The San Francisco Symphony performed for a live audience on Thursday night for the first time in 14 months — a group of invited guests comprised of medical professionals and representatives of cultural districts and organizations around the region. And they now have a performance schedule up for the next couple months with tickets on sale.
The Examiner brings a report from Thursday's low-key season opening, which did not include the entire orchestra — just strings and percussion. The Symphony performed Sibelius’ "Rakastava" (The Lover) Op. 14, "Lyric for Strings" by George Walker, “Little Suite for Strings” Op. 1 by Carl Nielsen, "Entr’acte" by Caroline Shaw, and "Holberg Suite" by Edvard Greig. Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen led the pared down ensemble.
Walker, as the Examiner notes, was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1996. He died in 2018. And Shaw became the youngest person ever to win the prize in 2013, at age 30.
The surprise reopening of Davies comes just three weeks after the Symphony indicated that it would not be restarting concerts until September.
San Francisco Symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson had given the September timeframe after Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement about June 15 being a broad reopening day for live performances of all kinds. Hanson now tells the Examiner that they are thrilled to be able to give concerts again, and they have a plan to bring music fans back into Davies starting with concerts next week. From the SF Symphony website, it looks like they're asking ticket buyers to attest to their vaccination status and that of their entire party, and there's mention of "Fully Vaccinated Zones" in the symphony hall.
Under SF rules in the "Yellow" tier, indoor performance venues can operate at 50% capacity, and it's not entirely clear how many tickets Davies is selling for each show, or what the current capacity is.
"When we recently learned from state and city leadership that we could finally begin giving concerts for live audiences again, we immediately got to work on the plan to gather our musicians and audience together in response to what our community wants and needs," Hanson says in a statement to the Examiner. "There is nothing that compares to experiencing music together in a physical space."
The next concerts, next Thursday and Friday, feature pianist Jeremy Denk performing and directing the orchestra. Conductor James Gaffigan will lead the Symphony on May 20 and 21, and Ken-David Masur is conducting on May 27 and 28. Salonen returns June 17 with a program still to be announced.