International artists join SF Symphony's centennial jubilation 

In addition to welcoming six major American orchestras during its centennial, the San Francisco Symphony is hosting a larger-than-ever group of guest conductors and famed soloists.

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A number are making their debuts with the orchestra, including conductors Susanna Mälkki, Rinaldo Alessandrini, pianists Khatia Buniatishvili and Olivier Cavé and vocalist Joan La Barbara.

Los Angeles Opera Music Director James Conlon, who appears Oct. 13-16, has had a close-up view of the orchestra.

“When I returned to conduct the San Francisco Symphony in June of 2006, after an absence of exactly 25 years, I was struck by the transformation in the orchestra and the audience. There was a new dimension,” he said.

“On each subsequent visit, I found an orchestra and chorus ready to deliver both familiar and unfamiliar music in an open, coherent, and generous manner. It showed me that there are still audiences and orchestras ready and eager to look beyond the notes to the greater meaning implicit in the music.”

Among the world-renowned 50 featured soloists are violinists Joshua Bell, Christian Tetzlaff, Gil Shaham and Pinchas Zukerman; cellist Yo-Yo Ma; pianists Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Emanuel Ax and Horacio Gutiérrez as well as brilliant newcomer Juho Pohjonen. The orchestra’s own concertmaster Alexander Barantschik is also getting a solo role, in the Schnittke Violin Concerto No. 4 (May 16-19).

Lang Lang — appearing in the season’s opening festivities — in particular is expected to attract headlines. Besides being an internationally acclaimed young artist, Lang Lang has also achieved a huge media presence, having appeared on virtually every major TV network and lifestyle magazines.

He has promotional contracts worthy of a sports star: global brand ambassador of Sony Electronics and Audi Automobiles, with a model of black and gold Adidas sneakers. He was the global ambassador of the first YouTube Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the Beijing Olympics, he also performed at the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 Euro Cup finals.

Noted opera singers will also be heard in Davies Hall in a season that features a rich selection of vocal and choral works. The impressive roster includes Jane Archibald, Nathan Berg, Laura Claycomb, Sasha Cooke, Michelle DeYoung, Karina Gauvin, Kendall Gladen, Olga Guryakova, Alan Held, Katarina Karnéus, Kyle Ketelsen, Sergei Leiferkus, Frank Lopardo, Jessye Norman, Sondra Radvanovsky, Dawn Upshaw, Frederica von Stade, Erin Wall, Leah Wool, and Dolora Zajick among them.

Main players


Mahler Symphony No. 3
Sept. 21-25
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor; Katarina Karnéus, vocalist

Shostakovich Symphony No. 14
Oct. 13-16
James Conlon, conductor; Olga Guryakova, Sergei Leiferkus, vocalists

Verdi Requiem
Oct. 19-22
Fabio Luisi, conductor; Sondra Radvanovsky, Dolora Zajick, Frank Lopardo, Ain Anger, vocalists

Brahms, A German Requiem

Nov. 17-20
MTT, conductor; Jane Archibald, Kyle Ketelsen, vocalists

Debussy, “Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien”
Jan. 12-14
MTT, conductor; Karina Gauvin, Sasha Cooke, Leah Wool, vocalists; Frederica von Stade, narrator

Bartók, “Bluebeard’s Castle”
June 21-23
MTT, conductor; Michelle DeYoung, Alan Held, vocalists


- Joshua Bell; Oct. 5-9, April 29
- Christian Tetzlaff; Jan. 5-8
- Gil Shaham; Nov. 23-26
- Pinchas Zukerman; Jan. 25-29

- Yo-Yo Ma; Sept. 14-17

- Yuja Wang; June 14-17
- Emanuel Ax; March 15-17, March 28
- Horacio Gutiérrez; April 27-28
- Juho Pohjonen; Nov. 11-13


- Susanna Mälkki, conductor; April 27-28
- Rinaldo Alessandrini, conductor; Feb. 23-25
- Khatia Buniatishvili, piano; Jan. 19-21
- Olivier Cavé, piano; Feb. 23-25
- Joan La Barbara, vocalist; March 10-14, March 27

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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