Last month, Cal Performances inaugurated Berkeley RADICAL (Research and Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts, and Learning), our new project to cultivate the artistic literacy of future audiences and to connect the world’s most innovative artists with the intellectual capital of UC Berkeley. Through carefully curated public programs and creative artistic residencies, Berkeley RADICAL serves as a framework to expand the reach of Cal Performances by providing audiences with multiple ways to engage with a single work of art or artist. A range of extraordinary works, by the greatest international artists stretching across a wide range of genres, will elevate the impact of seeing, of attending, of being part of this season. Two of Berkeley RADICAL’s artistic strands, “ZellerBACH” and “The Natural World,” are explored this month.
October begins with the return to Cal Performances of St. Peterburg’s storied Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra, for generations a leading force in classical ballet, with the West Coast première of Alexei Ratmansky’s acclaimed production of Prokofiev’s Cinderella (October 1–4), which put Ratmansky on the map as one of the most respected ballet makers of his generation. The Mariinsky’s residency includes a panel discussion and a pre-performance talk on Cinderella in Wheeler Auditorium featuring world-renowned Russian music scholar Richard Taruskin, Professor Emeritus in the UC Berkeley Department of Music, and his former students, musicologists Bill Quillen and Anna Nisnevich, to discuss the enduring intrigue of Prokofiev’s music to today’s artists and performers.
The Grammy-winning global ambassadors for Cuban music, the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, bid us adiós on their final tour, which features several of the stars who played on the landmark Buena Vista Social Club recording, including singer-guitarist Eliades Ochoa, trumpeter Guajiro Mirabal, laúdvirtuoso Barbarito Torres, and the incomparable diva Omara Portuondo (October 9).
Our first chamber concert of the season takes place on October 11, when we welcome the Takács Quartet, recipient of the Cal Performances Award of Distinction in the Performing Arts, back to Hertz Hall to perform Haydn’s Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 71, No. 1, Shostakovich’s wartime Quartet No. 3, and Schubert sublime “Death and the Maiden,” the Quartet No. 14 in D minor. The Takács Quartet returns in February with Haydn, Brahms, and a new work by Timo Andres.
That same evening, the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India make their début at Cal Performances in The Spirit of India (October 11), which takes us on a musical journey from Rajasthan to Mumbai. The troupe’s musicians play a mix of Indian and Western instruments, accompanying the singers and dancers in traditional songs, court dances, acrobatic routines, and the irresistible scores of Bollywood films.
We welcome the great American modern dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp to Cal Performances on 50th anniversary tour, which celebrates half a century of her choreography with two Bay Area premières (October 16–18). Her company’s performances inaugurate the ZellerBACH thematic strand, which considers the continuing attraction of J. S. Bach’s music for artists and audiences alike. One of her two premières, Preludes and Fugues, is set to Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier and radiates with generous spirit and humanity. The second, Yowzie, brims with good humor and is set to the jazz of Henry Butler and Steven Bernstein. Each half of the program opens with a vibrant Fanfare, set to music by John Zorn.
On October 17, a member of Ms. Tharp’s company leads an all-ages community dance class in Bancroft Studio exploring techniques and choreographic phrases from Ms. Tharp’s current work. Later that day, Ms. Tharp takes the stage in Wheeler Auditorium in a talk about her life and work and to sign copies of her most recent book, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together.
The Natural World thematic strand exploring art encouraging us to think about our environment was created in celebration of the founding of the U.S. National Park Service 100 years ago, which grew out of meetings here on campus in 1915. The semester-long appointment of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho as Bloch Professor in the Department of Music provides an occasion for us to get to know the music of this composer, whose soundscapes reflect a refined aesthetic response to the natural world. UC Berkeley’s resident new music group, the eco ensemble, led by conductor and Music Professor David Milnes, is joined by cellist Anssi Karttunen, one of Ms. Saariaho’s musical partners, in his Cal Performances début, for an all-Saariaho concert featuring Notes on Light (2006), The Tempest Songbook (2004), and Sept Papillons (2000) (October 23). Two days prior to the concert, in Hertz Hall, Ms. Saariaho will be in conversation about her work with conductor Susanna Mälkki, Professor Milnes, and Mr. Karttunen, who performs selections of Ms. Saariaho’s works for us (October 21).
ZellerBACH thematic exploration continues when the Bach Collegium Japan and its conductor and keyboardist, Masaaki Suzuki—masters of historically informed performance—return to First Congregational Church in all-Bach program: the “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 5, the Concerto for Oboe d’amore in A major, the Trio Sonata from the Musical Offering, and a cantata for solo soprano (October 24). A special one-hour talk about the international appeal of the Bach’s glorious music precedes the concert.
October closes with the Cal Performances début of the Australian performance troupe Circa, which combines the techniques of nouvelle cirque with dance to tell stories and express music in the language of motion. In Opus, Circa is joined on stage by the Debussy String Quartet to render the emotional world of three string quartets by Shostakovich in acrobatics and movement (October 29 & 30).
I look forward to welcoming you to wonderful performances.
All best wishes,
Executive and Artistic Director