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Last March, when the San Francisco Symphony was slated for an East Coast tour, including a stop at Carnegie Hall, the musicians went on strike. Fortunately, the labor dispute was settled in 18 days — a blink of an eye compared to the recent drawn-out disruptions in Minnesota and Detroit. Still, it left New Yorkers hungry for the San Francisco Symphony's brand of tonal luminescence and programming bravado, nurtured by forward-thinking conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.
For the first time since the strike, the SFS is back at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. The concert will be webcast live on this page — and broadcast on WQXR and American Public Media — with Tilson Thomas leading a program that pairs Viennese classics by Mozart and Beethoven with bold American works by Aaron Copland and Steven Mackey.
The soloist in Mozart's robust Piano Concerto No. 25 is Jeremy Denk, the pianist of the moment. His new recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations (music that has rendered Denk both obsessed and delighted) has been called "masterful," and in September he was awarded a MacArthur "Genius Grant." As Mozart left no cadenza for this concerto, which he premiered himself in December 1786, Denk will devise his own.
Along with Copland's neglected Symphonic Ode (written for the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1932), Tilson Thomas presents Eating Greens, a 1994 work by Steven Mackey. Mackey writes playful concertos for electric guitar; his chamber music won a Grammy last year for the new-music outfit eighth blackbird.
Inspired by a painting of the same name, Eating Greens pays homage to what Mackey calls America's "crackpot inventors." They include some of his favorites, Thelonious Monk, Charles Ives and Lou Harrison. "Their music swaggers with a spirit of rugged individualism," Mackey says, "and shows a healthy irreverence for the European masterpiece syndrome — which, as recently as a generation ago, haunted American concert-music composers."
San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director & Conductor
Jeremy Denk, Piano