Monthly Archives: April 2010

Review: 2010 San Francisco Ballet’s Program 6

Tomasson’s Haffner Symphony
Renato Zanella’s Underskin
Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons

Lorena Feijoo and Pascal Molat in Zanella's Underskin. © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet’s Program 6 was an important one for the company, despite looking like the calm program before the storm before its grand finale of Tomasson’s Romeo and Juliet that will close out the season. It included yet another world premiere built on the company by choreographer Renato Zanella – would it be appropriate to call him up and coming? His work is mainly been Europe-centered with occasional forays elsewhere, and his name is new to my ears. It also reprised a recent (and important) acquisition of Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons, and performed a Tomasson piece that hadn’t been performed in many years.

Zanella’s Underskin is said to have been inspired by the mystique of San Francisco Ballet dancers. Swathed in darkness, a centerpiece of beams angling from the floor to the ceiling moved slowly throughout the piece, wavering and glinty in the low light. The piece opened with a soloist, Jennifer Stahl, dressed in a dark shimmery unitard, slithery and undulating with drama. With sky high extensions and remarkable fluidity, this role called for the ability to stun with a turn of a head and a dark look. This height of drama wasn’t quite achieved, but there were glimpses of Stahl’s potential to grow into such a dancer with that kind of presence. She will definitely be one to watch. Three couples weaved in and out, in addition to a corps of dancers in this mood piece, moving to the sighs and cries of Schoenberg’s unpredictable and moody Verklarte Nacht. The duet with Maria Kochetkova and Pascal Molat was a tumble of turbulent struggle and fury. Jaime Garcia Castilla and Courtney Elizabeth were sweetly melancholy, Castilla with velvety extensions and jumps that lingered in the air. Chung and Wharton were a mesmerizing partnership as they breathed as one, bewitching the audience with unbridled intensity. The corps of men were particularly striking, with a weight that permeated throughout the piece. Even their arms had weight, as they powered through the air. Zanella captured the company’s sense of drama and power in an impressive display of both their soloists and their corps who danced in breathtaking unison.

Sofiane Sylve and Pierre-François Vilanoba in Ratmansky's Russian Seasons. © Erik Tomasson

I missed Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons last year due to a last minute replacement due to dancer injury, but I’m really glad that I got to see it this year. With this piece, you see Ratmansky honoring Russia and the qualities of its people. The stories that he tells onstage are of peasants, with hunched shoulders and the heavy burden of strife countered with an irrespressible spirit that refuses to die. Camaraderie pervades throughout the piece, with people talking and acknowledging each other. I’m so used to watching such dance stories of peasants swathed in rags and hats – very literally – but Ratmansky brilliantly frames the piece in the unexpected world of the abstract. With dancers in bright primary colors and a simple background and nothing more than decorative headgear, Ratmansky tells these provincial stories and themes with pure movement. Balletic brises with an upward center of gravity are mixed with tantrum stomps of oppression; this mix of weight and ebullience speaks of hope in the midst of hardship. Elana Altman was compelling in sleek lines and dramatic angles in her solo set to the melancholy cries of mezzo soprano Susannah Poretsky in the music of Leonid Desyatnikov’s Russian Seasons. There was sadness in Lorena Feijoo’s entire being of the woman who later reappears, seemingly resurrected, in white and a white flower wreath on her head. This piece may have been a tad too despondent for some (I think one reviewer had compared it to life in the gulag), but I was pleasantly surprised by its provincial storytelling in the modern packaging of the bright abstract and a remarkable quickness in its movement vocabulary.

Vanessa Zahorian in Tomasson's "Haffner" Symphony. © Erik Tomasson

Tomasson’s neoclassical Haffner Symphony was pleasant and regal, with a distinguished use of space in the placement of dancers around the stage. The use of negative space between the dancers, in one instance by placing two dancers upstage left and one far downstage right, spoke of an airy spaciousness in a royal garden with a backdrop of flowers with sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto. Tomasson’s elegant use of space is inconsistent however, as in several moments dancers squeeze by each other uncomfortably as a line of dancers move past another. Gennadi Nedvigin wowed the audience with crisp lines and soft landings, but clearly the realm was Maria Kochetkova’s playground, coloring her lightning quick feet with a softness and gentility. Clearly she was a reigning queen where everyone else were occasional visitors, and it was a marvel to watch her and the other dancers at play.

