This season, Cal Performances reaffirms its unparalleled commitment to contemporary music with the premières of more than 20 compositions of varying styles, instrumentation, and subject matter. We also celebrate the music of the master composers of our time. “The aim of music is not to express feelings, but to express music. It is not a vessel into which the composer distills his soul drop by drop, but a labyrinth with no beginning and no end, full of new paths to discover, where mystery remains eternal.” These are the words of the great Pierre Boulez, who turns 90 this month. In honor of his birthday, we are proud to present a very special concert of his complete works for piano in Hertz Hall (March 12). Boulez, the preeminent composer of high European modernism, occupies a unique place in music history, and his piano music traces the development of his work over the course of 60 years. Performing his complex and compelling pieces are two of Europe’s finest pianists, Boulez associates Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich, in their Cal Peformances début. The following afternoon, I will join Mr. Aimard for a colloquium on Boulez’s piano music in Morrison Hall (March 13).
We end this month and greet the next with a very special event: two recitals by the great mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli (March 31 and April 2), nearly 25 years after making her West Coast début with Cal Performances and five years since her last Zellerbach Hall appearance. For the first time in the United States, Ms. Bartoli sings works from her Grammy Award-winning album Sacrificium, which celebrates the art of the castrati during their golden age in the 18th century. Ms. Bartoli’s rare Bay Area performances—replete with her unsurpassed dynamism, vocal acrobatics, and vast range of emotions—are not to be missed.
But our March begins with an extraordinary Hertz Hall recital by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and pianist Malcolm Martineau. Titled Frauenliebe und –leben: Variations, the program brilliantly expands on Schumann’s great song cycle, grouping each of its eight songs with thematically related works by such diverse composers as Duparc, Debussy, Grieg, Granados, Fauré, Strauss, Rangström, Mahler, Ravel, Turina, Tchaikovsky, Poulenc, Berlioz, Roger Quilter, and John Dankworth. Ms. Graham and Mr. Martineau’s performance is a must for all lovers of the Romantic art song.
In an incredible month for jazz, our series continues with vocalist Cassandra Wilson, in her Cal Performances début, paying tribute to the legendary Billie Holiday in Coming Forth by Day, in the evening after Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau. Later in March, pianists Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, reunite for an evening of duet improvisations on their own compositions, jazz and classical masterworks, and music from the great American songbook (March 19).
In November 2013, we presented Target Earth, the first book of the Intergalactic Nemesis Live-Action Graphic Novel, to considerable acclaim. This season we present Robot Planet Rising, the second book of the Intergalactic Nemesis trilogy, which, like its predecessor, offers a unique mix of nostalgia of radio drama-era Foley sound effects, live music, stylishly drawn comics projected onto a giant screen, and fun for the entire family (March 6).
The superstar husband-and-wife duo of cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han are renowned for their masterful interpretations and insightfully curated programs. We welcome them back to Hertz Hall for Russian Reflections, which features gripping 20th-century Russian chamber works. The duo perform sonatas for cello and piano by Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich, and Ms. Wu renders Skryabin’s blazing Five Préludes for solo piano (March 8).
Our world stage series continues when trumpeter Hugh Masekela and singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela join forces for the first time in 20 Years of Freedom, a celebration of two decades of democracy in their homeland featuring music of the anti-apartheid movement in Zellerbach Hall (March 11). Continuing this theme, the following evening, Pacific Film Archive presents Khalo Matabane’s film, A Letter to Nelson Mandela, which explores how diverse global leaders interpret Nelson Mandela’s message of freedom, forgiveness, and reconciliation. A discussion with the director follows the screening (March 12). The next day, Cal Performances, the Center for African Studies, the Office of the Chancellor, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities present a daylong symposium in Stephens Hall on the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections and the momentous passage of Nelson Mandela, one of the great leaders who made this political transition possible (March 13).
Chicago’s storied Joffrey Ballet returns to Zellerbach Hall to continue our dance series. Their two programs (March 14 & 15) include the West Coast première of Alexander Ekman’s Episode 31, which features a danced duet to a reading of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Color”; Val Caniparoli’s abstract Incantations, set to a score by Russian minimalist composer Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky; and Stanton Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony, set to John Adams’s vibrant score.
Violinist Jennifer Koh returns to Cal Performances following her appearance in the solo violin role of Einstein two seasons ago in our historic remounting of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach. She performs a solo violin recital in Hertz Hall, entitled Bach and Beyond, which juxtaposes two sonatas by J. S. Bach with Luciano Berio’s virtuosic Sequenza and For Violin Alone, a new work—co-commissioned by Cal Performances—by Pulitzer Prize-winner and MacArthur Fellow John Harbison (March 15).
We welcome the advent of spring with our annual orchestra residency (March 20–22). This season, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra continues the Cal Performances tradition with three Hertz Hall concerts celebrating their decades-long association with Berkeley’s own Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, John Adams. A defining Adams work figures prominently in each program. The orchestra brings rising-star conductor Benjamin Shwartz for Adams’s Chamber Symphony, paired with an arrangement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with soprano Ying Fang as soloist. Swedish clarinet virtuoso Martin Fröst, in his Cal Performances début, joins the orchestra for two concerts, as soloist for Anders Hillborg’s Peacock Tales and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. The programs also include Adams’s Shaker Loops and Son of Chamber Symphony, and two older masterworks, Stravinsky’s Danses concertantes and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica.”
Our early music series continues with a foremost interpreter of Bach, UC Berkeley Professor of Music Davitt Moroney, who continues his survey of Bach’s complete works for keyboard at Hertz Hall (March 28). On his afternoon program is a selection of Fantasias and Fugues, including the virtuosic Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue and Professor Moroney’s completion of the Fantasia in C minor.
One of our major new music initiatives this season is Project TenFourteen, our four-concert collaboration with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and their galvanizing Artistic Director, Steven Schick. We welcome the ensemble back to Hertz Hall on March 29 for the final Project TenFourteen concert in the series. The program includes three world premières: Koji Nakano’s Time Song V: Mandala, Lei Liang’s Luminous, and George Crumb’s Xylophony—the third Crumb world première on our season. The ensemble will also perform Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking masterwork for percussion, Ionisation. Mr. Schick returns to Cal Performances in June as music director of Ojai at Berkeley, which will explore the history of percussion in Western music and celebrate the music of Boulez.
I look forward to welcoming you throughout the season.
Executive and Artistic Director
Executive and Artistic Director