Sizzling seasonal classics 

It has been a busy year for James Gaffigan. Between his duties as the San Francisco Symphony’s associate conductor and a packed schedule of guest appearances around the U.S. — he just returned from the Aspen Music Festival — he barely had time to fly back east for a wedding (his own, in June).

This month, though, Gaffigan’s glad to be back at Davies Symphony Hall, where he’s directing the Symphony’s annual "Summer in the City" series.

Running Tuesday though July 26, the three-week festival (formerly known as "Pops") will include classical concerts, Broadway show tunes, tango, swing, choral and pop music.

Gaffigan will lead five orchestral programs featuring Bach, Beethoven, Dvorak, Mozart and others; also on the calendar are "Rodgers and Hammerstein on Stage and Screen" conducted by George Daugherty (July 12-13); the African Children’s Choir (July 13), Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (July 19) and Quartango (July 20).

Broadway legend Bernadette Peters joins the orchestra under Edwin Outwater (July 25), and the series ends with the piano quintet the Five Browns (July 26).

Gaffigan, a New York native who joined the Symphony in 2006, loves the series’ festive atmosphere — the orchestra wears white, the hall is decked in summer colors and there’s casual dining and lobby entertainment before the show. And he says the repertoire always features favorites.

"It’s the kind of big blockbuster pieces that people love," he says. "And this year’s guest artists are exceptional; most of them are under 30, which is very exciting for me. They’re real up-and-comers."

Joining Gaffigan and the orchestra will be violinist Stefan Jackiw, who will play Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto on the opening "Orchestral Fantasy" program (Wednesday at Flint Center in Cupertino, Thursday at Davies).

Pianist Natasha Paremski is the soloist for Beethoven’s "Emperor" Concerto (July 11).

Piano prodigies Peng Peng and Conrad Tao appear on an all-Mozart program, playing the composer’s Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos (July 17); "Beautiful Brass" features Alison Balsom in Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto (July 18); and pianist Inon Barnatan joins an all-French program, as soloist in Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2 (July 24).

Gaffigan’s pleased with the lineup, but says he’s looking forward to one piece in particular — Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter," on the July 17 program. "That’s the highlight for me," he says. "This orchestra’s one of the best in the country, and it’ll be a thrill to do Mozart’s last symphony with them."

He also likes the fact that "Summer in the City" audiences aren’t the usual Symphony crowd. "Some of them are coming to a concert for the first time, and I get a lot of pleasure from that," he says.

Gaffigan’s increasingly in demand as a podium guest throughout the U.S. and Europe. But last month, he took time out to get married. He and his bride, Lee Taylor, a former staffer at The City’s own Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, exchanged vows June 13 on Cape Cod.

They didn’t have time for a long honeymoon, but Gaffigan says they spent a blissful two days at a hotel in Boston. "We travel all the time, so all we did was relax and shut off our cell phones. It was great."

IF YOU GO

Summer in the City Presented by: San Francisco Symphony

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through July 26

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

Tickets: $10 to $85

Contact: (415) 864-6000 or www.sfsymphony.org

Note: Opening performance is Tuesday at Flint Center, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino; the program is repeated Wednesday in San Francisco.

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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