Opening nights, new works, revivals and special events: the fall classical season blooms in October. It’s an exciting lineup, and here are some of the must-see highlights. Make sure to check a venue or performance group’s website for COVID safety requirements before attending any live concert.
S.F. Symphony’s “Re-Opening”: The San Francisco Symphony dances into the 21/22 season with the aptly titled “Re-Opening Night” – its first opening night concert since Esa-Pekka Salonen was named music director. The program features an alluring pan-American mix of works: “Slonimsky’s Earbox” by Berkeley composer John Adams, the “Estancia Suite” by Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera, “Noche de encantamiento” by Mexico’s Silvestre Revueltas, and selected songs by jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter. Dancers from Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet will perform King’s new choreography for Ginastera’s score, inspired by Argentina’s rural folk tunes and urban landscapes; and bassist Esperanza Spalding, one of the collaborative partners Salonen named at the start of his tenure, leads a small combo in a selection of Shorter songs.
Details: 7 p.m. Oct. 1, includes sparkling wine welcome and access to an outdoor after party; $225-$425, VIP packages also available; program repeats 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2; $35-$200; www.sfsymphony.org.
Symphony Silicon Valley, times two: October brings two special events to launch Symphony Silicon Valley’s 20th anniversary season. The San Jose orchestra opens with “Celebration,” a concert featuring the world premiere of a new flute concerto by noted Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz. Titled “D’Colonial Californio,” the new work features Marisa Canales as soloist; Grammy award-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta leads the program, which also includes the Overture and Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. Three weeks later, John Nelson conducts the orchestra in a program titled “Four Seasons (Times Two),” with violinists Christina Mok and Lara St. John joining the orchestra in Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” Alberto Ginastera’s Four Dances from “Estancia” and Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” complete the program.
Details: “Celebration” Oct. 2-3, “Four Seasons” Oct. 23-24, California Theatre, San Jose; $55-$115; symphonysiliconvalley.org.
Chanticleer at the Mission: Chanticleer always produces a brilliant vocal blend, but the 12-man group sounds especially fine in venues like Mission Santa Clara. They return there this weekend with “Awakenings,” a program spanning works by Monteverdi and contemporary composers Steven Sametz and Ayanna Woods.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1; Mission Santa Clara; $20-$62; www.chanticleer.org.
Beethoven weekend: Led by pianist Mari Kodama and conductor Kent Nagano, Musical Days Productions celebrates Beethoven this month. In honor of the composer’s 250th birthday, “A Portrait of Beethoven: 32 Sonatas for Piano” will present 18 pianists covering the composer’s 32 piano sonatas in chronological order. Participants include Kodama, Adam Golka, Stephen Kovacevich and others.
Details: 1 and 7 p.m. Oct. 9, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Oct. 10; Miner Auditorium, SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco; $50 per performance; www.sfjazz.org.
The return of “Fidelio”: After its thrilling season-opening performances of Puccini’s “Tosca,” San Francisco Opera returns with “Fidelio.” In the company’s first performances of Beethoven’s only opera since a 2005 production, this searing drama exploring themes of love, repression, and the human quest for freedom is conducted by music director Eun Sun Kim, with a new production directed by Matthew Ozawa. The first-rate cast is headed by soprano Elza van den Heever as Leonore, tenor Russell Thomas as Florestan, and bass-baritone Greer Grimsley as Don Pizarro. Whether you choose an in-person performance or a live-streamed presentation, “Fidelio” is a must for fall. A host of ancillary events are on the calendar — and while you’re on the company’s website, be sure to check out the new “Atrium Sessions,” an excellent free series featuring song repertoire performed by Rhoslyn Jones, Edward Nelson, Efraín Solis, and others.
Details: Oct. 14-30, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco; $26-$398; live-streamed performances Oct. 14, 17, and 20; $25; www.sfopera.com.
Pohjonen plays Bach: J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations are a formidable mountain to climb for any pianist, but Juho Pohjonen intends to scale the heights of this challenging masterwork in his upcoming appearance for the Steinway Society’s online Fall 2021 Home Concert Hall series. The award-winning Finnish pianist will play the variations in their entirety; audiences can watch during a four-day performance window. The program includes a pre-show talk by author Gary Lemco, and remarks by Pohjonen.
Details: Streaming Oct. 15-18; $25 single, $35 two or more viewers; four-concert series subscriptions also available; www.steinwaysociety.com.
Salieri v. Mozart: Many opera fans got acquainted with the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri through the 1984 film “Amadeus,” but composer Rimsky-Korsakov got there first with his 1898 opera, “Mozart and Salieri.” Based on a play by Alexander Pushkin, who also served as librettist, this psychological drama begins with Salieri plotting to poison the up-and-coming composer who would overshadow him for all time. Opera San Jose’s new virtual production, conducted by Donato Cabrera with direction by Fenlon Lamb, stars baritone Sidney Outlaw (Salieri) and tenor Kyle Bielfield (Mozart). In Russian, with subtitles, it’s available for streaming now.
Details: $40 single tickets; $65 30-day household access; www.operasj.org.
St. Lawrence Sunday: Brooklyn-based cellist Paul Wiancko, formerly of the Harlem Quartet, has performed with Chick Corea, Etta James, Stanley Clarke, and the Kronos Quartet. As special guest with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, he’ll help kick off Stanford Live’s popular Sundays with the St. Lawrence series.
Details: 2:30 p.m. Oct. 10; Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University; $15-$68; stanfordlive.edu.
Chamber intensive: The Danish String Quartet, known for its fiercely focused performances, is back in Berkeley this month in the first of two programs for Cal Performances. It’s a great program, pairing a U.S. premiere with a beloved masterwork. Along with Schubert’s String Quartet in G Major — the composer’s final quartet — the Danes will play Bent Sørensen’s “Doppelgänger,” a new work co-commissioned by Cal Performances as part of a three-season initiative.
Details: 3 p.m. Oct. 10, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley; $52-$92; www.calperformances.org.
Enter Egarr: It’s been some time since the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra appointed Richard Egarr its new music director, but this month marks his official first live appearance in the role. He’ll conduct a program featuring the music of Robert Schumann, including the Second Symphony, and the composer’s Violin Concerto, with Shunske Sato as soloist.
Details: Oct. 14-17 at S.F., Stanford and Berkeley; $32-$130; www.philharmonia.org.
PIVOT with Phan: San Francisco Performances’ PIVOT Festival has an enticing lineup this year, one that includes Theo Bleckmann, chamber outfit the Living Earth Show and a duo recital with Jennifer Koh and Missy Mazzoli. But expect something sublime when tenor Nicholas Phan joins the eclectic string quartet Brooklyn Rider to perform Nico Muhly’s “Stranger” and other works.
Details: 7:30 Oct. 21, Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; $45-$65; www.sfperformances.org.
Contact Georgia Rowe at email@example.com.