The week ahead

The week ahead

The return of Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra for three concerts presented by Cal Performances on the UC Berkeley Campus is the big event on the calendar this week. In fact, it's the high point of the Bay Area's classical music season, rivaled only by next month's appearance of Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker at Davies Symphony Hall. Each concert features a different program: Friday night is Beethoven's 3rd and Sibelius' 5th; Saturday is part one of a deep dive into the music of Stravinsky with Fanfare for Three TrumpetsSymphonies of Wind InstrumentsAgon and The Rite of Spring. Sunday is Stravinsky part 2, with Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms. Salonen's almost done the audience a disservice by making all three equally enticing. As of last week I was leaning heavily toward the first or third concert as a first choice. Now I can't make up my mind which one looks the most promising. Go to all three if you possibly can -- you'll remember the musical experience much longer than the cost of the tickets. By the way, I interviewed Salonen last year -- you can read it here.

Other music
If you don't like Stravinsky, or just don't want to cross the bridge and go to Berkeley, you may want to start reading this site instead of A Beast, but there are other options...

San Francisco Performances continues its recently launched Pivot Series with two adventurous concerts at the Strand Theater this weekend. On Saturday harpsichordist Mahan Esfahni continues his quest to prove his instrument isn't obsolete by playing the music of Scarlatti, Bach, Saariaho, Reich, Harrison, William Byrd, and Toru Takemitsu. On Sunday guitarist Meng Su takes a similar path by showcasing her instrument's range in music by Bach, John Williams, Castel-Nuovo, Sergio Assad, and Scott Lee (whose work is based on electronic dance music, or EDM).

On Saturday night the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players perform Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s In the Light of Air at the Taube Atrium Theater (inside the Veteran's Memorial Building at 401 Van Ness Ave.). Written in 2013, the forty-minute piece for viola, cello, piano, harp, percussion and fixed electronics was recorded in 2015 by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and appeared on one the year's most interesting albums. Also on the program is music by Toru Takemitsu and premieres by Ken Ueno and Joe Pereira

Voices of Music, the exquisite early music ensemble, performs a concert title Voice of the Viol featuring a new viola de gamba ensemble Friday at San Francisco's Old First Church.

The Oakland Music Festival runs all week at the Starline Social Club. I feel kind of bad about not mentioning in last week's post that The Egyptian Lover was scheduled to open it up on 9/30, but having an LA hip-hop pioneer kick off an Oakland festival makes the whole thing a little suspect anyway.

It's not really music, but there is a compositional and performative aspect to John Cage’s epic Empty Words, which features four sections of text pulled from Thoreau's journals, and will be read by Luciano Chessa, Ben Zucker, Pamela Z and Danny Clay in a simultaneous narrative at the Center for New Music on Sunday. Don't worry -- it's supposed to sound confusing.

On Friday night the Center has a concert for two pianos with composers Anne Sajdera and Davide Verotta playing their own works plus Shostakovich's Concertina for two pianos.

I can't decide if my appreciation of Ludovico Einaudi's music renders my taste completely irredeemable or if there's something actually interesting going on in all that prettiness and drama. I start out liking it, but after 15 minutes of listening to him I begin to feel like I've stepped through a trapdoor into a pseudo-classical world inhabited by zombies who look a lot like Chris Botti and Kenny G. Maybe seeing him live can set the matter straight. SFJazz presents him at the Herbst Theatre Tuesday and Wednesday.

A safer bet, and what would likely be at the top of the list during any other week is Brad Mehldau's four-night stand in SFJazz's big room, where he'll perform his Highway Rider suite his trio, with a full orchestra, plus Joshua Redman and Mark Guiliana, Thursday - Sunday. Hurry -- it's almost sold out.

The Music Action Lab, a gathering of musicians culled from around the world with the lofty aim of creating social impacts through music, show off the results of a month-long collaborative process Saturday at ZSpace.

