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Lots to hear as classical season kicks off
September 16, 2016, 05:00 AM By David Bratman Daily Journal

From left, Michael Mohammed, Susan Gundunas, Ben Brady, Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai and Steve Guggenheim perform in ‘The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.’

The 2016-17 classical season on the MidPeninsula starts off with a bang next Saturday, Sept. 24, with the Redwood Symphony’s semi-staged production of the jazz and ragtime-inspired opera “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,” by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, the caustic writer-composer team who bought you “The Threepenny Opera.” Redwood is giving this brutal satire of unbridled Wild West capitalism now, conductor Eric Kujawsky said: “to make explicit the parallels of the opera’s theme and the state of America today, before the November election.” Director Phil Lowery’s staging won’t be set in an explicit time period, but Kujawsky expects that Brecht’s point and its contemporary relevance should be clear.

The cast, featuring Redwood favorite Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai as the prostitute Jenny and Steve Guggenheim as her lover Jimmy, will sing in English underneath subtitles. This is a grittier and more sexually explicit show than “Sweeney Todd,” Redwood’s historic 2013 production, also directed by Lowery, so parents are advised to use discretion for children under 12. It’s also a long show, so the performance at Cañada Collage begins at 7:30 p.m.

The Redwood Symphony, which won San Francisco Classical Voice’s best new music performance award for giving Mason Bates’ “Alternative Energy” last April, has another typically interesting season to follow up. Attractive concertos by contemporaries Arvo Pärt and Jennifer Higdon are on the programs for later concerts this year, as are such colorful orchestral showpieces as Richard Strauss’ “Alpine Symphony” and Saint-Saëns’ “Organ Symphony.” See for details.

Our other local community orchestras will also be busy. Each concert of the Peninsula Symphony ( this year will feature a work by a living American female composer, including local notable Nancy Bloomer Deussen in May, and Anna Clyne, whose works have been sparkling the Cabrillo Festival, in March. January’s program will be a jazz and blues influenced concert with a piece by Gwyneth Walker. Other concerts will feature favorites like Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” and Holst’s “The Planets.”

The Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra ( will be highlighting winners of its concerto competitions with special concerts in December and May. Other concerts will feature unusual concertos, Carl Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto with Steve Sanchez in late October and Bela Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with Natalie Lin in February. The New Millennium Chamber Orchestra ( begins its season on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Woodside High School, with a pop-influenced program featuring tributes to Prince and the band Green Day, a solo by jazz saxophonist Don Pender, and fiddler Colyn Fischer in a classical-folk crossover concerto by Mark O’Connor.

The Masterworks Chorale ( begins its season in November with performances of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, also known as the All-Night Vigil. It’s not that long, but it is an hourlong work of great beauty for unaccompanied choir. After a holiday concert with an accompanying crafts and cookies market in December, Masterworks will continue with Verdi’s dramatic Requiem in March. For its concluding musical theater concert in June, Masterworks will offer a collection of songs by Kander and Ebb, the authors of “Cabaret,” “Chicago” and other glittery musicals.

Also in the choral department, Ragazzi Boys Chorus ( and the Peninsula Women’s Chorus ( are both giving varied holiday programs in December with music ranging from Haydn to contemporary masters.

Chamber music locally begins with the Jasper String Quartet playing Mozart, Brahms and Bartok in the first Kohl Mansion series concert in Burlingame on Oct. 16. The Kohl season also includes local favorites the Alexander Quartet in March ( Also of note is Music@Menlo’s three-concert winter season, opening with the Pacifica Quartet in Beethoven, Ravel and Shostakovich in January (

Music lovers should also look to Stanford University’s Bing Hall, where an impressive season, including the resident St. Lawrence Quartet playing the complete string quartet works of John Adams over the course of the season, plus visits from the Kremerata Baltica and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, begins on Thursday, Sept. 29, with Philip Glass performing his complete etudes for piano (



Tags: season, concert, music, quartet, begins, other,

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