There was no “Star-Spangled Banner” or Mozart at the San Francisco Symphony’s Re-Opening night. No, this was a new, progressive endeavor comprised of modern fare conducted by music director Esa-Pekka Salonen and featuring guest singer/jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding and dancers from Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet.
The absence of the customary sing-along to the national anthem kept the concert, filmed for PBS, on theme and to 90 minutes in length. Specific program selections included Bay Area composer John Adams’ “Slonimsky’s Earbox,” Alberto Ginastera’s “Estancia Suite” (for the dancers), and Spaulding’s performance of songs by Wayne Shorter, with a jazz trio comprised of Ravi Coltrane on saxophone, Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, and Leo Genovese on piano, all accompanied by the symphony. Capping the performance, Silvestre Revuelta’s “Noche de Encantamiento” from his film score for the 1939 film La Noches de Los Mayas about Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage added even more multicultural flair, as well as explosive impact, with 13 percussionists (including students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music).
With pizzazz on the pre-show arrivals carpet and a bustling, outdoor post-show reception in a so-called “nosh pit,” the evening represented progress on another front: getting people out of the house and out of sweatpants. “Nothing short of thrilling,” said Symphony President Priscilla Geeslin of the evening.