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San Francisco Symphony returns with guest conductor, violinist

Jaap van Zweden W

Jaap van Zweden will conduct the San Francisco Symphony on Thursday, Feb. 13, at Mondavi. Bert Hulselmans/Courtesy photo

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From page A9 | February 11, 2014 |

That’s the ticket

Who: San Francisco Symphony, featuring guest conductor Jaap van Zweden and violin soloist Simone Lamsma

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 (pre-concert talk at 7 p.m. featuring Elizabeth Seitz)

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: $50 general, $10 students; www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787

The San Francisco Symphony returns to Davis at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, to perform at the Mondavi Center. It will be the second of three concerts in Davis during the 2013-14 season.

And this time around, the orchestra will perform with two fast-rising figures in the world of music, guest conductor Jaap van Zweden and violin soloist Simone Lamsma, who are working with the San Francisco Symphony for the first time.

Born in Amsterdam in 1960, van Zweden studied violin as a child. He became the concertmaster of the venerable Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (founded in 1888) while still in his teens. Leonard Bernstein encouraged van Zweden to take up the baton, and van Zweden became a full-time conductor in 1997. His American conducting debut was with the St. Louis Symphony in 1996.

His second American engagement, with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 2006, led to his hiring as the DSO’s music director, starting in 2008. In 2013, van Zweden stepped in on short notice to make his first appearance conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, filling in for the ailing Mariss Jansons. He also has been a guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and others.

This month, van Zweden conducted a return engagement with the St. Louis Symphony on Feb. 2, followed by a concert with the London Symphony Orchestra on Feb. 9, followed by dates with the San Francisco Symphony on Feb. 12-14 (including the concert at the Mondavi Center on Feb. 13). He returns to Texas to conduct the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on Feb. 20, then goes to China in March, where he is music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic

With the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, van Zweden has recorded the Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony (which is on the Mondavi concert program), along with the Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra and van Zweden also were nominated for a Grammy Award for their recording of composer Steven Stucky’s concert drama “August 4, 1964,” a work they commissioned, and premiered in 2011.

Lamsma is from Sweden, and studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Royal Academy of Music in the United Kingdom. During the 2013-14 season, she has made (or will be making) her debuts with the Chicago Symphony (in June, performing the Britten Violin Concerto, with van Zweden conducting), the Finnish Radio Symphony, Orchestre National de Belgique, Warsaw Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, as well as appearances with the St. Louis Symphony and New Zealand Symphony.

In addition, she will be embarking on a tour of China with the Hong Kong Philharmonic under van Zweden. In January, she appeared with the Halle Orchestra in England, performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.

The program includes:

* The overture to the Mozart opera “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” composed in 1782. This spirited piece reflects Mozart’s fondness for the “Turkish”-style percussion that was popular with military bands in Europe during his day.

* The Sibelius Violin Concerto, a landmark dating from 1904. (Local concertgoers may recall hearing violinist Leonidas Kavakos and the Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinski Theatre, under conductor Valery Gergiev, performing the same piece at the Mondavi Center in April 2005.)

The finale was dubbed “a polonaise for polar bears” by British scholar Donald Francis Tovey; many critics have linked the music of Sibelius, who was Finnish, with images relating to chilly northern landscapes.

* The Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony, dating from 1887-88. The dramatic, fateful opening of the first movement (with its prominent brass parts) is sometimes compared to the first notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (performed at Mondavi on Jan. 25 by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under guest conductor Pinchas Zukerman).

There will be a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m. featuring Elizabeth Seitz, music history coordinator with the Boston Conservatory; she is a frequent lecturer with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets start at $50 general and $10 for UC Davis students, and are available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.

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