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Plenty of highlights in Mondavi’s 11th season

Ballet Hispanico,  which 
performs Oct. 11, is a world-class art troupe. 
For more than 40 years, the group has explored the Latino voice in modern dance.Courtesy photo

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From page A1 | April 12, 2013 | Leave Comment

For the 11th season at the Mondavi Center, expect some familiar favorites, several new names, and a couple of well-known performers whose names will ring a bell even though they will be appearing in Mondavi’s Jackson Hall for the first time.

The new season will get underway a little earlier than usual — Sept. 21, a few days before the fall quarter begins at UC Davis — with the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, a 13-piece band composed of legendary Cuban musicians who rose to fame in the 1940s and 1950s, then reunited in the late 1990s for a “debut” album that sold phenomenally well.

Following on the heels of that concert will be a Sept. 30 performance by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, who recently released an album as a duo, titled “Old Yellow Moon.” (The Harris/Crowell concert carries on Mondavi’s custom of hosting a “name” performer from the country/western/blues tradition as the season opens — like Bonnie Raitt last fall, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers two years ago, and Merle Haggard three years ago.)

Then the Mondavi Center will pull out the stops during the first weekend in October, with four distinctly different events:

* Friday, Oct. 4, will see the now-traditional Rising Stars of Opera concert, a free event that will showcase tenor Brian Jagde, an alumnus of the San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows program, plus current Adler Fellows Philippe Sly (bass-baritone) and Ao Li (baritone), accompanied by pianist Mark Morash and the UCD Symphony Orchestra under conductor Christian Baldini.

* Saturday, Oct. 5, will offer an uncommon opportunity to hear an all-day Beethoven marathon in Jackson Hall, with Canadian performer Stewart Goodyear performing all 32 of the composer’s piano sonatas (composed over a 25-year period) — and Goodyear will be playing them all from memory.

The intrepid Goodyear, who maintains he’s always considered the sonatas to be a set that offers “a retrospective of Beethoven’s art and his life,” will embark on the first group at 10 a.m., begin the second group at 3 p.m., and launch into the third group at 8:30 p.m., concluding sometime around 11:30 p.m. Attendees have the option of  buying an “all-day pass” — if they have the stamina to do the whole thing — or they can get tickets to the individual recitals.

* Sunday, Oct. 6, will feature an evening performance in Jackson Hall by the group Asphalt Orchestra, a “street band” affiliated with New York’s Bang On A Can series. Asphalt Orchestra is made up of musicians fluent in rock, jazz and classical styles, performing a program with the provocative title “Unpack the Elephant” that is being touted as “part parade, part halftime show, part cutting-edge contemporary.”

* Oct. 6 also will feature a pair of performances in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre by the Alexander String Quartet, who have been regulars at the Mondavi Center since the venue was dedicated in 2002. This year, the focus of this now-familiar foursome’s concerts will be the music of Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, Hungarian composers who became prominent in the mid-20th century.

The 2 p.m. performance will feature remarks by lecturer/music historian Robert Greenberg, and the 7 p.m. performance will have a Q-and-A session with the members of the quartet.

Among the other highlights of Mondavi’s 2013-14 season:

* Orchestra Series: This high-profiles series includes two visits by the San Francisco Symphony — one under guest conductor Marek Janowski, with pianist Martin Helmchen performing the Schumann Piano Concerto; the other under music director Michael Tilson Thomas, with violinist Christian Tetzlaff, whose performance at Mondavi in January 2012 is still fondly recalled.

Also a return visit by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under longtime conductor Yuri Temirkanov is planned. Their performance of the “Russian Easter Overture” at Mondavi in March 2011 was revelatory. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor/soloist Pinchas Zukerman also will visit, performing an all-Beethoven program that will feature the Symphony No. 5 and the Violin Concerto.

This is the first time the exceedingly famous Symphony Nov. 5 has been featured on one of Mondavi’s subscription concerts. The Violin Concerto will offer audiences an opportunity to compare the veteran Zukerman’s performance against next week’s performance of the same concerto at Mondavi by soloist Augustin Hadelich with the San Francisco Symphony.

The surprise on this series is the Bahia Orchestra Project, a large ensemble of young musicians from Brazil, who will be touring the United States for the first time, with veteran pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist. Thibaudet visited Mondavi with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in January 2012.

* Concert Series: Recitals by three well-known figures: star violinist Gil Shaham, performing William Bolcom’s Suite No. 2 for Solo Violin (the composer will be in attendance); veteran pianist Murray Perahia, whose recording career covers upwards of 40 years; and the brash young organist Cameron Carpenter, who has gone through almost as many wild and glamorous outfits as the young David Bowie did in the 1970s and ’80s.