San Francisco Ballet’s website. Only one more program left for this season! Romeo and Juliet starts on May 1.

San Francisco Ballet’s 2010-2011 Repertory Season

Lorena Feijoo and Pascal Molat in Forsythe's Artifact Suite. © Erik Tomasson

Below is the season announcement for San Francisco Ballet’s 2011 season. Pieces to look out for – Giselle, McGregor’s Chroma to the music of White Stripes, Forsythe’s Artifact Suite, and Balanchine’s Coppelia, a co-produciton with Pacific Northwest Ballet, and world premieres by Possohkov and Wheeldon.

What are you looking forward to?

SAN FRANCISCO BALLET ANNOUNCES 2011 REPERTORY SEASON

HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE THE NEW CO-PRODUCTION & SF BALLET PREMIERE

OF GEORGE BALANCHINE’S COPPÉLIA; WORLD PREMIERES BY POSSOKHOV  & WHEELDON; PLUS THE RETURN OFGISELLE & THE LITTLE MERMAID

SF Ballet Honors 100th Anniversary of Fokine’s Petrouchka
With an Encore Presentation

SAN FRANCISCO, Wednesday, April 21, 2010—San Francisco Ballet, the oldest professional ballet company in America, has announced the repertory and performance schedule for its 78th Repertory Season. SF Ballet’s 2011 Repertory Season will include the presentation of three full-length works, including a new production of George Balanchine’s Coppélia, co-produced with Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). The production will have its PNB premiere in June 2010 and will be a Company premiere for SF Ballet in March 2011.

The 2011 season also includes two world premieres by Christopher Wheeldon and SF Ballet Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov, as well as two SF Ballet premieres by Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Wayne McGregor. In addition, the season includes works by acclaimed choreographers such as Sir Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Michel Fokine, William Forsythe, John Neumeier, Helgi Tomasson, and Renato Zanella.

The 2011 Repertory Season will begin with Nutcracker, which runs December 9 through 27, 2010 for a total of 30 performances. Following the Opening Night Gala on Wednesday, January 26, 2011, the season will consist of eight programs performed in alternating repertory, from January 29 to May 7.

“In programming the 2011 season, I wanted not only to highlight the depth and breadth of the Company’s talent, but also to offer our audiences a wide array of programming to choose from,” said SF Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson. “I am particularly delighted that the Company will offer the San Francisco Ballet premiere of George Balanchine’s Coppélia; a work that is very special to me since I performed the role of Franz in the original version of Balanchine’s production.”

2011 Repertory Season Overview

Program 1 opens Saturday, January 29 and features the return of Tomasson’s renowned full-length classic Giselle. Tomasson’s production, which premiered in 1999, was hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “Tomasson’s finest achievement.” The two-act production features scenic, costume, and lighting design by Mikael Melbye. Set to the music of Adolphe Adam, the work was first performed by the Paris Opéra Ballet, in 1841, with original choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot and later, Marius Petipa. SF Ballet last performed the full production on its American Tour in 2008.

The 1999 world premiere of Helgi Tomasson’s Giselle was underwritten by The Hellman Family, The Edward E. Hills Fund, Lucy and Fritz Jewett, and an anonymous donor, in honor of Chris Hellman. This project was made possible, in part, by a grant from the National Dance Residency Program (NDRP), a program underwritten by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered at the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Program 2 opens Thursday, February 3 with Ashton’s Symphonic Variations, a world premiere by Possokhov (his 13th work for the Company, including gala works and the co-production of Don Quixote with Tomasson), and the return of Balanchine’s Symphony in C. Ashton’s Symphonic Variations, a plotless ballet for six dancers, premiered in 1946 by the Sadler’s Wells (now Royal) Ballet at London’s Royal Opera House. Set to music by César Franck, the work had its SF Ballet premiere in 2004, and was last performed by the Company in 2005. Balanchine’s Symphony in C, set to the music of Georges Bizet, was premiered in 1947 by the Paris Opéra Ballet. SF Ballet first performed the 23-minute piece in 1961, and most recently, in 2007.

