American composer and music critic Virgil Thomson once described “the 50 pieces” of concert life, snidely commenting on classical repertoire too often repeated in performance. Yet that isn’t the case with “Curious Flights,” a new Bay Area concert series devoted to less familiar musical works.
“The fantastic composers we all know and love are well taken care of, but the possibilities of the unknown, of equally exciting and unique music, are limitless,” says Brenden Guy, artistic director and creator of “Curious Flights,” which presents the second concert of its inaugural season today with an all-Britten program.
Guy, a British clarinetist and alumnus of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, established the organization to assist his fellow musicians; money earned from ticket sales will go to a conservatory fund designed to benefit international musicians studying in the U.S.
“International students are faced with issues of student work visas, loans — the U.K. does not offer any student loans to graduates studying abroad — volatile exchange rates, etc.,” Guy says. “I can categorically say that I would not be here now if it were not for assistance from the conservatory and the kindness of their supporters, something that San Francisco has in abundance.”
Guy is among the soloists in Tuesday’s concert, which celebrates the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten and includes the local premiere of “Movements for a Clarinet Concerto” led by Alasdair Neale, music director of the Marin Symphony.
The piece has an interesting history. Originally intended for Benny Goodman, it went unfinished because it was impounded by U.S. Customs in 1941. In 2007, English composer Colin Matthews re-orchestrated and added to the work, using Britten’s sketches from the period to create a representational concerto.
“I’m thrilled to be part of the ‘Curious Flights’ concert, not least because I have the opportunity to introduce a West Coast audience to some exciting and newly minted Britten,” Neale says. “The fact that the concert’s proceeds will benefit international musicians studying in the U.S. resonates with me personally, having been in that situation 30 years ago myself.”
Tuesday’s program also features “Movement for Wind Sextet” performed by Valinor Winds, and “Phantasy in F Minor for String Quintet” featuring the Friction Quartet and soloist Jason Pyszkowski on viola. Britten’s Canticle III, Op. 55, “Still Falls the Rain,” features tenor Brian Thorsett, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra principal horn player Kevin Rivard and pianist Ulysses Loken.
A Britten Celebration
Presented by ‘Curious Flights’