The de Young Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the San Francisco Symphony

Both the de Young and the San Francisco Symphony have been fixtures on the San Francisco arts and culture scene for over a century, the de Young originating from the 1894 Midwinter Fair and the Symphony celebrating an auspicious 100th anniversary this year. Our two institutions have a history of collaboration and cooperation, the most notable of which is the loan of the Fine Arts Museums’ priceless 18th-century Guarnerius violin—a bequest of famed musician Jascha Heifetz—to the symphony, where it is played by concertmaster Alexander Barantschik during performances at Davies Symphony Hall and the Legion of Honor’s Florence Gould Theater.

William Michael Harnett (American, 1848–1892). The Old Violin, ca. 1886. Lithograph on plate glass (reverse glass print). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Brotherton in memory of Harry Packard. 2001.40

The de Young celebrates the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Symphony with a pictorial duet in Wilsey Court. The two works on view, William Michael Harnett's The Old Violin (ca.1886) as seen above, and Tom Marioni's Finger Line (1991) below, allude to the violin and the Museums' special relationship with the San Francisco Symphony.

Tom Marioni (American, b. 1937). Crown Point Press, San Francisco (publisher). Finger Line, 1991. Color  soft ground etching, etching, and spit bite aquatint with chine collé of wood  veneer  and drawing by the artist in yellow  ink and graphite. Crown Point Press Archive, gift of Crown Point Press. 1992.167.318

We thought the 100th anniversary of the Symphony was a good time to think about our favorite works of music. With the opening of the exclusive special exhibition Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, many of us have been listening to Italian, and in particular Venetian, music to help us get in the appropriate frame of mind.

Some of our current staff favorites include:

  • Ancient Airs and Dances by Ottorini Respighi. Though this set of three orchestral suites was composed during the 20th century, it features themes drawn from the works of Italian and French Renaissance and early Baroque composers including Vincenzo Galilei (father of astronomer Galileo Galilei) and other composers of the 16th and early 17th centuries, making many of the pieces appropriate accompaniments to the paintings on display in Masters of Venice. Try the bargain-priced but superb recording from the Naxos label by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland led by Rico Saccani.
  • Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli was the organist at the famed Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice and was active in the late 1500s. His grand polychoral works for voices and wind instruments are evocative of the era and were probably heard by artists like Tintoretto and Veronese. Make sure you find a recording on period instruments, like those by Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort & Players, for full effect.
  • How can anyone mention Venetian music but not Antonio Vivaldi? While the “Red Priest’s” career took place during the early 18th century, his music is forever associated with his native city of Venice and remains one of its greatest artistic achievements. Everyone is familiar with Vivaldi’s popular set of concertos titled The Four Seasons, so why not give them a rest and instead check out his soulful concertos and sonatas for cello, especially the period-instrument recordings made by cellist Cristophe Coin and the Academy of Ancient Music?

If you’d like to get some musical inspiration at the museum itself, stop by the de Young on November 4 to experience a live performance by Quartet San Francisco in honor of the Symphony’s anniversary and Masters of Venice.

Performances take place in Wilsey Court at 6:30 and 7:45 pm. Programs, including this concert, are free, but admission is required to enter the permanent collection galleries and the special exhibition, Masters of Venice.