Program 3 opens Thursday, February 24 with the encore performance of Possokhov’s Classical Symphony, and the return of Tomasson’s Nanna’s Lied and Forsythe’s Artifact Suite. Possokhov’s Classical Symphony, set to the music of Sergei Prokofiev, had its world premiere during the 2010 Repertory Season and was inspired by ballet history and Possokhov’s own classical Russian ballet training. Tomasson’s Nanna’s Lied was premiered by the Company in 1993, and portrays the dramatic tale of a young woman’s loss of innocence. The work was last performed by the Company in 2003, and is set to the songs of Kurt Weill and Friedrich Hollaender. Forsythe’s Artifact Suite was premiered by the Scottish Ballet under the title Suite from Artifact in 2004. Two years later, SF Ballet presented the U.S. premiere of the work, set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Eva Crossman-Hecht. The full work was last performed during the 2007 Repertory Season.

Program 4 opens Friday, February 25 with the return of Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, the SF Ballet Premiere of MacMillan’s Winter Dreams,and another work to be announced. Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, for 26 dancers, was premiered in 1947 by Ballet Theatre and is set to the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The work was most recently performed by SF Ballet during its 2010 Repertory Season. MacMillan created a pas de deux in 1991, for Darcey Bussell and Irek Mukhamedov, which was performed at the Queen Mother’s 90th Birthday Tribute. This pas de deux became part of the one-act ballet Winter Dreams (based on Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters), which was subsequently filmed for television and broadcast on the BBC in 1992. Set to piano pieces by Tchaikovsky, this dramatic work explores the characters melancholy with their present existence in a Russian provincial town, at the turn of the 20th century.

Program 5 opens Saturday, March 19 with the SF Ballet Premiere of Balanchine’s Coppélia, a co-production with Pacific Northwest Ballet. The popular, comedic ballet, set to a score by Leo Délibes, was first performed by the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1870, with original choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon. In 1939, SF Ballet presented the first production of Coppélia choreographed by an American choreographer (Willam Christensen). The production centers on two lovers, Swanilda and Franz. A life-like doll, Coppélia, becomes the focus of Franz’s affections until Swanilda tricks him by dressing up and pretending to be the doll. The ballet ends festively with Swanilda and Franz reuniting for a joyous wedding day celebration. This new production of Balanchine’s Coppélia from 1974, includes commissioned scenery and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno.

The San Francisco Ballet premiere of George Balanchine’s Coppélia is made possible by Maurice Kanbar, Glenn Kawasaki, Dan & Pam Baty, and Sharon Richardson.

Program 6 opens Thursday, April 7 with the return of Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, the encore presentation of Wheeldon’s Ghosts, and the SF Ballet Premiere of McGregor’s Chroma. Tomasson’s acclaimed 7 for Eight, which was premiered by SF Ballet in 2004, is set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Called “stunning” upon its premiere by the San Francisco Chronicle, the work for eight dancers was last performed by the Company during its 2008 Repertory Season. Wheeldon’s Ghosts, which premiered during SF Ballet’s 2010 Repertory Season, is set to a commissioned score by C.F. Kip Winger. The New York Times called the work “ethereal and substantial.” McGregor’s Chroma is set to the music of The White Stripes, arranged by Joby Talbot and orchestrated by Christopher Austin. Created for The Royal Ballet, the work premiered in 2006 and was McGregor’s first work for the company as resident choreographer. McGregor’s Chroma received a number of awards in 2007, including a Laurence Olivier Award for best new dance production, as well as a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for best classical choreography.

Program 7 opens Friday, April 8 with the return of Fokine’s Petrouchka, Zanella’s Underskin, and a world premiere by Christopher Wheeldon, his seventh work for SF Ballet. SF Ballet first performed Petrouchka, set to the music of Igor Stravinsky, during the 2010 Repertory Season. Originally performed by the Ballets Russes in 1911, the work depicts a dramatic tale of a Russian puppet with a human soul. This season’s presentation ofPetrouchka marks the 100th anniversary of the ballet’s creation. Zanella’s Underskin, set to the music of Arnold Schoenberg, premiered during the Company’s 2010 Repertory Season.

From The Hellman Family in honor of Patricia C. Hellman, also known as “Patrichka,” a former professional ballet dancer and soloist with the London Festival Ballet.

