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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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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