Look below to find a list of our upcoming concerts. You can also learn more about the artists by clicking on their names and following the links to their bios and websites.
To respect our artists and patrons, we do not permit infants or toddlers to attend our performances.
Sqwonk bass clarinet duo
with Nonsemble 6 and the Real Vocal String Quartet
Jonathan Russell, bass clarinet; Jeff Anderle, bass clarinet
Sqwonk, the ground-breaking Bay Area bass clarinet duo, eagerly returns to Old First Concerts to celebrate the release of its third album, Sqwonk +. This album grew out of several concerts in recent years in which Sqwonk shared the bill with another Bay Area ensemble, often joining forces with them in a new composition or arrangement. Sqwonk + documents some of these projects, as well as new ones created especially for the recording. On this concert, Sqwonk presents two of its collaborations from the album: a new chamber version of Jonathan Russell’s Bass Clarinet Double Concerto with the young, up-and-coming new music chamber ensemble Nonsemble 6, and Alisa Rose’s Slacker Ridge with the inimitable Real Vocal String Quartet. Filling out the program will be works from Sqwonk’s core repertoire. Sqwonk invites you to join them in celebrating this exciting new album, and the richness and diversity of Bay Area chamber music that it represents.
Portraits of Chopin
Frank Lévy, piano
Frédéric Chopin Variations Brillantes, Op. 12; Impromptu No. 2, Op. 36; Ballade No. 2, Op. 38; Polonaise Op 40, No. 2; Impromptu No. 1, Op. 29; Ballade No. 1, Op. 23; Polonaise Op. 71, No. 2; Impromptu No. 3, Op. 51; Ballade No. 3, Op. 47; Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. posthumous; Impromptu No. 4, Op. 66; and Ballade No. 4, Op. 52
You are cordially invited to take an extraordinary journey into Chopin’s universe through his complete cycles of Ballades and Impromptus. The American critic James Huneker called the Ballades “the odyssey of Chopin’s soul.” This program will explore different facets of Chopin’s genius throughout his life—from the brilliance of his early works to the depth of the late masterpieces. Described by audiences and critics alike as a pianist of rare poetic insight and communicative power, Frank Lévy has a special affinity for the narrative quality of Chopin’s music. Frank Lévy recently moved to the Bay Area from New York City where he had served on the piano faculties of the Juilliard School Pre-College Division and the City University of New York Graduate Center. Frank Lévy will complement the Ballades and Impromptus with other known gems, such as Nocturnes, Polonaises and Variations.
Karen Clark sings Pierrot Lunaire
Karen Clark, contralto; Karen Rosenak, piano; Terrie Baune, violin; Rob Bailis, clarinet; Leslie Chin, flute; Judyaba, 'cello; Will Johnson, lecturer; Michael S. Orland, conductor
Alban Berg Vier Stucke for clarinet and piano, Op. 5
Johannes Brahms Op. 94 No’s 3 & 4 and Op. 106 No’s 3 & 4
Alexander Zemlinsky 6 Gesänge (Poems by Maeterlinck), Op. 13
Arnold Schoenberg Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21
Please come early and join us for a pre-concert talk by Professor Emeritus Will Johnson at 7:30pm.
In this evening of chamber music, contralto Karen Clark joins with highly esteemed colleagues for a journey into the spirit, structure, and sprechstimme of Arnold Schoenberg’s masterpiece melodrama, Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21. Karen Clark’s “rich intensity,” and “majestic,” and “hauntingly beautiful” voice have been lauded by major journals, such as, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. The first half of the program highlights the influences and friendships between Schoenberg, Johannes Brahms, Alexander Zemlinsky, and Alban Berg and features lieder of Brahms, and Zemlisky, and Berg’s Vier Stucke for clarinet and piano, Op. 5. Please attend the 7:30pm pre-concert lecture presented by Professor Emeritus Will Johnson. You’ll be glad you attended!
Junior Bach Festival
The annual Junior Bach Festival has been a popular California tradition since 1953. Johann Sebastian Bach’s music is an essential part of every musician’s training, and the non-profit Junior Bach Festival Association was created to support young people’s explorations of this venerated baroque composer’s works. Accomplished students are presented in annual concerts around the time of the composer’s birthday (March 21). Each of the talented performers has been selected through a highly competitive audition judged by a panel of professional musicians. The audition process is valuable for all entrants, but the chosen performers have distinguished themselves by demonstrating their technical, intellectual, stylistic, and emotional readiness to publicly perform Bach’s complex and dazzling music. The final 2014 Festival Concert on March 30 at Old First Concerts will showcase a variety of instruments, solos works, and ensembles. Come hear Baroque era masterworks played with the vigor and fresh perspective that only young people can muster!