Program 8 opens Saturday, April 30 with the encore presentation of Hamburg Ballet Director and Chief Choreographer John Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid, set to the commissioned music of Lera Auerbach. The full-length work was originally commissioned by the Royal Danish Ballet, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen’s birth. Neumeier’s modern and mature interpretation presents the parallels between the fairy tale and the story of its creator. The production premiered in 2005, and features scenic, costume, and lighting design by Neumeier. During the 2010 Repertory Season, the Company presented the U.S. premiere of the work with a week-long run, to sold-out houses.

The 2010 United States premiere of The Little Mermaid was made possible by the generosity of Lead Sponsors Richard C. Barker and the E.L. Wiegand Foundation, and by Major Sponsors Suzy Kellems Dominik, Jennifer Caldwell and John H.M. Fisher, Stephen and Margaret Gill Family Foundation, Alison and Michael Mauzé, and Sponsor Gail and Robert Smelick.

During the 2011 Repertory Season, the Company will perform a total of 56 standard subscription performances. Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday evening performances are at 8pm; Wednesday evening performances are at 7:30pm; Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2pm. The SF Ballet Orchestra will accompany all programs.

With Special Thanks

American Airlines is the Preferred Airline of San Francisco Ballet.

William Hill ® Estate Winery and La Marca™ Prosecco are the featured wine and sparkling wine of San Francisco Ballet.

“Meet the Artist” Interviews and “Pointes of View” Lecture Series

SF Ballet will continue to present the entertaining and informative “Meet the Artist” series, held in conjunction with the opening night of each program, as well as all Friday evening and Sunday matinee performances. The 30-minute interviews with Company artists, management, and guests of SF Ballet begin one hour prior to performance, and all ticket holders are invited to attend free of charge. In addition, SF Ballet will present eight “Pointes of View” lectures during the season, on select Wednesday evenings. Each lecture will focus on the program to be performed that evening and is free and open to the public. For more information, call Ticket Services at 415.865.2000.

Subscription Tickets

Three, five, and eight program subscription packages to SF Ballet’s 2011 Repertory Season range in price from $49-3,800 and are on sale to the public now. For information, please call Ticket Services at 415.865.200o or visit sfballet.org. Phone hours are Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm.

Single Tickets

Individual tickets for SF Ballet’s 2011 Repertory Season, starting at $20, will be available for advance sale online at sfballet.org beginning November 17 or by calling 415.865.2000, starting January 10.

San Francisco Ballet

As America’s oldest professional ballet company and one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States, San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts” since its founding in 1933. It performed the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first production of Coppélia choreographed by an American choreographer. Guided in its early years by American dance pioneers and brothers Lew, Willam, and Harold Christensen, San Francisco Ballet currently presents more than 100 performances a year locally, nationally, and abroad. Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson for twenty-five years, the Company has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the world. In 2005, San Francisco Ballet won the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award, its first, in the category of “Outstanding Achievement in Dance,” and a year later, was the first non-European company elected “Company of the Year” in Dance Europe magazine’s annual readers’ poll. In 2008, San Francisco Ballet celebrated its 75th anniversary with a host of initiatives that included a New Works Festival of 10 world premieres by 10 renowned choreographers. 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of SF Ballet Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson’s tenure with the Company.

Review: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet on Tour

Photo by Lois Greenfield

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is an energetic company with genius management (under founder Bebe Schweppe and executive director Jean-Philippe Malaty) that distinguishes itself by capitalizing on showcasing today’s best modern ballet choreographers to new audiences. They also expose audiences to some of these big names’ lesser works, which is a huge draw for balletomanes such as myself. With a lineup of choreographers like Elo, Tharp, Forsythe, and Pendleton, an evening at the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at the Mondavi Center was a program that had its finger on the heartbeat of today’s world of modern ballet. The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is a small company of 12 dancers, but it’s a talented company with a palpable energy of youthful vitality.

The program opened with Jorma Elo’s Red Sweet, which was commissioned by the company in 2008. It’s a visual wonder in movements a mix of precision and speed in Elo’s busy choreography that’s packed with a combination of balletic and robotic movement. With music by Vivaldi and Biber, this is the most musical piece of Elo’s that I’ve seen, with musical motifs that mirror choreographic structural motifs in a moment of mental clarity amidst a sea of random but pretty movements. But as with the other Elo works, I found that the novelty of his thrilling dance vocabulary wore off, and the piece would have benefited from a shorter presentation.

