Performance Thursday, November 20, 2014 | 8 PM

San Francisco Symphony

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
A French ballet written for a Russian impresario and a Russian concerto written for a French soloist are featured. Ravel’s score for Daphnis et Chloé, commissioned by Russian dance impresario Sergei Diaghilev, is a masterpiece of spectacular orchestral colors, exotic harmonies, and stirring rhythms. Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 was written for one of Ravel’s frequent collaborators, violinist Robert Soetens. Irresistibly lyrical, especially in the unaccompanied violin passage that opens the work and the gorgeous second-movement melody, Prokofiev closes the concerto with virtuoso fireworks.

The contemporary work on this program is part of My Time, My Music.


  • San Francisco Symphony
    Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director and Conductor
  • Gil Shaham, Violin
  • New York Choral Artists
    Joseph Flummerfelt, Chorus Director


  • SAMUEL ADAMS Drift and Providence (NY Premiere)
  • PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2
  • RAVEL Daphnis et Chloé (complete)

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • San Francisco Symphony

    The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) gave its first concerts in 1911 and has grown in acclaim under a succession of music directors: Henry Hadley, Alfred Hertz, Basil Cameron, Issay Dobrowen, Pierre Monteux, Enrique Jordá, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, Edo de Waart, Herbert Blomstedt, and, since 1995, Michael Tilson Thomas. The SFS has won such recording awards as France's Grand Prix du Disque and Britain's Gramophone Award, and the Mahler cycle on the symphony's own label has been honored with numerous Grammys, including those for Best Classical Album (Mahler's Third, Seventh, and Eighth symphonies), Best Choral Performance and Best Engineered Classical Album (Mahler's Eighth Symphony), and Best Orchestral Performance (Mahler's Sixth and Seventh symphonies). The SFS recording of John Adams's Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine won a 2013 Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance and an ECHO Klassik award. A series of earlier recordings by Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra, for RCA Red Seal, has also won praise, and their collection of Stravinsky ballets for RCA (Le sacre du printemps, The Firebird, and Perséphone) received three Grammys. Some of the most important conductors of the past and recent years have been guests on the SFS podium, among them Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein, and Sir Georg Solti, and among the composers who have led the orchestra are Stravinsky, Ravel, Copland, and John Adams. The SFS Youth Orchestra, founded in 1980, has become known around the world, as has the SFS Chorus, heard on recordings and on the soundtracks of such films as Amadeus and The Godfather: Part III. Adventures in Music, the longest running education program among US orchestras, brings music to children in grades one through five in San Francisco's public schools. Keeping Score, designed to connect audiences with music and the emotions it conveys, aired on PBS, is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and can be accessed at SFS radio broadcasts, the first in the nation to feature symphonic music when they began in 1926, today carry the orchestra's concerts across the country.

    Michael Tilson Thomas

    Michael Tilson Thomas first conducted the San Francisco Symphony in 1974 and has been music director since 1995. A Los Angeles native, he studied with John Crown and Ingolf Dahl at the University of Southern California, becoming music director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra at age 19 and working with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen, and Copland at the famed Monday Evening Concerts. He was pianist and conductor for Piatigorsky and Heifetz master classes and, as a student of Friedelind Wagner, an assistant conductor at Bayreuth. In 1969, Mr. Tilson Thomas won the Koussevitzky Prize and was appointed assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Ten days later, he came to international recognition, replacing Music Director William Steinberg in mid-concert at Lincoln Center. He went on to become the BSO's associate conductor, then principal guest conductor. He has also served as director of the Ojai Festival, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, a principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and principal conductor of the Great Woods Festival. He became principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1988 and now serves as principal guest conductor. For a decade, he served as co-artistic director of Japan's Pacific Music Festival, which he and Leonard Bernstein inaugurated in 1990, and he continues as artistic director of the New World Symphony, which he founded in 1988. Michael Tilson Thomas's recordings have won numerous international awards, and his recorded repertory reflects interests arising from his work as conductor, composer, and pianist. His television credits include the New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts; in 2004, he and the San Francisco Symphony launched Keeping Score on PBS. His compositions include From the Diary of Anne Frank, Shówa/Shoáh (commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing), Poems of Emily Dickinson, Urban Legend, Island Music, and Notturno. He is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres of France, was selected as Gramophone's 2005 Artist of the Year, was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2010 was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.

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  • Gil Shaham

    Gil Shaham was born in 1971 in Illinois and grew up in Israel, where he studied at the Rubin Academy of Music. He made his debut at age 10 with the Jerusalem Symphony and Israel Philharmonic orchestras, and studied with Dorothy DeLay, first at Aspen and later at Juilliard.

    This season, Mr. Shaham continues his exploration of violin concertos of the 1930s, performing Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 with The Knights at the Caramoor Fall Festival, Berg with The Philadelphia Orchestra, and Britten with both the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. He gives the world premiere performances of a new concerto by David Bruce with the San Diego Symphony; performs Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in Tokyo, Canada, and Luxembourg; and plays two Bach concertos with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. In recital, he presents Bach's complete solo sonatas and partitas at Chicago's Symphony Center, Los Angeles's Disney Hall, and other venues in a multimedia collaboration with video artist David Michalek.

