Monday, November 28, 2011

Keeping Score: Gustav Mahler: Origins and Legacy

The Main Library's Thursday Noon Film series in December will be devoted to the San Francisco Symphony's Keeping Score series. Keeping Score is an ongoing educational classical music series originally broadcast on PBS that features the Symphony's Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. We are very happy to present five of these programs in conjunction with the celebration of the Symphony's Centennial season.

Our video series will kick off with the 2011 film Gustav Mahler: Origins and Legacy. In this program, Michael Tilson Thomas journeys to rural Bohemia to rediscover the inspirations of Gustav Mahler’s music. This two-part, two hour documentary traces the composer’s life through the premiere of his first symphony in 1888 and examines Mahler’s creative growth, from the 1890s to his death in 1911. The documentary is shot on location in the Czech Republic, Austria, New York, and in performances by the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.

Gustav Mahler: Origins and Legacy will screen at noon on Thursday, December 1, 2011 in the Koret Auditorium. All programs at the Library are free and open to the public.

Recent books about Mahler in the San Francisco Public Library collection include:

Reading Mahler: German Culture and Jewish Identity in Fin-de-siècle Vienna by Carl Niekerk (Camden House, 2010).

Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World by Norman Lebrecht (Pantheon Books, 2010).

We also have most of Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony's recordings of Mahler available to borrow. Place any title on hold to have it sent to your neighborhood branch.

When you visit the Main Library don't forget to visit our two Symphony-related exhibits, Music for a City, Music for the World in the Jewett Gallery on the Lower Level and The San Francisco Symphony in the Library’s Collections in the Steve Silver Beach Blanket Babylon Music Center here on the 4th floor.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Return of the Aurora Mandolin Orchestra

The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra will be bringing their dulcet tones to the Koret Auditorium this Saturday, November 19 at 2pm.

Their impressive string section includes mandolin, mandola, mandocello, guitar and string bass. Accordion, flute and percussion fill out the sound. The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra’s repertoire includes traditional and romantic pieces and includes melodies from Italy, Spain, and Russia.

In addition to the 26 member orchestra the performance will include special guests: soprano Annemarie Ballinger and professional trumpeter Jay Rizzetto. Please join us for a musical afternoon.

All program at the San Francisco Public Library are free and open to the public.

This program has received support from the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Music of the Barbary Coast and Beyond: San Francisco’s Musical Origins

In celebration of the San Francisco Symphony's Centennial, the Library and Symphony have been presenting special exhibits and a series of related programs. On Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 6:00 PM we will co-present the program Music of the Barbary Coast and Beyond: San Francisco’s Musical Origins in the Main Library's Koret Auditorium.

San Francisco has always been a music-loving town, from the music halls of the Gold Rush to the emergence of a full-time professional orchestra in the early 20th century. James Keller, organizer of the forthcoming exhibition at the Society of California Pioneers', Singing the Golden State, and Leta Miller, musicologist from UC Santa Cruz and author of the forthcoming Music and Politics in San Francisco 1906-1945 (UC Press), paint a vivid portraits of the diverse musical forces that laid the groundwork for the founding of the San Francisco Symphony in 1911. San Francisco musicologist Susan Key moderates.

A selective bibliography of books by our presenters:

American Mavericks, edited by Susan Key and Larry Rothe (San Francisco Symphony; in cooperation with the University of California Press, 2001).

Chamber Music: A Listener's Guide by James M. Keller (Oxford University Press, 2011).

Lou Harrison by Leta E. Miller and Fredric Lieberman (University of Illinois Press, 2006).

Music and Politics in San Francisco: From the 1906 Quake to the Second World War
by Leta E. Miller (University of California Press, 2012).

Other blog entries relating the Symphony Centennial:

Music For a City, Music For the World: 100 Years with the San Francisco Symphony (September 12, 2011).

Alfred Hertz and the San Francisco Symphony
(September 21, 2011).

San Francisco Symphony at 100
(October 3, 2011).

An Audio History of the San Francisco Symphony
(October 17, 2011).

Recollections of Alfred Hertz (November 3, 2011).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our Books - Read On Public Transportation!

One of the life's cheap thrills for librarians is to see books we have selected in the hands of readers on the bus, MUNI or BART. That's why it was a delight to come across these images from the blog People Reading Books In Public Places.

This book, photographed on the K Ingleside train, is clearly a San Francisco Public Library book - the barcode placed in the upper left hand corner and date label at the top of the spine are the clues.

The photographed reader is enjoying Simon Reynold's Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews and Overviews, a companion to his earlier Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984.