Beth Custer; Sheldon Brown; Harvey Wainapel; Ben Goldberg
Original compositions and arrangements of works by Ian Guest, Clark Coolidge, Jimmy Giuffre, Carla Blay, Alexandre Stellio, Michael Moore, John Carter, and Duke Ellington.
Clarinet Thing is a quartet of clarinetist/composers dedicated to original new music and jazz. The group was founded by Beth Custer twenty-five years ago, and the current line-up of Beth, Sheldon Brown, Ben Goldberg, and Harvey Wainapel has been together since 2005. BC Records release Cry, Want in 2009 (“A rich woody blend of original music” – San Francisco Chronicle). Clarinet Thing received national critical acclaim with the release of its first CD Agony Pipes and Misery Sticks, named for colloquial terms for the clarinet. Members have received many accolades in the press. Goldberg has twice been named Rising Star Clarinetist in the Downbeat Critics’ Poll (2011 and 2013); Custer has been hailed as a “woman for all seasons” by The Guardian; Sheldon Brown’s performances have been hailed as “mesmerizing, featuring extended meters, fierce improvising, and beautifully constructed melodies” (San Francisco Offside Festival). “Harvey Wainapel has established himself as one of the most promising and versatile jazz musicians of his generation.” (All Music Guide). Each member of the group contributes original compositions and arrangements of unusual jazz works and the group utilizes the entire range of the clarinet family, from sopranino E-flat to contra-alto. bethcuster.com
Thomas Schultz, piano
Franz Schubert Piano Piece in E-flat major, D. 946
Frédéric Chopin Ballade in G minor, Op. 23 and Fantasie in F minor, Op. 49
Frederic Rzewski Down By the Riverside and Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues
Hyo-shin Na Near and Dear and Walking, Walking
Pianist Thomas Schultz plays a program consisting of two masterpieces by Frédéric Chopin, two modern classics from Frederic Rzewski’s North American Ballads and two recent works by the eminent Korean composer Hyo-shin Na. Na’s Near and Dear from 2012 is the most recent example of her always colorful and scintillating writing for piano; 2003’s Walking, Walking is a 20-minute long musical essay inspired by the music of the Chilean songwriter Victor Jara. Schultz will play Down By the Riverside and the celebrated Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues from Rzewski’s 1979 North American Ballads and the first Ballade and F minor Fantasie of Chopin. thomasschultzpianist.com
with Emil Miland
Keith Porter-Snell, piano; Special Guest Emil Miland, 'cello
Keith Porter-Snell returns to Old First Concerts with an all new program of piano music for the left hand alone. He is joined by ‘cellist Emil Miland for the US premiere of Stephen Hough’s new Sonata for ‘Cello and Piano, Left Hand. The program will also include the sumptuously beautiful Prelude and Nocturne of Scriabin, and the energetic music of Erwin Schulhoff—an early 20th century composer, silenced by the Nazi regime, whose wonderful music has been re-discovered in the last decade. In 2012, Keith played Verbs, Book Two, by Kathleen Ryan; on this recital he will complete the set by performing Verbs, Book One. If you’ve never heard a left hand only piano recital, don’t hesitate: you are in for a treat! keithsnellpianist.com
One Art Ensemble
presents In Her Words
Ann Moss, soprano; Alexa Beattie, viola; Hillary Nordwell, piano
John Woods Duke Three Sonnets for Voice, Viola & Piano (1959)
Rebecca Clarke Viola Sonata (1919)
Vartan Aghababian Two Songs for Soprano, Viola & Piano (2010); Three Dickinson Songs (2011) and selections from Songs of a Second April (2007)
William Bolcom Let Evening Come (1994)
With In Her Words, One Art Ensemble highlights the poetry and music of 20th century women, offering an evening of varied and unique repertoire that displays a merging of art song and chamber music genres. Their program also celebrates the fiftieth birthday of composer Vartan Aghababian, with whom the Ensemble has a lengthy history of close collaboration. In trio settings of poetry by Elizabeth Bishop and Edna St. Vincent Millay, Massachusetts composers Vartan Aghababian and John Woods Duke employ soprano, viola, and piano as equal partners to fuse text, melody, and emotion. Aghababian’s Bishop settings were commissioned by One Art Ensemble in 2010, while Duke’s Millay settings were discovered posthumously and have enjoyed only a few rare performances since their 1959 premiere. William Bolcom’s Let Evening Come is a grand meditation on life, loss and acceptance, which grew out of a duet commission for MET singers Tatiana Troyanos and Benita Valente. When Troyanos suddenly and tragically died at the outset of the commission, Bolcom re-imagined the work for soprano, viola and piano, choosing texts by Angelou, Dickinson and Kenyon which “describe with ever greater acceptance the phenomenon of death.” The Ensemble offsets trio repertoire with daring and delightful works for duo instrumentation. Rebecca Clarke’s virtuosic 1919 Viola Sonata is a lush, vibrant, and at times sensuous work which shows off the full range of the viola as well as the piano. Aghababian’s Three Emily Dickinson Songs illuminate this beloved American poet’s voice with contemporary freshness and honesty. Selections from his brooding and dramatic Songs of a Second April on poetry by Millay receive their West Coast premiere at Old First Concerts. Come allow the “captivating sound” (San Francisco Classical Voice) of One Art Ensemble to draw you into this rich and multi-textured concert program. oneartensemble.org