Have you done something truly horrible for which you need to be severely punished? If the answer is "yes," here's your chance: Slim's is turning itself into a bunker of self-flagellation on Thursday night, where for $20 you can subject yourself to a complete evening of self-humiliation and auditory torture by making it all the way through an evening of Rush vs. Yes. If you want to show your scars to the world, buy a t-shirt. 


The 7th San Francisco Olympians Festival opens at the Exit Theatre on October 5th, debuting 22 new plays by 23 local writers over 12 nights, Wednesdays - Sundays, through October 22nd. Each play explores a different underworld legend or god from Greek or Egyptian mythology.

Cutting Ball Theatre's Avant Gardarama, a festival of short works, opens Wednesday. Among the seven plays on the schedule are The Wasps, a post-apocalyptic theater piece, and Whatever Self: Virginia Woolf & Virginia Woolf.

New Conservatory Theatre opens its season with Harvey Fierstein's Casa Valentina on Friday.

For more theater, see last week's post.


Spoken Word:
The annual Litquake Festival runs from October 5 - 16 at ZSpace.

City Arts and Lectures brings the rock royalty to town this week, with consecutive evenings featuring Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen sitting down on the stage of the Nourse Theatre to talk with Dan Stone about their recent books. Not surprisingly, both appearances are sold out, but maybe you'll get lucky if show up anyway.


On the street: The fun, thought-provoking, forward-looking Market Street Prototyping Festival returns Thursday - Saturday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, featuring performances and installations from a slew of creative minds.


RAWdance's CONCEPT series: 19 takes place in the Green Room at the SF War Memorial and Performing Arts Center (401 Van Ness, San Francisco) on Saturday (8:00 pm) and Sunday (3:00 & 7:00 pm). The pay-what-you-can event includes popcorn and coffee between new works from six Bay Area choreographers: Victor Talledos, Julie-Ann Gambino, James Graham Dance Theatre, Sharp & Fine, 13th Floor, and RAWdance.


The Mill Valley Film Festival runs from October 6 - 16. La La Land gets the opening night slot, plus there are two premieres of films starring Isabelle Huppert (Paul Verhoeven’s Elle and Mia Hansen-Love’s Things To Come, Jim Jarmusch's Iggy doc Gimme Danger, and a tribute to Nicole Kidman.

The Balboa has the hard-to-resist double feature of Alien and Aliens on Tuesday. The first of the franchise's many sequels is really little more than a do-over of the original, but in this case more is better. These are two of the best horror films of the 80s. Yes, I said horror films, people. Why not take a male chauvinist or Hillary-hater (I know those are somewhat synonymous terms) and show them how bad-ass women can be, especially in their underwear?  On Wednesday there's Tormented, a lurid ghost flick from 1960, paired with The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959) -- neither of these films are great, or even good, which is precisely the fun. Thursday is Billy Wilder's Stalag 17, which is a very good film.

It's Christopher Guest week at the Castro, with his new film Mascots screening on Tuesday. It isn't getting a theatrical release, so see it here or watch it on Netflix. On Thursday is a double feature of Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind. 

Friday at the Castro is opening night of the Arab Film Festival, which this year has 59 films from 21 countries, 40% of which were made by women. The festival runs through October 16 at theaters in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.

The Anna Magnani fest at Pacific Film Archive continues with Luchino Visconti's Bellissima (Saturday) and Mario Bonnard's The Peddler and the Lady (Sunday). Also at PFA this week is Julien Duvivier's La tête d'un homme, Michael Haneke's not-so-feel-good The Piano Teacher (a riveting and dark performance from Isabelle Huppert) and Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut.

This week the San Francisco Film Society launches a series called Modern Cinema at SFMOMA, drawing on the Criterion/Janus collection and beginning with RashomonThe Bitter Tears of Petra von KantAgnès Varda in CaliforniaThe Seventh Seal, and L’Avventura, to name just a few.


Top photo: Esa-Pekka Salonen. Photo by Minna Hatinen.
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See you next week.