For all you Simon Reynold's fans we have his two newest books at the Library. Bring The Noise: 20 Years of Writing about Hip Rock and Hip Hop covers Reynold's more recent music journalism. His Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to its Own Past is a work of cultural criticism where he argues that the instant availability of nearly all of audio musical history that we have with the advent of internet has contributed to a contemporary culture that revels too much in stylistic imitation at the expense of originality.

The blogger identifies this second book as Found: A Daughter's Journey Home by actress Tatum O'Neal. She notes that it is a library book being read on BART - but we don't know which library it was borrowed from. It could be one of ours - as of today's writing, San Francisco Public Library has 16 copies of this title. If a copy is not available at your branch, place a hold.

Here is a summary of Found from our Library catalog: "The actress reveals her efforts to pull her life together, make peace with her children, and forge a fragile relationship with her estranged father, Ryan O'Neal, after twenty-five years of public and private feuding."

If you have already read Found and enjoyed it, we also have several copies of Tatum O'Neal's 2004 book, A Paper Life.

Reading List:

Bring The Noise: 20 Years of Writing about Hip Rock and Hip Hop
by Simon Reynolds (Soft Skull Press, 2011).

Found: A Daughter's Journey Home by Tatum O'Neal; with Hilary Liftin (William Morrow, 2011).

A Paper Life by Tatum O'Neal (Harper Entertainment, 2004).

Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past by Simon Reynolds (Faber & Faber, 2011).

Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds (Penguin Books, 2006).

Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews and Overviews by Simon Reynolds (Faber and Faber, 2009).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Recollections of Alfred Hertz

Cover image from 1925-1926 San Francisco Symphony season programs

Alfred Hertz, the San Francisco Symphony’s second conductor, though a beloved a figure, was a formidable musical force and personality.

Winthrop Sargeant was the music critic for the New Yorker from 1947 to 1972. A native San Franciscan he was a member of the second violin section of the San Francisco Symphony as a youth in the early 1920s. In Geniuses, Goddesses, and People, he describes Hertz as the first true genius he had ever met and recounts his impressions of the conductor.

In San Francisco, where he had taken over the conductorship of the local Symphony and whipped it into a standard of performance that was then new to the Pacific coast, Hertz was a great man. Few people honestly liked him, and I have rarely met a man who so consistently went out of his way to be disliked. With Hertz, being disliked was a point of pride and a proof of power. His appearance, to begin with, was somewhat frightening, and he made the most of it. His shiny, totally bald head, from which even the suggestion of a fringe had been studiously clipped, surmounted a neck that bulged with overlapping layers of fat. His thick, sensual lips and sawlike teeth peeked obscenely from behind a luxuriant and carefully tended black beard. His powerful shoulders and stocky body swayed uncertainly on legs pitifully withered by infantile paralysis, and his walk, painstakingly aided by a heavy cane, was like the halting progress of some wounded but defiant animal.

Hertz was a conductor of experience, knowledge and enormous sincerity. He could perform Brahms with a leisurely grandeur that has become practically extinct in the modern concert hall, and Wagner with a certain very Teutonic nobility. He never spared himself in his devotion to his work.

Fear the beard, indeed!

Leon Fleisher, another San Francisco native, encountered Alfred Hertz as a child prodigy in the 1930s. He reminisces about Hertz in his 2010 memoir My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music.

Hertz was as bald as a billiard ball, with a formidable dark, bushy beard that was salt-and-pepper gray by the time I knew him and round wire-framed glasses: a bona fide representative of the great European tradition, straight out of the concert halls of Gustav Mahler. Crippled as a child by what they used to call infantile paralysis--that is, polio--he walked with a cane for all of his adult life, but this did not diminish his notable vigor.

He was also a formidable and renowned musician. Hertz’s stature was such that he was able to attract a whole new caliber of player to San Francisco, both as soloists and as orchestra players. The violinist Louis Persinger, for instance, was the concert-master of the Berlin Philharmonic before Hertz lured him to take that position at the San Francisco Symphony. With this kind of musician on its roster, the San Francisco Symphony quickly developed into a serious professional orchestra.

Hertz was also forward-looking. He was committed to education and outreach--words that didn’t have as much currency in the classical music world in those days as they do now--and was happy to explore new ways of reaching audience. He was also eager to explore recording and radio. The San Francisco Symphony became one of the first American orchestras to make commercial recordings, starting in the 1920s.

The display The San Francisco Symphony in the Library's Collections features some of Alfred Hertz's correspondence and other ephemera. This display may be viewed in the Steve Silver Music Center on the 4th floor of the Main Library.

Leon Fleisher and Anne Midgette, My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music (New York: Doubleday, 2010).

Winthrop Sargeant, Geniuses, Goddesses, and People (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1949).