East and West
Bettina Mussumeli, violin; Susan Freier, violin; Jodi Levitz, viola; Stephen Harrison, 'cello; Special Guest Miles Graber, piano
Julian Waterfall Pollack String Quartet co-commissioned with Telluride Music Festival
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 3 in E-flat minor, Op. 30
Dmitri Shostakovich Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57
Bay Area native Julian Waterfall Pollack is an accomplished composer and a consummate jazz artist whose love of classic standards, romantics and minimalism influence this new work written for the Ives Quartet. Because of its deeply felt and immediately popular Andante funebre, Tchaikovsky’s Third Quartet, written in memory of a colleague, was played in memorial performances for the composer himself. For Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, a 1940 masterpiece drawing inspiration from Bach, our good friend Miles Graber will join IQ. ivesquartet.org
Bettina Mussumeli, Bonnie Hampton & Mack McCray
Bettina Mussumeli, violin; Bonnie Hampton, 'cello; Mack McCray, piano
Three highly esteemed musicians perform Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 7 in B-flat major, Op. 97, ‘Archduke’, along with other chamber works by Beethoven and Mozart. First violinist of the Ives Quartet, Bettina Mussumeli was formerly the co-concertmaster of I Solisti Veneti, and has collaborated frequently as guest concertmaster with orchestras throughout Italy. Bonnie Hampton’s solo debut with the San Francisco Symphony was the start of an illustrious career performing the complete standard repertoire for ‘cello, with an additional focus on new music, that has seen her perform with numerous orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and as a soloist throughout the U.S. Mack McCray is well known to Bay Area audiences, his distinguished career featuring numerous highlights, including a silver medal in the International George Enesco Competition, first prizes in the Charleston Symphony and San Francisco Young Artists competitions, the U.S. premiere of John Adams’s Eros Piano, the Artistic Director of Zephyr International Chamber Music Festival, and the Chairman of the Piano Department and Co-chair of the Chamber Music Program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
The Music Teachers' Assocaiation of California presents
Festival of Modern Music, 1950–2014
The San Francisco Branch of the Music Teachers' Association of California presents its students in a gala concert of contemporary works written since 1950. Twenty young musicians will perform a variety of pieces from this rich and colorful period of music. The performers for this gala event will be selected by audition in the weeks before the concert, so you will be hearing some of the most gifted and accomplished music students in the Bay Area. A portion of ticket sales will go toward MTAC-SF Branch programs for music students. Please join us for this exciting concert and witness the future of music while benefiting local music education.
The Delphi Trio
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Liana Bérubé, violin; Michelle Kwon, 'cello; Jeffrey LaDeur, piano
Mozart Trio in G major, K. 496
Fauré Trio in D minor, Op. 120
Schubert Trio in E-flat major, Op. 100
The Delphi Trio returns to Old First Concerts with an evening of chamber music both reflective of the past and looking forward with visionary clarity. Mozart's Trio in G major K. 496 is as charming as it is masterful, concealing the dark shadow of presentiment which hovers over the work. The only piano trio by Gabriel Fauré is the product of his maturity, a time when the composer was almost completely deaf. The impassioned first movement and cosmically nervous finale are balanced by one of the most heartfelt slow movements in the literature. Schubert's great Trio in E-flat major, Op. 100 was written in the last year of his life, an epic journey exploring the transformation of suffering to acceptance, despair to irrepressible joy. Praised for "...spot-on ensemble and a beautifully blended sound..." (San Francisco Classical Voice) the Delphi Trio has become known for their intensity and communicative power. Formed in 2010, Delphi's mission is to give voice to the authentic, essential nature of a composition, acting as a conduit between composer and audience. thedelphitrio.com
Cybele Gouverneur & Temirzhan Yerzhanov
Cybele Gouverneur, mezzo-soprano; Temirzhan Yerzhanov, piano
