While the centennial of the San Francisco Symphony is likely to garner the lion’s share of attention next season, the 35th anniversary of the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) should not be neglected. San Francisco has established itself as a significant host for that portion of music history that predates most of the Symphony repertoire, not only through both visiting ensembles and “local talent” but also through excellent acoustic venues for this music, such as St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, whose virtues I have often explicitly acknowledged. Under the direction of Harvey Malloy, SFEMS has established itself as the leading institution in Northern California for the advancement of historically informed performance of early music through its concert series, educational programs, publications, affiliate support, and community outreach. The focus of the concert series is to bring important new ensembles before Bay Area audiences, usually having them perform in Palo Alto and Berkeley, as well as San Francisco.
The 35th anniversary will offer a combination of such visitors with some of our best local performers. Here are the San Francisco dates:
- Sunday, September 11, 2011: This will be a joint recital by the Catacoustic Consort and Wildcat Viols. The program will consist of seventeenth-century German cantatas for solo voices, violas, and continuo. The composers on the program occupy that period of music history between Heinrich Schütz and Johann Sebastian Bach. They include Franz Tunder, Matthias Weckmann, Christoph Bernhard, and others to be announced.
- Sunday, October 23, 2011: This program will feature Ensemble Caprice, jointly directed by Matthias Maute and Sophie Larivière. The title of the program will be La Follia & the Gypsies: Music in the Renaissance and Baroque Periods. While “La Folia” (in the preferred spelling on Wikipedia) is probably not, itself, Gypsy in origin, it strongly influenced the music of that culture; and this concert will celebrate the passing of that influence to more formal musical settings. The diversity of that influence will be reflected in the composers selected for the program, including Diego Ortiz, Heinrich Schmelzer, Andrea Falconiere, and Georg Philipp Telemann, as well as lesser-known Baroque composers from Slovakia.
- Sunday, November 6, 2011: The Chicago-based Baroque Band, directed by Garry Clarke, will celebrate the return to the English throne by Charles II in 1660 with a program entitled Charlie’s Angels. While exiled in France, Charles became an admirer of Les Vingt-quatre Violins du Roi. The program will feature works by composers who helped the restored monarch celebrate that influence, including Henry Purcell, Louis Grabu a Catalan-born French-trained composer who moved to England at the time of the Restoration, receiving a royal appointment from Charles II in 1665), John Blow, and William Croft.
- Sunday, December 18, 2011: Christmas will be celebrated by our own Magnificat with Artistic Director Warren Stewart. Magnificat will be celebrating its twentieth season by reviving its inaugural production of Schütz’ Weihnachtshistorie (Christmas story). Special guests for this performance will include The Whole Noyse and the Sex Chordæ Consort of Viols.
- Sunday, February 12, 2012: Harmonia Felice will present a program entitled Le Virtuose Sublime: Music of the French Baroque. The focus will be on eighteenth-century France with various combinations of instruments, including violin, gamba, cello, and harpsichord. The featured composers will be Élizabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, Marin Marais, and François Couperin.
- Sunday, March 4, 2012: Archetti, a “Mother’s Day regular” with Chamber Music San Francisco, will make their SFEMS debut with a program entitled Masters of the Italian Concerto. Founded by violinist Carla Moore and violonist John Dornenburg, this ensemble is also closely affiliated with the biennial Berkeley Festival of early music. The Italian masters to be performed include Antonio Vivaldi and Giuseppe Torelli, but the program will also feature concertos by composers influenced by the Italian style, including George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach (to be performed by guest harpsichordist Davitt Moroney).
- Sunday, April 15, 2012: The season will conclude with “something completely different.” The ensemble will be The Lost Mode, initiated by Annette Bauer, a native of Germany but now a Californian. The ensemble describes itself as “a cross-over project weaving together medieval music and modal music traditions from around the world.” Bauer plays both recorders and the sarod, a stringed instrument used in North Indian classical music. Other performers include Shira Kammen (vielle, harp, violin d’amore), Peter Maund (percussion), and guest musician Derek Wright (oud). The title for their program is That which colors the mind: Musical Modes through Time and Space.
All San Francisco performances will take place at St. Mark’s, 1111 O’Farrell Street. Single tickets are $35 with special rate of $30 for seniors, $28 for SFEMS members, and $12 for students. A subscription for all seven concerts costs $196, again with a special reduced rate of $168 for SFEMS members. Tickets may be purchased through the secure Ticket Order Form on the SFEMS Web site or by calling the SFEMS Ticket Office at 510-528-1725. The Web site also has a Web page with details of the entire subscription series.