Shaham has played here before, with the St. Louis Symphony in 2010, but this will be his first recital appearance at Mondavi. Perahia and Carpenter also will be first-timers in Jackson Hall. This series also features a concert by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra under Joshua Bell, who will serve in the dual capacity of music director and soloist. Bell has drawn big audiences at Mondavi as a recitalist in the past.

* Jazz Series: Pianist Ahmad Jamal — a legendary figure, now 82, who began his career in the 1940s — is the big name on this series, making his first appearance at Mondavi. Also on this series will be the 10th Anniversary Tour by the SFJAZZ Collective, and a quartet featuring drummer Jack DeJohnette, Grammy winners Joe Lovano (sax) and Esperanza Spalding (bass), and Argentinian pianist Leo Genovese.

* Studio Jazz: This series features small ensembles playing four-night engagements in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre in its cabaret configuration. The performers will be the Fred Hersch Trio, veteran keyboard player Dr. Lonnie Smith (wearing his trademark turban at the Hammond B-3 organ), and young vocalist Sachal Vasandani.

* Holidays: Not a series, but audiences can see the American Bach Soloists in mid-December, performing the great Handel oratorio “Messiah”; the well-known vocal group The King’s Singers, making their first visit to the Mondavi Center on Valentine’s Day, with a program drawn from the popular tunes from musicals and films; and the Irish band Caldah Nua, performing on St. Patrick’s Day.

* Speakers Series: The series includes actress and advocate Laura Dern, reflecting on her childhood, career and women’s rights; physicist/mathematician Brian Greene of Columbia University, discussing how the universe works; NPR personality Peter Sagal, discussing what happens behind the scenes on his popular radio show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me”; and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, talking about the book he co-authored with his wife, “Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide,” which is this year’s Campus Community Book Project selection.

* Dance: The series features a return visit by Ballet Hispanico — this time under new artistic director Eduardo Vilaro, who was a company member when this ensemble visited Mondavi in 2005, and a return engagement by the Brazilian company Grupo Corpo, who last visited in 2009.

Also planned are two programs by the Stephen Petronio Company — a Jackson Hall performance of a big new work for dancers and chorus titled “Like Lazarus Did,” which will premiere April 30 in New York, and three performances in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre of the chamber works “Intravenous Lecture,” with a dancer moving around the stage tethered to an IV feed, in a sort of improvised meditation on censorship, and “UNDERLAND,” a 2011 work inspired by the dark musings of Australian songwriter and balladeer Nick Cave.

* VST Visions: Available as add-on events, this group of concerts will feature the male vocal quartet New York Polyphony; an unscripted performance piece titled “Two Men Talking,” touching on stories from locations as diverse as New York City and South Africa; and Compania T.P.O., an Italian group presenting interactive theater for children.

* Marvels Series: A return visit by the dance/puppetry group Momix, with a program titled “Botanica,” about nature’s changing season; and return visits by two Australian troupes, Circuz Oz, with a “spring loaded” show titled “From the Ground Up” and Circa, with a show titled “S,” inspired by the “sinuous, seductive and sophisticated sound” of the letter, as well as the letter’s curvy shape.

* Debut Series: A visit by musicians from the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, this time the Wind Ensemble, playing quintets by Samuel Barber and W.A. Mozart, and a sexted by Francis Poulenc; a recital by soprano Anush Avetisyan, a past winner of the Mondavi Center’s Young Artists Competition; and young cellist Jay Campbell, a Berkeley native, now studying at Juilliard.

* Studio Classics: Songbook: A series featuring Theo Bleckmann singing music from the Weimar-era cabarets, pianist Anthony de Mare performing songs adapted from the musicals of Stephen Sondheim, and pianist Lara Downes performing transcriptions of songs associated with vocalist Billie Holiday, in expectation of the 100th anniversary of Holiday’s birth in 1915.

Other highlights include “The Intergalactic Nemesis,” combining radio theater techniques with comic book visuals for a “live-action graphic novel; a program titled “Akoka” that will feature cellist Matt Haimovitz, who last performed in Davis at the old Palms Playhouse in 2002, shortly before it closed; guitarist Bill Frisell and his band with a program based on the songs of John Lennon; a return engagement by Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the all-male company that spoofs classical ballet; AnDa Union, a young musical ensemble hailing from Inner Mongolia; flamenco dancer Eva Yerbabuena; and a four-day stopover by the Salzburg Marionette Theater, with performances based on famous operas and musicals.

Current Mondavi subscribers have until May 31 to renew, and new subscribers can order starting April 15 (and will be assigned seats in June). Individual tickets will go on sale Aug. 9. For ticket information, or to download a brochure, go online at www.mondaviarts.org, or call 530-754-2787.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8055.

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