Bay Area favorite and San Francisco Opera mezzo-soprano Cybele Gouverneur and 'Best Performer of the Year' pianist Temirzhan Yerzhanov present a program of songs by Wagner, Elgar, Dvořák, Granados, and Montsalvatge. Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, which inspired the chromatic-harmonic style of Tristan und Isolde, are at the center of an evening of passion. A program in celebration of love, the gypsy life, and the fierce sea, culminate with the brilliance of the Spanish zarzuela. cybelegouverneur.com temirzhanyerzhanov.com
Erik Jekabson's String-tet
plays the music of Duke Ellington
Erik Jekabson, trumpet; Michael Zilber, saxophones; Mads Tolling, violin; Charith Premawardhana, viola; John Wiitala, bass; Smith Dobson, drums & vibraphone; Special Guest Michael Coleman, piano
Presented in collaboration with Jazz in the Neighborhood
Join us for an evening where you'll hear a different take on Duke Ellington's music. Erik Jekabson's critically acclaimed String-tet is joined by pianist Michael Coleman as they play brand new arrangements of familiar and some not-so-familiar Ellington compositions. The combination of the String-tets' violin, viola, trumpet, sax, bass, drums and vibes with Michael's creative and masterful piano playing shouldn't be missed. A student group will open up the concert, as part of Jazz in the Neighborhood’s mission. jazzintheneighborhood.org
Joseph Edelberg, Paul Ehrlich & David Goldblatt
Joseph Edelberg, violin; Paul Ehrlich, viola; David Goldblatt, 'cello
Luigi Boccherini Trio in F major, Op. 38, No. 3
Hyacinthe Jadin Trio for Violin, Viola, and ‘Cello, Op. 2, No. 1
Ludwig van Beethoven Trio in C minor, Op. 9, No. 3
Joseph Edelberg, concertmaster of the Santa Rosa Symphony, Principal Viola of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra Paul Ehrlich, and ‘cellist with the San Francisco Symphony David Goldblatt come together to perform a program of works by Boccherini, Beethoven, and the rarely performed Hyacinthe Jadin. At the age of 13, Jadin’s first publicly performed work premiered the same year as the start of the French Revolution, and he succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 24. During his brief life, he composed a large number of works for piano, chamber ensemble, and orchestra, including his Trio for Violin, Viola, and ‘Cello, Op. 2, No. 1. Today, his music is seen as a bridge between the works of Mozart and of Schubert.
San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra
presents Across Time and Space
San Francisco and World Premieres of works by Roberto Becheri, John Beeman, Harry Bernstein, Michael Cooke, Philip Freihofner, Brian Holmes, Martha Stoddard, and Erling Wold.
3-2-1-Liftoff to places near and far as San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra travels Across Time and Space. Featured otherworldly travelers include Roberto Becheri, offering Bridges, which evokes the past and present of Florence's Ponte Vecchio and the Golden Gate Bridge. John Beeman will then have us traveling back in time to the last Native American, previously untouched by Western Civilization, as Ishi Emerges. Also showcased will be the atmospheric Two Songs for Tenor and Orchestra, by Brian Holmes, and two soaring string works graced by bass clarinet and flute, respectively from Harry Bernstein and Martha Stoddard. The program is rounded out by new celestial works of Michael Cooke, Philip Freihofner, and Erling Wold. sfcco.org
Ultra World X-tet
Wise Dreams and Fables of the Sky
Surya Prakasha, drumset, percussion, harmonium; Gary Schwantes, saxophones, bamboo flutes, electric guitar; Winnie Wong, guzheng (Chinese zither); Yangqin Zhao, yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer); Craig Baldwin, projections
Hailed as an “extraordinary world class ensemble” by Examiner.com, Ultra World X-tet combines jazz, world, experimental and contemporary concert styles in a pioneering fusion of East and West. San Francisco Classical Voice says “these formerly exotic elements can become quite familiar and entertaining when they’re so successfully and imaginatively integrated." Don’t miss this exciting cross-cultural experience featuring brand new material, as well as a few favorites from the X-tet repertoire. A highlight of the evening will be the world premiere of Wise Dreams and Fables of the Sky, composed by Gary Schwantes with projections by Craig Baldwin. The piece is a multisensory experience that reimagines The Odyssey from a global perspective. ultraworldxtet.com
Schubert's Trout Quintet
Diane Nicholeris, violin; Debra Fong, violin; Yun-Jie Liu, viola; Jerry Chang, 'cello; Charles Chandler, bass; Gwendolyn Mok, piano
Beethoven String Trio in G major, Op. 9, No. 1
Schubert Quintet for Piano and Strings in A major, D. 667, ‘The Trout’
Well known musicians from the San Francisco Symphony, San Jose State University and Stanford University perform timeless chamber works of Beethoven, Dohnányi, and Schubert, including Schubert’s Quintet in A major for Piano and Strings, “Trout”. The quintet was composed in answer to a commission for a piece of chamber music based on his popular lied Die Forelle, and is known for its innovative harmonic language and unique sonority.