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Esa-Pekka Salonen, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, and the SF Symphony present John Adams’ Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?, a rollicking work evoking Franz Liszt and the gritty sounds of American funk music in equal measure. Steven Stucky’s Radical Light, inspired by the grandeur of Jean Sibelius’ symphonies, opens the concert and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 closes it with rich orchestral textures, bold brass proclamations, and a final movement inspired by serene scenes of Nordic swans.
Due to complications brought about by COVID-19 we have temporarily suspended coffee and free donut service at our Open Rehearsals.
For more information, including full program notes, visit the San Francisco Symphony’s digital program book platform at sfsymphony.encoreplus.app or text “SFS Concert” to 55741.
At A Glance
John Adams’s Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? is a piano concerto inspired by a line in an old New Yorker article about the radical Catholic social justice activist Dorothy Day (echoing a quote attributed to various sources). The first movement’s theme derives from a 1950s TV show tune, while the second tries to weave a longer, enduring melody from wisp-like fragments. The finale is reminiscent of a tarantella, the south Italian dance inspired by a tarantula bite.
Jean Sibelius must have still been feeling the glow of his recent successful visit to America when on his return home, he heard the news of the assassination at Sarajevo of the heir to the Austrian throne. He had scarcely settled into his life again when, to his horror and disbelief, virtually all Europe was at war. Sibelius had jotted these words in his notebook: “In a deep valley again. But I already begin to see dimly the mountain that I shall certainly ascend..... God opens His door for a moment and His orchestra plays the Fifth Symphony.”
From notes by Thomas May and Michael Steinberg