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San Francisco Symphony

Friday, April 7, 2017 8 PM Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Three visionary 20th-century composers approach classic forms—the ballet and concerto—in unique ways. Conceived as a ballet, The Seasons has some of Cage’s most subtly shaded and gently melodic music. The outer movements of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 are dashed with sardonic humor—its finale even irreverently quotes one of Stalin’s favorite songs—but its emotional core is a melancholy theme that recalls the funeral march from Beethoven’s “Eroica” and leads to a breathlessly energetic cadenza. Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra treats color, harmony, and counterpoint with virtuosic flair in a work infused with mystery, humor, and fire.


San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director and Conductor
Gautier Capuçon, Cello


CAGE The Seasons

SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 1

BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra


PROKOFIEV March from Music for Children, Op. 65, No. 10 (arr. Piatigorsky)

IVES "The Alcotts" from A Concord Symphony (orch. Brant)

Event Duration

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

At a Glance

Although the works heard in this program were composed within 15 years of one another, the circumstances surrounding their creation (and their creators) could not have been more different.

By 1947, a burgeoning partnership with dancer-choreographer Merce Cunningham had begun to push John Cage along his path to becoming the premier American Maverick composer. According to Cage, the music for The Seasons is “an attempt to express the traditional Indian view of the seasons as quiescence (winter), creation (spring), preservation (summer), and destruction (fall). It concludes with the “Prelude to Winter,”with which it begins.”

The Cello Concerto No. 1 comes from one of the more serene periods in Dmitri Shostakovich’s life, as Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization campaign was in full swing. But Shostakovich’s catalogue of works for any given year does not, however, necessarily reflect such vicissitudes. Even though he was free from harassment in 1959, the Cello Concerto No. 1 is a work that feeds on grim memories.

Having moved to New York in 1940 to escape the rising tide of National Socialism in Central Europe, the 59-year-old Béla Bartók felt depressed and isolated in his new surroundings. He lacked energy and was plagued by the first symptoms of the leukemia that would kill him. Providence smiled on Bartók when conductor Serge Koussevitzky offered the composer a commission for a new symphonic work. Bartók accepted and during the summer and early fall of 1943 wrote the entire Concerto for Orchestra at a rural mountain getaway in the north of New York State. The composer provided a comment to help the listener: “The general mood of the work represents, apart from the jesting second movement, a gradual transition from the sternness of the first moment and the lugubrious death-song of the third to the life-assertion of the last one.”


San Francisco Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) gave its first concerts in 1911 and has grown in acclaim under a succession of distinguished music directors who include Henry Hadley, ...

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) gave its first concerts in 1911 and has grown in acclaim under a succession of distinguished music directors who include Henry Hadley, Alfred Hertz, Basil Cameron, Issay Dobrowen, Pierre Monteux, Enrique Jordá, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, Edo de Waart, Herbert Blomstedt, and Michael Tilson Thomas, who assumed his post in 1995. The SFS has won such recording awards as France's Grand Prix du Disque, Britain's Gramophone Award, and the United States' Grammy. The SFS education program Adventures in Music brings music to every child in grades 1 through 5 in San Francisco's public schools. In 2004, the SFS launched the multimedia Keeping Score on PBS-TV and the web. In 2014, the SFS inaugurated SoundBox, a new experimental performance venue and music series located backstage at Davies Symphony Hall. 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. For more information, go to sfsymphony.org.

Michael Tilson Thomas

Michael Tilson Thomas first conducted the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) 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. He worked with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen, and Copland at the famed Monday Evening Concerts and was pianist and conductor for the Piatigorsky and Heifetz master classes. In 1969, Mr. Tilson Thomas won the Koussevitzky Prize and was appointed assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). He came to international recognition 10 days later, replacing Music Director William Steinberg in mid-concert at Lincoln Center. He went on to become the BSO's principal guest conductor, and he has also served as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and as a principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. With the London Symphony Orchestra he has served as principal conductor and principal guest conductor; he was recently named conductor laureate. He is artistic director of the New World Symphony, which he co-founded in 1987. He served as artistic director of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in 2009 and 2011. Mr. Tilson Thomas's recordings have won numerous international awards, including 12 Grammys for SFS recordings. In 2014, he inaugurated SoundBox, the San Francisco Symphony's new alternative performance space and live music series. His television credits include the New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts, and in 2004 he and the SFS launched Keeping Score on PBS-TV. His compositions include From the Diary of Anne Frank, Shówa/Shoáh, settings of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Island Music, Notturno, and, most recently, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind. Michael Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres of France, was Musical America's Musician and Conductor of the Year, and was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in 2015. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2010 was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama.

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Gautier Capuçon

Born in France in 1981, Gautier Capuçon began playing the cello at the age of five. He studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris with Philippe Muller and ...

Born in France in 1981, Gautier Capuçon began playing the cello at the age of five. He studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris with Philippe Muller and Annie Cochet-Zakine, and later with Heinrich Schiff in Vienna. Winner of the International André Navarra Prize, Mr. Capuçon was named New Talent of the Year by Victoires de la Musique in 2001; in 2004, he received a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, and has since received several ECHO Klassik awards. He is also founder and leader of the Classe d'Excellence de Violoncelle at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. In the 2016-2017 season, Mr. Capuçon returns to orchestras that include the London Symphony and Philharmonia orchestras, Berliner Philharmoniker, Russian National Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, and gives concerts in Japan, China, and Korea. A regular recital and chamber musician, Mr. Capuçon appears annually in major halls and festivals worldwide alongside artists such as Nicholas Angelich, Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Lisa Batiashvili, Frank Braley, Renaud Capuçon, Jérôme Ducros, Leonidas Kavakos, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Menahem Pressler, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and the Artemis and Ebène quartets. Forthcoming highlights include an extensive European recital tour of Beethoven sonatas with Frank Braley, supporting the international release of an album of the same repertory. Mr. Capuçon records exclusively for the Erato (Warner Classics) label. His most recent releases include Shostakovich's cello concertos with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, and Schubert's String Quintet with the Quatuor Ebène. Previous recordings include a disc with Frank Braley of works by Schubert, Schumann, Debussy, Britten, and Carter; and Saint-Saëns's First Cello Concerto and La muse et le poète with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Lionel Bringuier. He has also recorded chamber music with Martha Argerich, Nicholas Angelich, Renaud Capuçon, and Gabriela Montero. In 2013, Deutsche Grammophon released a DVD with Mr. Capuçon as soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Gustavo Dudamel in a live performance of Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1. Mr. Capuçon plays a 1701 Matteo Goffriller cello.

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