San Francisco Symphony's Project San Francisco Concerts Feature Composer John Adams
18 Nov 2010
Interchanging Idioms

Adams to lead Orchestra in semi-staged production of his El Niño oratorio December 2-4

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Orchestra in Adams’ Harmonielehre December 8-11, to be recorded for release on SFS Media

For two weeks, December 2-12, 2010, the San Francisco Symphony’s Project San Francisco shines the spotlight on the work of renowned American composer and Bay Area resident John Adams, building on the more than 30 year relationship between the composer and the SFS. In the two-week collaboration, the Orchestra will perform two of John Adams’ San Francisco Symphony (SFS) commissions, El Niño and Harmonielehre; an all-Adams chamber music concert; and present a post-concert Off the Podium, Q&A session with the artists. The performances of Harmonielehre will be recorded for future release on the Orchestra’s in-house label SFS Media.

On December 2-4 Adams will conduct the Orchestra in his San Francisco Symphony commission El Niño, a bilingual English and Spanish retelling of the Nativity story drawn from such diverse sources as Rosario Castellanos, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Gabriela Mistral, and Hildegard von Bingen. The semi-staged, super-titled performances will feature sopranos Dawn Upshaw (Dec 2 & 4) and Jessica Rivera (Dec 3), mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, countertenors Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings, and Steven Rickards, and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu, as well as the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus. The staging of El Niño is directed by Kevin Newbury in his SFS debut with costume design by Paul Carey and set design by Daniel Hubp. Hubp’s previous SFS credits include the 2004 production of Fidelio and the 2003 stage design for The Flying Dutchman. El Niño was jointly commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and Paris ’s Théâtre du Châtelet.

The SFS performed the U.S. premiere of El Niño in 2001 in a semi-staged production under the baton of Kent Nagano. Soprano Dawn Upshaw and countertenors Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings, and Steven Rickards were also part of the SFS’s 2001 performances. Dawn Upshaw can be heard on the Nonesuch recording of El Niño along with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. In December 2009, Upshaw, Michelle DeYoung, and the three countertenors from the SFS production performed it with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s under the baton of John Adams at Carnegie Hall. The Project San Francisco concerts mark the first time the Orchestra has performed El Niño since its 2001 U.S. premiere.

On December 8-11 at Davies Symphony Hall, Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas leads the Orchestra in performances of Adams’ SFS commission Harmonielehre. The SFS performed the world premiere of Harmonielehre in March 1985 under the direction of then-Music Director Edo de Waart, who conducted it again in October 1988. Michael Tilson Thomas led the Orchestra in Harmonielehre during his first season as SFS Music Director in December 1995, and then again in February 2000, both at home at Davies Symphony Hall and on tour with the Orchestra in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Harmonielehre translates to “Theory of Harmony” and echoes the title of a textbook by Arnold Schoenberg. A recording of the SFS’s world premiere of Harmonielehre is currently available from Nonesuch records. The Project San Francisco performances of Harmonielehre will be recorded for future release on the SFS’s in-house label SFS Media. Also in these concerts, violinist Gil Shaham performs Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, and MTT leads the Orchestra in Cowell’s Synchrony.

On December 12 at Davies Symphony Hall, musicians of the San Francisco Symphony will perform a concert of chamber works by John Adams, including Hallelujah Junction for two pianos, Shaker Loops, and Road Movies. The St. Lawrence String Quartet will perform String Quartet, a work Adams wrote expressly for the group.


Golijov: Ainadamar
Poulenc: Gloria in G major
Spohr: Songs (6), Op. 103
Salazar: Canciones Mexicanas (3)
Adams: A Flowering Tree
Golijov: La pasión según San Marcos
Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music
Barber: Knoxville, Summer of 1915, Op. 24
Górecki: Symphony no 3, Op. 36 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"
Mompou: Combat del somni
Theofanidis: Creation/Creator
Vaughan Williams: Dona nobis pacem
Spano: Hölderlin-Lieder: No. 1, Lebenslauf

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