

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Boys Noize at Mezzanine [Preview]

Boys Noize | Saturday, November 26th, 2011 | Mezzanine | San Francisco

DJ Mag ranked Boys Noize right at number 100 on their “Top 100 DJs of 2011.” As a big fan of Boys Noize, I find this unfathomable. I’ve maintained for some time now that dance music has taken over pop music in America these last few years. But sometimes, I forget that most listeners wouldn’t know that David Guetta has produced some of the Black Eyed Peas’ biggest hits, or that Afrojack produced Pitbull and Ne-Yo’s monster-crossover hit, “Give Me Everything.” When you stop to consider the mainstream visibility of most of the DJs in the top ten with David Guetta (1), Tiësto (3), Deadmau5 (4), Avicii (6), Afrojack (7), and Swedish House Mafia (10), then Boys Noize’s ranking at 100 is a little bit more believable. Even still, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Boys Noize at EDC 2010. Photo by Caesar Sebastian. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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Weekend at the SF Symphony: Brahms’ Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham [Preview]

BY NATHAN CRANFORD

This weekend at the  San Francisco SymphonyMichael Tilson Thomas, along with famed violinist Gil Shaham, will be leading the orchestra in another performance of the works of 19th Century German composer Johannes Brahms. However, whereas last week’s program was a comparative study of progression in German musical conservatism, this week’s program showcases the contentious battle between conservative and progressive elements in the music of German Romanticism.

Richard Wagner

The evening begins with a work by the great German operatic composer Richard Wagner, the “Prelude” to Act III of his famed opera Lohengrin. Familiarity with the opera’s plot is not necessary for an appreciation of the work, which is often performed alone in concert due to its highly exciting and virtuoistic writing for orchestra.

Less than 5 minutes in length, many listeners will find the melodies showcased by the “Prelude” (which are repeated throughout the opera) to be immediately recognizable. Although it’s not being performed by the Symphony this weekend, the end of the “Prelude” flows seamlessly into the even more famous “Bridal Chorus”–a piece of music that has become associated with the bride walking down the aisle at weddings throughout the world.

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Weekend at the SF Symphony: MTT Leads Brahms’ German Requiem [Preview]

BY NATHAN CRANFORD

Michael Tilson Thomas Conducts Brahms | Friday, November 17 to Sunday, November 20 | Davies Symphony Hall | San Francisco

This weekend at the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas will be leading the orchestra in performances of three very disparate pieces of German music: Ich bin ein rechter Weinstock by Heinrich Schütz, Arnold Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra, and the evening’s centerpiece, Johannes Brahms’ German Requiem.

Heinrich Schütz

The first piece, Ich bin ein rechter Weinstock (I’m the Only True Vine) is a choral work by 17th-century German composer Heinrich Schütz that is based on Bible verses from John 15:1-5. The passages are believed to be the words of Jesus himself as he explains to his disciples that he is the one true vine and his followers are its barren branches that will one day bear fruit. Religious connotations aside, Schütz’s work is considered to be an exemplary example of the composer’s mastery of his craft and his meticulous adherence to the established music fundamentals of the time. The work is representative of Schütz’s strict musical conservatism, which set him in dialectical opposition to many of his contemporaries who sought to push the boundaries of musical expression through experimentation.

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Workin for the Weekend – eventseekr’s Top Picks for 11/18/2011-11/20/2011

Thanksgiving break is nigh upon us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in the wonderful events going on this weekend. Katie K. and Lucia C. have found a little bit of everything, so grab your friends and start spreading some holiday cheer. It’s Wednesday and we’re getting ready for the weekend.

Taste & Tribute San Francisco @ Four Seasons Hotel | Friday, November 18

The 11th annual Taste & Tribute benefit gala for the Tibetan Aid Project is taking place this Friday at the Four Seasons. The event features a silent and live auction as well as a four-course gourmet meal. Inspired by the desire to aid Tibet, Chef Laurent Manrique first organized this event in conjunction with the Tibetan Aid Project in 2001, and it’s been a hit ever since. This year, he has brought together a star roster of 23 of San Francisco’s top chefs, and they will be cooking up a storm. Working in pairs, the chefs will prepare table-side meals for attendees. Proceeds from the event go to the Tibetan Aid Project, which works to preserve and perpetuate Tibet’s spiritual heritage.

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Weekend at the SF Symphony: MTT Conducts Schubert [Preview]

BY NATHAN CRANFORD

Michael Tilson Thomas Conducts Schubert | Friday, November 11 to Sunday, November 13 | Davies Symphony Hall | San Francisco

Franz Schubert

This weekend at Davies Symphony Hall, Michael Tilson Thomas will be leading the San Francisco Symphony in performances of works by 19th-century German composer, Franz Schubert.

The program begins with the “Overture” from Schubert’s opera Alfonso und Estrella, written in 1822 when the composer was only 25 years old. Schubert’s operas (he only wrote two) are rarely performed and show the more ambitious side of the composer, whose most renowned works were generally written for soloists or small ensembles.

Alfonso und Estrella is situated in Western music history as a successful first outing for Schubert into the developing tradition of German Romantic opera on a large scale. However, due to the composer’s young age and lack of experience working in dramatic forms, many critics felt that the action tended to lag over the course of the opera. However, Schubert’s mastery of songwriting and melodic lines ensured that the music was consistently fresh and interesting, despite the opera’s structural weaknesses. As is generally the case with operatic overtures, the strongest melodies and arias from the opera are showcased in the “Overture.” The work’s premier was conducted in 1854 by Franz Liszt in Weimar, almost 30 years after the composer’s death.

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