Twyla Tharp’s Sue’s Leg choreographed in 1975 gave us a glimpse of Tharp’s earlier works in a piece that’s rarely performed today. Set to the music of Thomas “Fats” Waller, it features a small group of dancers in plain clothes, swinging easily to the jazzy stylings of the music. The easy shoulders and floppy arms remind me of the caricature of Robin Williams doing Twyla Tharp in the movie Birdcage, which must have characterized her work early on in her career. The softly shifting formations ease in and out, and without solid conclusions, this piece captures a nostalgic mood and the beginnings of her storytelling ability that would define her later works.

William Forsythe’s Slingerland was a sleek and dramatic duet for Katherine Bolanos and Sam Chittenden. Choreographed in 2000 for Ballet Frankfurt, the dancers dive and reach and lunge in a backdrop of undulating musical lines. An alien echo of atonal singing lines with harmonics gave an eerie edge in Gavin Bryars’ stirring music. The evening ended with Moses Pendleton’s Noir Blanc, also commissioned by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in 2002, a curiously whimsical display of floating limbs flying through space lit with black light and a haze of stage magic.

This program was a versatile program of the little engine that could – a small but powerful dance company with the ambitious spirit packaged in a way that makes people want to buy tickets for. It was a program that showed both the dance world of present, past, and future in four living choreographers and their lesser known works which still highlight their style and substance. The spirit of this company is infectious, with a pleasing sleek and dynamic style, and an example of what a small dance company can do.

Mondavi Arts

Review: 2010 San Francisco Ballet’s Program 7

Damian Smith and Katita Waldo in Wheeldon's Rush. © Erik Tomasson

Program 7 at the San Francisco Ballet was all about the pretty. After the alien exoticism of the Little Mermaid, this program was a welcome breath of fresh air to San Francisco audiences eager to watch what San Francisco Ballet does best. Two out of the three pieces in Program 7 were created for the SF Ballet, including a world premiere of Possohkov’s Classical Symphony. There’s nothing like the sense of organic flow that comes from a piece built around the strengths of the company. The adoring audience seemed to relish the idea that no other company can perform these pieces like SF Ballet, and it was thrilling to watch.

Kristin Long and Pascal Molat in Wheeldon's Rush. © Erik Tomasson

Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush was a rush of adrenaline, personified. Created for the San Francisco Ballet in 2003, the first movement featured an ensemble of dancers in exhilarating momentum. Propelled from beginning to end by the insistent, joyful music of Martinu’s Sinfonietta de Jolla, the dancers’ costumes in bright primary colors added an extra shot of liveliness to the non-stop fast choreography. The fluid choreography is broken up by geometric arms – rounded or straight in upward V shapes – and a tilting off-center motif that looked dangerously like near falls. The tilting motif carries through in the slow second movement, a spare duet danced by Damian Smith and Katita Waldo. Dressed in black and gently romantic, there’s a tinge of sadness and regret, but also a sense of being very much alive in the moment. Limbs unfolding, movements unfurling inside out, Waldo and Smith let the movement and atmosphere speak volumes in stillness with breathless vulnerability. Waldo and Smith’s duet was a stunning highlight of the program.

Maria Kochetkova and Frances Chung in Possohkov's Classical Symphony. © Erik Tomasson

Possohkov’s Classical Symphony is a staunch example of neoclassical ballet that’s brightly classical but not restrained. Firmly rooted in the classical ballet vocabulary, this piece almost seems retro in the way that it showcases classical virtuosity as a virtue worthy of applause. Unabashed displays of sky high leaps and spinning turns rouse the spirit of ballet’s Christmas past, and I dare you not to get excited over the technical brilliance of the SF Ballet dancers, led expertly by Maria Kochetkova and Hansuke Yamamoto. This piece also draws on strong gender lines, with sweeping, strong jumps for the men and delicate, petite allegro for the women. There’s a full movement of an ensemble of men that repetitively features flying leaps in unison, with very little in between. This movement was the one movement that felt a bit underdeveloped. Occasional breaks from the textbook ballet positions give way to reaching arms and dramatic lines to give it a modern feel. There’s a relief in the familiarity of a world of the expected, and although no particularly new revelations were made, it was just really fun to sit back and enjoy.

