Yesterday the San Francisco Symphony invited some donors, journalists, and bloggers to hear about their plans for their centennial season coming up next year. John Adams and Mason Bates were also in the audience as Michael Tilson Thomas and Brent Assink revealed some of what's coming next year. The big news is another American Mavericks festival, visits to SF during the season by the top orchestras of the U.S., and a semi-staged Barbary Coast Music Festival (I'm hoping this is something like The Tomashevskys with hookers and scoundrels).
American Mavericks 2012 will have new works commissioned by SFS from Adams and Bates. The Adams piece is called Absolute Jest and is described as "the world's longest scherzo," based on fragments of Beethoven scherzos, particularly from the late string quartets. The St. Lawrence String Quartet will be performing the piece with the orchestra. Just the idea makes me want to hear this. Bates' work is called Mass Transmission and is scored for electronica and chorus. Mass Transmission will, according to Bates, "place emblems of found sounds from earth that have been captured electronically side-by-side with scraps of a shattered hypothetical mass made up of excerpts of sacred human texts." I wonder if there will be an accompanying film featiring apes and a monolithic black slab. Bates credits the inspiration for his new work to the "Gemini in the Solar Wind" movement of his SFS commission The B-Sides, which utilized recordings from NASA. Others to be involved include Jeremy Denk performing Henry Cowell's Piano Concerto, Jessye Norman working with Meredith Monk on John Cage's Songbooks and Emannuel Ax performing Morton Feldman’s Piano and Orchestra. Works by Ruggles, Varese, Copland and Ives will also be revisited. I'm really looking forward to this since I missed the first American Mavericks entirely because Penelope and I were driving around France at the time.
The American Orchestra Series is definitely big news. Next year will feature two concerts, of which one will feature a work commissioned by each orchestra. The participants are The Boston Symphony Orchestra, led by James Levine; the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti; The Cleveland Orchestra, led by Franz Welser-Möst; the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Gustavo Dudamel; the New York Philharmonic, with Alan Gilbert, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Charles Dutoit.
Little was said about the Barbary Coast Festival, but Tilson-Thomas promises something big, along the lines of "last night at the Proms."
An unexpected highlight of the event came when Jeff Dunn of San Francisco Classical Voice asked MTT to defend including Copland as an American Maverick. MTT, who had laryngitis, looked almost apoplectic upon hearing the question. After a measured silence, he answered Dunn politely, but I could swear from where I sat it looked like what MTT really wanted to say was "go fuck yourself."
We'll have to wait until March 1st for the rest of it, but judging by what's planned so far, it looks like the centennial season is going to be quite a celebration.