December at Cal Performances is a time for celebration and for catching up with friends and family. The first half of our 2015-2016 season comes to a close with a recital by pianist Garrick Ohlsson, who adds some Spanish flavor to a program of masterpieces by Beethoven (the Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major, Op. 110) and Schubert (the "Wanderer" Fantasy) with selections from Enrique Granados's Goyescas (1911), a work inspired by the paintings of Goya (Dec. 6). The following week, This American Life host Ira Glass returns with choreographer Monica Bill Barnes and dancer Anna Bass for Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, a joyful program that relishes the humor and compassion in everyday stories (Dec. 12 & 13).
Cal Performances began the 2015-2016 season with the launch of Berkeley RADICAL (Research and Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts, and Learning), our new project to cultivate the artistic literacy of future audiences and to connect the world's most innovative artists with the intellectual capital of UC Berkeley. Through carefully curated public programs and creative artistic residencies, Berkeley RADICAL serves as a framework to expand the reach of Cal Performances by providing audiences with multiple ways to engage with a single work of art or artist. A range of extraordinary works, by the greatest international artists stretching across a wide range of genres, will elevate the impact of seeing, of attending, of being part of this season.
Three thematic strands of artistic exploration join together traditional genres with contemporary, less defined forms, encouraging us all to re-imagine conventional ideas about the performing arts. This season, we invite our audiences to consider the strands, or ideas, woven throughout the rich fabric of the season. "ZellerBACH" offers new ways to consider the music of J. S. Bach and features pre-performance talks and a community response panel examining the enduring attraction of Bach's music for the artists and audiences of today. This strand was inaugurated in October with the Bay Area premières of new works by choreographer Twyla Tharp, and it continues in the spring with Bach: Six Solos, a performance by violinist Gil Shaham of Bach's solo sonatas and partitas accompanied by David Michalek's striking, original films (Apr. 14). Last month's Berkeley RADICAL residencies—by Paris's Ensemble intercontemporain and Austin, Texas's Rude Mechs—began the "ReVisions" strand, which explores new ideas of performance as the concert experience evolves beyond 20th-century traditions and artists in a range of disciplines test conventional notions of performance practice.
Art inspired by the natural world is a particularly rich programmatic vein in the 2015-2016 season, in celebration of the centenary of the U.S. National Park Service, which grew out of meetings here at UC Berkeley in 1915. "The Natural World" thematic strand explores art that encourages us to consider our relationship with the environment. We began in October with Notes on Light by composer Kaija Saariaho, the Fall 2015 Bloch Professor at the Department of Music, performed by the eco ensemble under the direction of David Milnes, as part of a concert dedicated to Ms. Saariaho's work. In January, we reach the high points of this perspective in the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan's Rice (Jan. 22 & 23) and the St. Louis Symphony's performance of Olivier Messiaen's Des canyons aux étoiles ("From the Canyons to the Stars"), with spectacular commissioned images by Berkeley-based photographer Deborah O'Grady (Jan. 31). Twin symposia around Rice and Des canyons aux étoiles explore aesthetic, spiritual, and creative responses to the natural world (Jan. 23 & 30). We pick up this strand later in the season with the Kronos Quartet performing Terry Riley's majestic Sun Rings (May 1).
In October, we invited our audience to a season-long exploration of the music of Sergei Prokofiev, which began with performances by the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra of the composer's Cinderella, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. The great pianist Yefim Bronfman continues this exploration by performing Prokofiev's complete piano sonatas over three recitals in Hertz Hall. His first concert of these modern masterpieces (Jan. 24) is introduced by musicologist Bill Quillen of the Berkeley Symphony. The second (Mar. 4) is followed by a presentation by students the "Pianism" course on the music of Prokofiev led by Associate Professors Nicholas Mathew and James Davies of the Department of Music. The final concert (Mar. 6) is preceded by a symposium on the enduring attraction of Prokofiev's music to artists and audiences today, featuring renowned Russian music expert Richard Taruskin, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Music; two of Professor Taruskin's former students, Mr. Quillen and Anna Nisnevich of the University of Pittsburgh; and Prokofiev biographer Simon Morrison of Princeton University. Prokofiev comes back into focus with a performance of the Piano Concerto No. 3 by Daniil Trifonov and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Kent Nagano (Mar. 26).
Our jazz series continues in a convivial way with the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, an all-star band of festival alumni led by pianist Gerald Clayton and featuring Raul Midón on vocals and guitar; Nicholas Payton on trumpet; Ravi Coltrane on saxophone; Joe Sanders on bass; and Berkeley High alumnus Justin Brown on drums (Jan. 24).
I look forward to welcoming you to these wonderful performances.
All best wishes,
Executive and Artistic Director