    Mr. Shaham has recorded more than two dozen CDs, earning multiple Grammy Awards, a Grand Prix du Disque, a Diapason d'Or, and a Gramophone Editor's Choice award. His recent recordings are issued on the Canary Classics label, which he founded in 2004. Mr. Shaham and his sister, pianist Orli Shaham, recently released Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies, which features the world-premiere recording of Israeli composer Avner Dorman's Nigunim. Other albums on the Canary Classics label feature Mr. Shaham performing works by Haydn, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, and Fauré, among others. Upcoming titles include Bach's complete works for solo violin and several installments in the violin concertos of the 1930s project.

    Mr. Shaham was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1990 and won the Avery Fisher Prize in 2008. He was named Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America in 2012. He plays the 1699 "Countess Polignac" Stradivarius violin, and lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony, and their three children.

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  • New York Choral Artists

    The New York Choral Artists was founded by Joseph Flummerfelt in 1979. Highlights of past seasons include a memorial performance of Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem with the New York Philharmonic in 2001; the world premiere of John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls with the same orchestra in 2002; and performances at the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986 and the 100th anniversary of Carnegie Hall. The choir has sung under the batons of Leonard Bernstein, Riccardo Chailly, Sir Colin Davis, Erich Leinsdorf, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, and Riccardo Muti, among many others.

    Collaborating regularly with the New York Philharmonic, the choir has performed Strauss's Elektra, Puccini's Tosca, Mahler's Symphony No. 8, and Britten's War Requiem on the occasion of Mr. Maazel's retirement; Handel's Messiah with Nicholas McGegan; and an acclaimed run of My Fair Lady with Rob Fischer. Other performances include Verdi's Requiem, Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges, and Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky.

    The New York Choral Artists' discography includes On the Transmigration of Souls with Lorin Maazel and Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with Leonard Bernstein, both of which won Grammy Awards; Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with Zubin Mehta; Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13 with Kurt Masur; Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd; Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, Oedipus Rex, and Requiem Canticles; Gershwin's Porgy and Bess; a Christmas recording that features Kathleen Battle; and a Christmas album, O Come All Ye Faithful. Jacqueline Pierce is the contractor for the New York Choral Artists.

    Joseph Flummerfelt, Musical America's 2004 Conductor of the Year, is the founder and musical director of the New York Choral Artists. He is also an artistic director of the Spoleto Festival USA, and was the conductor of the Westminster Choir for 33 years. Mr. Flummerfelt has conducted more than 50 performances with the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in Italy and the US. He has also guest conducted numerous US orchestras in Haydn's Creation and the world premiere of Stephen Paulus's Voices of Light with the New York Philharmonic and the Westminster Choir, among others. For nearly four decades, Mr. Flummerfelt has collaborated in the preparation of hundreds of choral-orchestral performances with such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, and Riccardo Chailly, among others.

    Mr. Flummerfelt's Westminster Symphonic Choir and New York Choral Artists have been featured in 45 recordings, including Britten's War Requiem, Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with Leonard Bernstein, John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls, and Messiaen's La transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ with the National Symphony Orchestra. His recordings of Barber's Antony and Cleopatra and John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls with the New York Philharmonic won Grammy Awards, and he has received Grammy nominations for the Westminster Choir's recording of Haydn's Missa in angustiis with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, and Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette with Riccardo Muti and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Other accolades include Le Prix du Président de la République from L'Académie du Disque Français and four honorary doctoral degrees.

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Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé: Danse religieuse
Berliner Philharmoniker | Pierre Boulez, Conductor
Deutsche Grammophon

At a Glance

SAMUEL ADAMS  Drift and Providence

The son of composer John Adams and photographer Deborah O’Grady, Samuel Adams grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and currently lives in Brooklyn, where he composed Drift and Providence. The work addresses the contrasts between the West Coast and what can be discovered by moving away: The titles of its five movements suggest not only places in San Francisco, but archetypal departures and arrivals.

SERGEI PROKOFIEV  Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63

Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto has a lean neoclassicism that became all the rage in the 1920s with composers like Stravinsky and Hindemith—a trend that Prokofiev anticipated in his early “Classical” Symphony. Despite the concerto’s elegant restraint, both in its attitude toward the soloist and its lean orchestration, it is nonetheless full of memorable melodies.

MAURICE RAVEL Daphnis et Chloé

France had a long and gloried musical tradition by the time Ravel came to full artistic maturity in the early 20th century, yet he too was a defining figure, associated most with so-called musical impressionism. In 1909, the legendary Ballets Russes impresario Sergei Diaghilev commissioned Daphnis et Chloé, a ballet based on a third-century Greek pastoral drama. Ravel brought a painterly sensibility to the project: “My intention was to compose a vast musical fresco, less thoughtful of archaism than of fidelity to the Greece of my dreams, which identifies willingly with that imagined and depicted by late–18th-century French artists.”

Program Notes
This performance is part of Great American Orchestras I, and Great Impressionists.

Part of