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From Ancient Chants to Modern Keys: Best Classical Music This Month

New Century Chamber Orchestra Kicks Off Its Tour 

Most twenty-year olds pick up a bottle of tequila on their birthday. New Century Chamber Orchestra picks up bows and suitcases before hopping on a plane to the East Coast to play Rossini and Mendelssohn.

October Classical Roundup: Pioneers, Catholicism, and Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

Former child prodigy and current violin supernova, Joshua Bell has performed at stately symphony halls and busked a DC Metro station. He’s won awards, recorded almost 40 albums, and played so skillfully that audience members valiantly battle to squelch their coughing as he wields his famous 18th-Century bow. Playing Glazunov’s Violin Concerto and one of only two symphonies completed by the overlooked genius Elgar, Bell’s emotion and profound abilities infuse life into whatever venue he's chosen. 

October 5-9. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Avenue. Tickets are $15-140 at 415-864-6000.

 

Verdi’s Requiem

September Classical Roundup: The Sound of History

San Francisco Symphony at Civic Center

For its one-hundredth birthday bash, the San Francisco Symphony hits the city streets with a free concert in Civic Center Plaza on September 8. Food trucks and hordes of people will be lounging in the sun (or fog -  let's be real here) as Michael Tilson Thomas kicks up the string section with his baton and Joe Lang Lang takes the piano bench. You'll hear Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major and Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. If you get there early enough, you can snag free treats from Ghirardelli and La Boulange. 

September 8, noon. Civic Center Plaza, Polk and McAllister Streets. Tickets are free. 

August Classical Music Roundup

Turtle Island String Quartet at Yoshi’s

Called the future of classical music, Turtle Island String Quartet lends a fresh slant to the standard chamber sound. Melding the bright virtuosity of classical with contemporary music styles, Turtle Island Quartet has won two Grammys for Best Classical Crossover Album. They've also been endorsed by Yo-Yo Ma, who calls it “a unified voice that truly breaks new ground - a reflection of some of the most creative music-making today.” 

August 7. Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore Street. Tickets are $28 at 415-655-5600. 

 

San Francisco Opera at Stern Grove

June Classical Roundup: Chanticleer, Yuja Wang, and Placido Domingo

Chanticleer Goes Romantic

One of the world’s best male choruses, Chanticleer hits up its native San Francisco with bell-like harmonies and songs of desire, pain, and euphoria - basically, the sound of every emotion to ever trail hopefully after love. 

Bonus: one their tracks graces the new Brad Pitt/Sean Penn movie, The Tree of Life. So if you want to hear this Grammy award-winning orchestra of voices live, check it out. (Amazing sound, no Brad Pitt - you'll have to weigh your priorities.) 

June 3 and June 12. San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street. Tickets are $20-44 at (415) 392-4400. (Additional dates in Santa Clara, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, and Napa.) 

 

Mahler Gets the Michael Tilson Thomas Treatment

There is a whole lot of Gustav Mahler going on this month. May marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the composer’s death and celebrations are happening everywhere in the world where classical music is a thing. Acclaimed interpreters of Mahler’s work, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony have been invited to perform in Vienna, Prague, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona, and other European music hot spots this spring. In conjunction with all the mad Mahler action, the Symphony’s Grammy-winning Mahler recording project will be released in a box CD set and KQED will broadcast concerts. So if you ever wanted to learn about Mahler, his music, or Michael Tilson Thomas’s interpretations thereof - here's your chance. 

This Month's Best Classical Music Offerings: Edgar Meyer, Cypress String Quartet, and Kate Royal

In the mood for some classical? Here's what's on tap this month.

Cypress String Quartet

Contemporary music is a natural extension of older works, each one building on what came before. Devoted to adding to the contemporary canon, The Cypress String Quartet is performing its 12th annual Call and Response, featuring a new commissioned work by Jeffrey Cotton that was inspired by the other pieces in the program. 

Cotton’s Serenade for String Quartet responds to Bloch’s Landscapes, itself a response to the Nanook of the North craze of the time, and Debussy’s String Quartet, Op. 10, which he composed after hearing the Javanese Gamelan at the Paris Exposition in 1889.

April Classical Roundup: Yo Yo Ma and Quartets Galore

Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble 

Brainchild of celebrated cellist Yo Yo Ma, the Silk Road Ensemble was inspired by the winding trail connecting the East and the West back when a plodding cart was your only access to other cultures. (Provided you were willing to sit behind a mule for hundreds of miles.) Cultural crossover is a lot more convenient these days, and listening to Yo Yo Ma and his cadre of renowned musicians play a global repertoire is a lot more fun than flicking twigs at the ears of a poor, maligned mule. 

April 7. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave. Tickets are $45-125 at (415) 392-2545.

March Classical Roundup: Soloists Rule

Louis Lortie, Pianist 

Chopin fans, get out your credit cards. In a dramatic musical undertaking that’s been called the Everest of the piano canon, Louis Lortie tackles the complete Chopin etudes in one sitting. Lortie made his performance debut with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra when he was 13 and was soon touring China and Japan. Of his grand gesture, the London Financial Times says, “Better Chopin playing than this is not to be heard, not anywhere.”

March 12-14. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Avenue (and additional venues). Tickets are $34-48 at 415-392-4400.

Classical Roundup: World-Famous Conductor Makes His SF Debut

Donne Virtuose - Music By Remarkable Women

Turns out women wrote classical music too. (RIGHT? Come on, I can't be the only who wants to throw a geek parade with french horns over this.) Featuring female composers who bucked social restrictions to write arias and instrumental sonatas, the program is performed by soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani and violinists Rob Diggins and Jolianne von Einem. Composers in question are: Francesca Caccini from the Medici Court, Venetian intellectual Barbara Strozzi, Isabella Leonarda from a Novarese convent, and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre of the Parisian aristocracy. There probably won't be a parade. (BUT THERE SHOULD BE.) 

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