San Francisco Ballet in Robbins' The Concert (Or, The Perils of Everybody). © Erik Tomasson

The program ended with Jerome Robbins’ abstract and comedic The Concert (Or, The Perils of Everybody). Its spoof of modern theater is filled with audience members with loud candy wrappers,  a snooty piano soloist reluctant to share the spotlight (in a brilliantly dry and funny portrayal by pianist Michael McGraw), and obsequiously single-minded fans of the theater (such as myself :) ). The dancers brilliantly skirt the difficult balance between earnestness and pushing too far, especially with Pascla Molat’s perfectly timed performance as a cigar-chomping butterfly. Not being just a comedic ballet, the choreography holds incredible depth under its comedic veneer, with a disarming nod to the tender strains of Chopin’s music, and in being more than what it appears to be. But still, the most satisfying part of this program is hearing the laughter of children ring out loud over the general audience.

San Francisco Ballet‘s Program 7 plays through April 20.

Review: San Francisco Symphony and Duncan Sheik’s Whisper House

It was a merging of two worlds at the San Francisco Symphony. In a daring program led by conductor Edwin Outwater, the headliner for the show was a suite from Duncan Sheik’s new musical Whisper House, arranged for orchestra by Simon Hale. Following the immense Tony award-winning success of Spring Awakening, this is Sheik’s second Broadway musical that recently played at the Old Globe in San Diego with lots of early buzz.

It’s easy to see how this suite could easily see the music backing a “a hybrid alt-rock concert-psychological ghost story” of ghosts telling a little boy about life and love through evocative stories both startling and touching. Atonal influences are sprinkled throughout, lending an eery tension and wavering longing. Duncan Sheik himself sang, as well as Holly Brook in ethereal tones.

As an element of a big picture, this score might work successfully in creating a compelling theatrical atmosphere. However in this setting, Sheik’s Whisper House was a bit of a fish out of water. Unfairly taken out of context, it was disorienting without a plotline as to what was going on and who the characters were as the audience was plunged into the songs with barely any warning.

It’s difficult to be scared of ghosts in bright house lights, which were on to allow for the audience to read the lyrics in the program, as the first song warns, “We’re here to tell you/ghosts are here for good/and if it doesn’t terrify you/it should!”. Also, without a sweeping storyline or characters you care about, lyrics such as “Steel your heart/Life is hard/Never easy/Believe me” fell a bit flat. Without the dramatic pull of a full production, it’s a bit inconclusive if the music is enough to stand on its own.

However, the orchestra provided a shroud of atmospheric sound that is never heard in a Broadway stage these days. The richness of Hale’s orchestration was easy to get lost in, and Sheik’s evocative melodies and themes are heart-tugging in a poignant deja vu sort of way. Sheik’s music encompasses a broad spectrum of influences that makes his vision for Broadway so visionary. Even though this might not have been the best setting for his music, it still made me curious about the musical itself.

Vivier’s Zipangu was the odd piece in the program, an experimental piece written in 1980 for a small string ensemble. Amidst the grating dissonance and unearthly harmonics, there is a hazy outline of variations on a theme and the semblance of a meandering development as Vivier explores the range of sounds that the strings have to offer, from string plucking to slides. An uneasy tension prevails, and is never quite resolved. It’s a piece that I’d picture in a smaller venue, played loudly and unapologetically, maybe at a smoky underground speakeasy or accompanying a Merce Cunningham dance performance.

Edwin Outwater led the San Francisco Symphony with admirable restraint. Gounod’s Ballet Music from Faust was refreshingly lacking in pretension, shaped

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with gentle dynamics in an interpretation that allowed the music to shine. Outwater coaxed a remarkable clarity and articulation from the orchestra. Even in the crowded stage that played Poulenc’s densely layered Suite from Les Biches, the orchestra played as one in a witty and exhilarating interpretation.

Even if the evening wasn’t to your taste, the spirit of adventure in the San Francisco Symphony is admirable and challenging. This new direction of welcoming artists outside the classical music world was also successful at recruiting a large percentage of younger people in the audience, the largest percentage of under 30′s that I’d seen in a long time.

San Francisco Symphony website