Review: Return of SF Symphony sets the tone for adventurous season


The rest of the program reflected this multicultural sensitivity. Alonzo King LINES ballet dancers, dressed in minimalist earth-toned silk outfits, accentuated the performance of Argentine composer Alberto Evaristo Ginastera 1941. Estancia following. The piece alternated between large explosive and discreetly subtle sections, which the athletic jumps and the supple and graceful movements of the dancers brought to life.

Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the San Francisco Symphony in the reopening concert featuring Esperanza Spalding, a jazz trio and dancers from the Alonzo King LINES Ballet on October 1, 2021 at Davies Symphony Hall. (Drew Altizer Photography)

The evening ended with standing ovations for the performance by the orchestra of Mexican composer Silvestre Revuelta The noche de los Mayas, an almost entirely percussive piece, which pays homage to the indigenous percussion traditions of the Americas. With strings, brass and woodwinds majestically embellishing the regular rhythm of the bongos, a deep conga, tumkul, xylophone and many other percussion instruments, The noche was brought to a climax by a player who stood up and let out a deep bellow of a conch shell. These pre-colonial instruments and rhythms invited the audience to envision a whole new lens through which to look at what we consider canon.

After the concert, the intergenerational and diverse crowd vibrated with palpable excitement of the adventurous musical ideas on stage. After Salonen’s 2020 debut season was derailed by COVID closures, the evening was a hopeful new start for the next chapter of the San Francisco Symphony.

An illuminated orchestra seen from the back of the concert hall.
SF Symphony Reopening Night Gala on October 1, 2021 at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, California. (Drew Altizer Photography)

A broadcast of the SF Symphony performance on October 1 will air on KQED Channel 9 as part of PBS’s Great Performances series on November 19, 2021.


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