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San Francisco Symphony At 100 [blu-ray]

Copland / Mendelssohn / San Francisco Sym / Thomas
Release Date: 06/12/2012 
Label:  San Francisco Symphony   Catalog #: 57  
Composer:  Aaron CoplandFelix MendelssohnBenjamin Britten
Performer:  Itzhak Perlman
Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Also available on standard DVD

In September, the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas launched the Orchestra’s milestone Centennial Season with a celebratory gala concert dubbed “Fanfare for a New Century” at Davies Symphony Hall. The gala concert is presented here on DVD and Blu-ray as the Emmy® Award-Winning San Francisco Symphony at 100.* MTT is joined by legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman to perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor.

The concert opens with Aaron Copland’s vivid portrayal of American
Read more prairie life, the Billy the Kid Ballet Suite and concludes with Britten’s orchestral showpiece The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra of which the San Francisco Chronicle said: “…as Thomas led his colleagues, section by section and soloist by soloist… the listener could only marvel at the level of individual excellence and communal artistry on display.” Capping off the concert is an encore of Bay Area composer John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine featuring moving images of San Francisco projected throughout Davies Symphony Hall.

The gala concert is hosted by author Amy Tan and is directed by Gary Halovrson.

Woven into the concert, San Francisco Symphony at 100 includes historical documentary segments narrated by Amy Tan highlighting the Orchestra's early beginnings, its rich history of touring, and its innovations in media.

San Francisco Symphony at 100 and the historical documentary segments were made possible by a gift from Nan Tucker McEvoy.

Those interested in San Francisco Symphony at 100 may also be interested in MTT's A Celebration of Leonard Bernstein.

Gala Feature: 88 minutes
Bonus Features: 58 minutes of documentary vignettes chronicling the past 100 Years of the San Francisco Symphony

The Gala Feature is presented in High Definition 16:9 widescreen with 2.0 Stereo Dolby Digital and 5.1 Surround Sound.

The Blu-ray additionally features 96/24 Dolby Stereo and 5.1 Surround Dolby Tru HD. v Bonus Features are Stereo only.
Subtitles are in English, Spanish (North American), and Chinese (traditional and simplified).

Region: 0 (works worldwide)

*The DVD and Blu-ray do not feature the televised performance by Lang Lang.

R E V I E W:


SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY AT 100: 2011 Centennial Opening Night Gala Michael Tilson Thomas, cond; Itzhak Perlman (vn); San Francisco SO SFS MEDIA SFS 0057 (Blu-ray: 142:30) Live: San Francisco 9/2011

COPLAND Billy the Kid. MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto In e. BRITTEN The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. ADAMS Short Ride in a Fast Machine

This program originally aired on PBS’s Great Performances on March 30. That broadcast, however, included a performance by Lang Lang of Liszt’s First Piano Concerto; due to the pianist’s contractual obligations, that performance wasn’t licensed for this video release.

Distinguished American writer Amy Tan is the host. Before each musical selection, she provides background information about the works themselves, as well as anecdotes about the San Francisco Symphony and its musicians (a comprehensive history of the orchestra is included as a bonus feature).

Michael Tilson Thomas’s relationship with Aaron Copland is both personal and professional, and his discography features many of the popular works; but he has also recorded less well-known pieces, such as those included on the RCA release Copland the Modernist and, most recently, the Organ Symphony (reviewed in Fanfare 34:6). Billy the Kid is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and makes for a splendid curtain-raiser. Tilson Thomas delves deeply, though, exploiting the poignant and melancholy aspects as well as the bravura ones; he conducts without a baton, giving the performance a more intimate character.

Not surprisingly, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto comes as quite a change in mood. Amy Tan describes Itzhak Perlman as “one of America’s most beloved and joyful musicians,” and at least half of that description could be applied to Perlman’s performance of the concerto. The violinist was once quoted as saying that the Mendelssohn concerto was not one of his favorites, but he has recorded it several times, and if he doesn’t love it, he does a very convincing impression of giving it his full attention here, and the sparkling finale exudes joy.

The Young Person’s Guide is one of those pieces that has transcended its origins, and it is a perfect showpiece for each section of this brilliant orchestra; the sound is of the foundation-shaking variety when the percussion section holds forth.

The concert closes with John Adams’s scintillating Short Ride , after MTT introduces the composer from his balcony seat, and remembers that he (Tilson Thomas) actually premiered the piece. This performance has already been released as part of the SFSO’s Adams disc ( Fanfare 35: 5), so no further comment is needed, other than to say that the Blu-ray sound is every bit as exciting as that of the SACD.

This centennial celebration is one of those occasions for which a selection of lollipops and warhorses might have been expected and excused; though there is no new ground plowed here, the performances of Billy the Kid and the Mendelssohn concerto are substantial and well worth having, while the other pieces are very rich frosting.

FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

Billy the Kid: Suite by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; USA 
Concerto for Violin in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Itzhak Perlman (Violin)
Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Germany 
Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34 by Benjamin Britten
Conductor:  Michael Tilson Thomas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; England 

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