In his past Bay Area appearances, pianist Emanuel Ax has always given the kind of performances that reflect an impressive depth of knowledge and insight. Whether he’s playing works by John Adams or Igor Stravinsky, Chopin or Schubert, the American pianist brings a rare blend of agility, assurance, and interpretive brilliance to each assignment.
Ax returns to the San Francisco Symphony this weekend to join music director Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra in two works. In performances Jan. 11-13, he’ll play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat Major, and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto.
The two scores couldn’t be more different, but they’re connected in intriguing ways. With its mix of delicacy and expansiveness, Mozart’s 1784 concerto is a sparkling example of the composer’s writing for piano and orchestra; Schoenberg’s 1942 concerto, composed in a single movement with four sections, employs 12-tone technique while including neo-classical elements that echo Mozart’s. The concertos were written nearly 200 years apart, yet both derive from the Viennese tradition, and Ax is certain to play them both with authority. The program also includes Beethoven’s “Leonore” Overture No. 3 and Richard Strauss’s“Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.”
Details: 8 p.m. Jan. 11-13; Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco; $15-$159; 415-864-6000; www.sfsymphony.org.
YOUTH ORCHESTRAS UNITE: There’s more music at Davies Hall this weekend — the kind that gives music lovers hope for the future. When the Bay Area Youth Orchestra Festival convenes on Sunday afternoon, conductor Christian Reif will be on the podium, and a large ensemble comprised of up-and-coming musicians from youth orchestras around the Bay Area will be ready to play. In addition to the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, festival music director Daniel Patrick Stewart has engaged groups including the El Camino Youth Symphony, the Golden Gate Philharmonic, Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra. The program includes Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, and proceeds from the concert will benefit organizations providing resources to underserved and homeless youth; each orchestra will select an organization within its local community.
Details: 3 p.m. Jan. 14; Davies Hall, San Francisco; $25-$70, tickets half price for youths 17 and under; 415-864-6000; www.sfsymphony.org.
A NEW GIG: Amos Yang, the assistant principal cellist at the San Francisco Symphony, has joined the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Yang, who was born and raised in San Francisco, is a graduate of Lowell High School and was a member of the San Francisco Youth Orchestra and San Francisco Boys Choir.
MONK AMONG US: Meredith Monk will be in the Bay Area next week, and music lovers can witness the New York-based composer-performer in concert and a special master class. She’ll be in residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she’ll give a master class on vocal technique on Jan. 18 at 1:30 p.m. (advance tickets are required; more information at www.sfcm.edu.) Monk will also make a special guest appearance on this month’s concert by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. The group will play her “Ellis Island” and “Cave Song” from “Book of Days,” and she’ll join SFCMP’s new artistic director, Eric Dudley, in a conversation and Q&A. The program also includes works by Vivian Fung, Frederic Rzewski, Ryan Brown and Don Byron.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19; San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., San Francisco; $15-$35;www.sfcmp.org.
OPERAS IN THE PIPELINE: Island City Opera is preparing a double bill of operas by Rimsky-Korsakov: “Kashchey the Immortal” and “Mozart and Salieri,” running Jan. 17-28 at the Elks Ballroom in Alameda; casts include Bojan Knezevic, Katja Heuzeroth and Igor Vieira. Info at www.islandcityopera.org. Opera Parallèle is presenting “Harriet’s Spirit,” with a score by Marcus Shelby and libretto by Roma Olvera, based on the life of Harriet Tubman, Jan. 18 and 20 at Buriel Clay Theater in San Francisco. Check www.operaparallele.org. for information. Opera San Jose starts the new year with Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” opening Feb. 10. www.operasj.org. And watch this space for a major announcement from San Francisco Opera, coming soon.
Contact Georgia Rowe at email@example.com.
Emanuel Ax does double duty at San Francisco Symphony