Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in October of 2010 at the age of 33. He prepared a highly imaginative program of nationalist influences that combined the nineteenth-century traditions of Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Liszt with Dmitri Shostakovich’s symphonic tribute to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and György Kurtág’s “Grabstein für Stephan,” which amounted to asking Charles Ives’ “Unanswered Question” about a century later, this time in Hungarian. He then returned to the SFS podium in Davies Symphony Hall about a year ago to introduce the debut of Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili in a performance of Maurice Ravel’s G major piano concerto that was both thoughtful and stunning enough to dominate the month of January in my “memorable concerts of 2012” review of the year.
Next month will see Heras-Casado back on the Davies podium. This time he will preside over the West Coast premiere of “EXPO” by Magnus Lindberg. Lindberg, it will be recalled, took over the month of May in my “memorable concerts” list with his second piano concerto, performed when the New York Philharmonic visited Davies with Music Director Alan Gilbert and soloist Yefim Bronfman. Lindberg composed this concerto during his tenure as Composer-in-Residence with the Philharmonic; and he composed “EXPO” to honor the launch of Gilbert’s tenure as Music Director. Lindberg has also composed for SFS on a co-commission shared with the Berlin Philharmonic. The result, “Seht die Sonne” was performed in June of 2008 with Sakari Oramo on the podium and seemed to be rich with influences from the Ensemble InterContemporain, not only from Pierre Boulez himself but also from one of Boulez’ own favorite composers, Frank Zappa.
“EXPO” will serve as the “overture” for a program that will then proceed in the traditional concerto-symphony format. The concerto will be Liszt’s second, and Stephen Hough will be returning to Davies as soloist. The program will then conclude with Sergei Prokofiev’s Opus 100 symphony in B-flat major (his fifth).
This program will receive four performances in Davies Symphony Hall. They will be at 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 14, and Sunday, February 17, and at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 15, and Saturday, February 16. The Inside Music talk will be given by Laura Stanfield Prichard one hour prior to each concert. This event is free to all ticket holders, and doors open fifteen minutes before the talk begins. There will also be a free audio podcast about the Prokofiev symphony available for download from the Program Note Podcasts Web page. Ticket prices range from $15 to $150. Tickets may be purchased through the event page for this program on the SFS Web site. They may also be purchased at the Davies Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street or by calling 415-864-6000.