10 Bay Area Classical Music Deals to Brighten the Spring Months

Mitsuko Uchida performs at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2016. Her Cal Performances concert will be on March 27. Photo: Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

We had a rough few weeks there at the start of the year, as the omicron variant of the coronavirus brought another salvo of cancellations on the music front.

Since then, however, gig life seems to have resumed the comforting hum of regular activity, leaving us free to contemplate with cautious optimism some of the enticing delights that lie ahead.

Here is a list of 10 music events that promise to be worth your time and attention.

Mahler Chamber Orchestra with Mitsuko Uchida

Pianist Mitsuko Uchida is renowned for the shimmering eloquence of her playing, especially in the music of the classical masters. Cal Performances offers the rare chance to hear Uchida on tour, performing two Mozart concertos back to back, those in A major (K. 488) and C minor (K. 491).

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra, conducted by concertmaster Mark Steinberg, will also be featured with string arrangements of Purcell’s music.

Mahler Chamber Orchestra with Mitsuko Uchida: March 27 at 3 p.m. $50 to $175. Masks and proof of vaccination required. Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley. 510-642-9988. https://calperformances.org

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton performs during the San Francisco Opera’s ‘Homecoming’ concert at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco on September 10. Photo: Laura Morton/Special for The Chronicle

Jamie Barton

The inventive mezzo-soprano, who dazzled at the San Francisco Opera’s “Homecoming” concert last year, comes to Cal Performances for a recital with composer-pianist Jake Heggie. Heggie’s music is featured prominently, including the West Coast premiere of the song cycle “What I Miss the Most….” The duo also plans to collaborate on songs by Florence Price, Brahms and Schubert.

Jamie Barton and Jake Heggie: April 3 at 3 p.m. $63 to $68. Masks and proof of vaccination required. Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley. 510-642-9988. https://calperformances.org

Saxophonist Timothy McAllister Photo: San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

John Corigliano’s Saxophone Concerto

Nearly 200 years after its invention, the saxophone has still not found a secure and consistent place in the classical landscape. But if it’s a guest, it’s always welcome, and John Corigliano’s new Saxophone Concerto promises to make the most of the instrument’s sound universe.

Giancarlo Guerrero conducts the commissioned world premiere with soloist Timothy McAllister, in a program that also includes music by Adolphus Hailstork, Antonio Estévez and Astor Piazzolla.

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra: April 7-9. $20 to $135. Masks and proof of vaccination required. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave, SF 415-864-6000. www.sfsymphony.org

Contemporary ensemble yMusic will perform at Cal Performances on April 8th. Photo: Graham Tolbert


This charismatic contemporary music sextet from New York divides its time between scores traditionally created by real composers and group creations that seem to be an amalgamation of written and improvised material.

The ensemble’s next appearance with Cal Performances features music from Gabriella Smith, Missy Mazzoli, Judd Greenstein and Andrew Norman, as well as several collaborative efforts.

yMusic: April 8 at 8 p.m. $43 to $48. Masks and proof of vaccination required. Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley. 510-642-9988. https://calperformances.org

Teresa Castillo and Noah Stewart in “West Side Story” at the San José Opera. Photo: David Allen

‘West Side Story’

The excitement over the recent film version of Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” has died down. Now is the time to revisit the piece live, in Opera San José’s production directed by Christopher James Ray and directed by director Crystal Manich.

“West Side Story”: Opera San José. April 16-May 1. Masks and proof of vaccination required. $55 to $195. California Theater, 345 S. First St., San Jose. 408-437-4450. www.operasj.org

Amanda Echalaz (left), Christian Van Horn and Iestyn Davies in “The Exterminating Angel” by Thomas Adès at the Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera


Handel’s operas, with their flashy vocal virtuosity and sinister plots, have long been catnip to audiences, and the musicians of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale are masters of this style.

With British countertenor Iestyn Davies in the title role and under the musical direction of Richard Egarr, the group presents “Radamisto” in a new production directed by director Christophe Gayral.

“Radamisto”: Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale. April 20-24. $25 to $120. Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University. 650-724-2464. https://live.stanford.edu

Conductor Xian Zhang, who performed for the fourth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate in 2009, will conduct the SF Symphony Orchestra for a program in May. Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Women lead the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

For too long, women have been almost completely absent from the Davies Symphony Hall podium. Now things are finally starting to change and the month of May promises a torrent of visits from guest conductors.

Look for Xian Zhang conducting Florence Price’s Piano Concerto alongside music by Nokuthula Ngwenyama and Dvorák (May 5-8); Karina Canellakis with music by Richard Strauss, Lili Boulanger and Witold Lutoslawski (May 13-15); and Nathalie Stutzmann hosts a program of Brahms and Tchaikovsky (May 26-28).

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra: May 5-28. $35 to $165. Masks and proof of vaccination required. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave, SF 415-864-6000. www.sfsymphony.org

Viet Cuong, composer-in-residence of the California Symphony, will premiere his work for the company’s season finale. Photo: Aaron Jay Young

California Symphony

For the California Symphony’s 2021-22 season finale program, music director Donato Cabrera and the orchestra plan to introduce new composer-in-residence Viet Cuong, who teaches at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Alongside Cuong’s still-unannounced premiere, Cabrera is set to conduct music by Elgar and Tchaikovsky.

California Symphony: May 14-15. Masks and proof of vaccination required. $20 to $74. Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. 925-943-7469. www.californiasymphony.org

Soprano Julia Bullock (left) with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra on February 20, 2020. She presents a program of recent works by female composers at Davies Symphony Hall on May 17. Photo: Brandon Patoc

Julia Bullock: “The Persistent Voice of History”

Soprano Julia Bullock established herself not only as one of the leading vocal artists of her time, but also as a programmer and curator of considerable imagination. For the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, where she is one of eight Collaborative Partners, Bullock unveils an evening of new and recent works by female composers, including Cécile McLorin Salvant, Carolyn Yarnell, Jessie Montgomery and Pamela Z.

“The Persistent Voice of History”: 7:30 p.m. May 17. $35 – $165. Masks and proof of vaccination required. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave, SF 415-864-6000. www.sfsymphony.org

Conductor Leonard Slatkin will lead the Oakland Symphony in its final concert of the season on May 20. Photo: Cindy McTee

Oakland Symphony

As the orchestra concludes the season that was to be conducted by the late Michael Morgan, Leonard Slatkin, award-winning music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, arrives to lead a program carried by “A Child of Our Time”, the oratorio of Michael Tippett grafting the African-American spiritual tradition onto the practices of the Baroque.

Music by Cindy McTee and Alan Hovhaness rounds out the program.

Oakland Symphony: May 20. Masks and proof of vaccination required. $25 to $90. Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. 510-444-0801. www.oaklandsymphony.org


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