As the new year opens, we continue our season with programs offering a broad range of artistry, enjoyment, and new understandings, aimed at both the campus and Bay Area communities—so we hope you'll be joining us. Highlighting this month's performances is Berkeley RADICAL's turn toward "The Natural World."
On January 22 and 23 we welcome the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan to Zellerbach Hall, in the first of two events marking the latest manifestation of Berkeley RADICAL, the initiative we launched in September with the residency of conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. Cloud Gate, the adventurous and lyrical modern dance troupe founded in 1973 by choreographer Lin Hwai-min, will be performing Lin's Rice, "an immersive landscape [of dance]. exploring the human drama of environmental devastation and resurrection through the life cycle of a humble plant." Following through on Berkeley RADICAL's commitment to including audiences in the fruitful connection between great artists and our university's rich intellectual life, this performance of Rice, along with the related discussion and learning events we have created around it, express the theme of this iteration of our "Research and Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts and Learning" (RADICAL): climate change and the environment.
The same theme is explored in the other Berkeley RADICAL programs this month: the Zellerbach Hall performance on January 31 by the St. Louis Symphony, and their music director David Robertson. On the program is Olivier Messiaen's Des Canyons aux étoiles... ("From the Canyons to the Stars..."), a sublime work inspired by the composer's 1972 visit to Utah's canyon lands, which we are presenting in a new multimedia presentation featuring photography by Deborah O'Grady. These images, co-commissioned by Cal Performances and colleague organizations from around the country, celebrate the National Park service centenary in 2016. The program helps commemorate the fact that the National Park Service was first envisioned by naturalists and environmental activists on the Berkeley campus in 1915.
A noted interpreter of Messiaen, David Robertson is special among conductors in that he selects repertoire and creates performances that resonate with multiple layers of relevance, musical and otherwise—performances in which he leads the phenomenal St. Louis Symphony. I was extremely excited, one day four years ago, when I received a call from David Robertson and Deborah O'Grady—an artist I admire enormously—describing an idea that centered on this Messiaen work. To see this collaboration come to fruition in this way is indeed a long-held dream.
Also featuring in the St. Louis Symphony residency is John Adams's spirited Saxophone Concerto, with virtuoso soloist Timothy McAllister (for whom the piece was written), and Mahler's monumental Fifth Symphony.
In addition to our Berkeley RADICAL performances, we are lucky this month to be welcoming one of the greatest pianists of our time, performing a monument of the piano repertoire: the complete solo piano sonatas of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Over the course of three concerts beginning on January 24 and ending in March, Grammy Award-winner Yefim Bronfman will play all nine of Prokofiev's piano sonatas. These works are a deeply personal expression chronicling the composer's personal development, struggles, and triumphs throughout half a century—especially the famous "War Sonatas," numbers 6, 7 and 8, all begun in 1939 and completed by 1944; they peer into the very soul of civilization as they seem to witness the tragedies of modern European history. These recitals will afford a unique opportunity to contemplate this historic—and uniquely moving—music.
These concerts also offer a rare and privileged chance to enjoy the performance of a world-class artist and Cal Performances favorite, and I do hope you can join us on January 24.
Next month, the six young, Chicago-based instrumentalists known as eighth blackbird will present Hand Eye, a collaboration with the daring New York composers collective Sleeping Giant, for a suite "embracing a wide range of sounds, from rambunctiousness to lyricism, athletic virtuosity to atmospheric beauty." Also in February are appearances by the Takács Quartet in a program including Haydn and Brahms; Jordi Savall, viol, and Frank McGuire, bodhrán (a Celtic drum), in a program of Scottish, English, American, and Irish folk and art music.
And, in March is the long-awaited return of the Mark Morris Dance Group and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale in Morris's warmly inviting masterpiece L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.
I look forward to seeing you at these events, where we can all share in the insights, enjoyment, and joy of performance at its most compelling.
Executive and Artistic Director