• Michael Tilson Thomas put together an intriguing program for this performance by the San Francisco Symphony at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 13, 2013: Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 with pianist Jeremy Denk, Copland's woefully underheard Symphonic Ode, and current composer Steven Mackey's fantastical Eating Greens.
    Hide caption
    Michael Tilson Thomas put together an intriguing program for this performance by the San Francisco Symphony at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 13, 2013: Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 with pianist Jeremy Denk, Copland's woefully underheard Symphonic Ode, and current composer Steven Mackey's fantastical Eating Greens.
    Eric Thayer for NPR
  • The performance began with an audience favorite: Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3.
    Hide caption
    The performance began with an audience favorite: Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3.
    Eric Thayer for NPR
  • Composer Steven Mackey wrote his Eating Greens about 20 years ago, and its collage-like sounds include party noisemakers, an untuned violin, and a taped recording of a then-current, and now-antique sound: the noise of a phone off its hook and the operator message that followed. (An earlier version of the piece included a pizza delivery to the basses mid-performance.)
    Hide caption
    Composer Steven Mackey wrote his Eating Greens about 20 years ago, and its collage-like sounds include party noisemakers, an untuned violin, and a taped recording of a then-current, and now-antique sound: the noise of a phone off its hook and the operator message that followed. (An earlier version of the piece included a pizza delivery to the basses mid-performance.)
    Eric Thayer for NPR
  • Tilson Thomas cut an lithe and elegant figure on the podium.
    Hide caption
    Tilson Thomas cut an lithe and elegant figure on the podium.
    Eric Thayer for NPR
  • Jeremy Denk joined the orchestra for Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25, a piece which the pianist calls "outrageously beautiful" in its shadings of light and dark.
    Hide caption
    Jeremy Denk joined the orchestra for Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25, a piece which the pianist calls "outrageously beautiful" in its shadings of light and dark.
    Eric Thayer for NPR
  • Denk was named a MacArthur "genius" in September, and both his first book and his first opera libretto are forthcoming.
    Hide caption
    Denk was named a MacArthur "genius" in September, and both his first book and his first opera libretto are forthcoming.
    ERIC THAYER/Eric Thayer for NPR
  • Denk seized upon a very old tradition that stretches back to Mozart's own time, and played along with the orchestra in the concerto's final moments — music that is not part of his written score.
    Hide caption
    Denk seized upon a very old tradition that stretches back to Mozart's own time, and played along with the orchestra in the concerto's final moments — music that is not part of his written score.
    Eric Thayer for NPR
  • The final scheduled piece on the program was Copland's Symphonic Ode, a 1929 piece that the composer meant to evoke life in New York at that time — but which also presages the open harmonies and lilting dance rhythms of much later works like Appalachian Spring.
    Hide caption
    The final scheduled piece on the program was Copland's Symphonic Ode, a 1929 piece that the composer meant to evoke life in New York at that time — but which also presages the open harmonies and lilting dance rhythms of much later works like Appalachian Spring.
    Eric Thayer for NPR
  • The San Franciscans ended the evening with a much-appreciated encore: Copland's ever-popular "Hoe-Down," from his ballet Rodeo.
    Hide caption
    The San Franciscans ended the evening with a much-appreciated encore: Copland's ever-popular "Hoe-Down," from his ballet Rodeo.
    Eric Thayer for NPR

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Classics in Concert

Carnegie Hall Live With The San Francisco SymphonyWQXR radio

Last March, when the San Francisco Symphony was slated for an East Coast tour, including a stop at Carnegie Hall, the musicians went on strike. Fortunately, the labor dispute was settled in 18 days — a blink of an eye compared to the recent drawn-out disruptions in Minnesota and Detroit. Still, it left New Yorkers hungry for the San Francisco Symphony's brand of tonal luminescence and programming bravado, nurtured by forward-thinking conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.

For the first time since the strike, the SFS is back at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. The concert will be webcast live on this page — and broadcast on WQXR and American Public Media — with Tilson Thomas leading a program that pairs Viennese classics by Mozart and Beethoven with bold American works by Aaron Copland and Steven Mackey.

The soloist in Mozart's robust Piano Concerto No. 25 is Jeremy Denk, the pianist of the moment. His new recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations (music that has rendered Denk both obsessed and delighted) has been called "masterful," and in September he was awarded a MacArthur "Genius Grant." As Mozart left no cadenza for this concerto, which he premiered himself in December 1786, Denk will devise his own.

Along with Copland's neglected Symphonic Ode (written for the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1932), Tilson Thomas presents Eating Greens, a 1994 work by Steven Mackey. Mackey writes playful concertos for electric guitar; his chamber music won a Grammy last year for the new-music outfit eighth blackbird.

Inspired by a painting of the same name, Eating Greens pays homage to what Mackey calls America's "crackpot inventors." They include some of his favorites, Thelonious Monk, Charles Ives and Lou Harrison. "Their music swaggers with a spirit of rugged individualism," Mackey says, "and shows a healthy irreverence for the European masterpiece syndrome — which, as recently as a generation ago, haunted American concert-music composers."

Program
  • BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3
  • STEVEN MACKEY: Eating Greens
  • MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
  • COPLAND: Symphonic Ode

San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director & Conductor

Jeremy Denk, Piano

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