By Mark Taylor
You might call it a concert two years in the making. SFCM teamed up with musicians from the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra (SFBO) for a performance featuring winners from SFCM Concerto Competitions previously put on hold due to the pandemic.
The side-by-side concert on May 13 inside the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall includes several current students, including violinist Daniel Tan who is performing for the first time in this kind of collaboration, “I think there's always a sense of excitement whenever you get the opportunity to play alongside musicians of the SF Ballet Orchestra's calibre,” he said.
Tan is a graduate student working with Cordula Merks at SFCM. Merks, the Concertmaster of the SFBO, will also be performing in the joint concert. “I'm unsurprisingly a huge fan of Cordula. She is a tremendous inspiration of mine,” Tan continued, “I'm excited and intrigued to see her knowledge and experience deployed outside of the studio context in a situation that more resembles her regular place of work.”
The concert is a long time coming. It will feature cellist Matthew Park, who won the Lower Strings Concerto Competition in 2020, and violinist Yvette Kraft who won the Violin Concerto Competition this year. “For us, it’s exciting to play alongside the students—after all, they are the very next generation of musicians,” Merks said of the performance. “And you never know, some of the students might become our colleagues very soon!’ she added.
The performance will be conducted by the Music Director of the SFBO Martin West. While this is not the first time the two organizations have collaborated on stage, it is the first in several years. “We did one rehearsal side-by-side of The Nutcracker a few years ago, but this time we will be able to go deeper into the music and perform,” West said of the performance.
This will also give SFBO an opportunity to play on the stage, rather than in the pit as for a traditional ballet performance. “As an orchestra it will be fun to be seen for once,” West said. The conductor hopes young musicians participating will gain real world experience, “Playing in orchestras is so much more than playing your own part well,” he continued, “I hope the students will learn some of the art of big-ensemble playing from the expertise of the SFBO players.”
Most recently the SFBO and SFCM partnered in January to announce the Denis de Coteau Fellowship, a program that will provide Black musicians with tuition, housing, and a stipend for SFCM’s one-year Professional Studies Certificate in Instrumental Performance. The first-of-its-kind program is scheduled to begin in Fall 2022.
For young musicians like Tan, while a bit of nervousness may play a small part, he’s looking forward to sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in the classical music scene, and having some fun with it. “I feel very lucky to be able to conclude the academic year with a performance like this and am looking forward to learning as much as I possibly can from it,” he said.
The concerts program includes overtures to Ruslan and Lyudmila by Mikhail Glinka, as well as Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129 with Matthew Park and Niccolò Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major with Yvette Kraft.
Audiences are asked to reserve tickets for this free event. The Concerto Orchestra Side-by-Side with SF Ballet is on Friday, May 13 at 7:30 pm inside the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall, at the Ann Getty Center for Education.