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SF Symphony Centennial Documentary

The documentary film, “San Francisco Symphony at 100,” which premiered in September, will be rebroadcast this weekend.

Sunday, December 18 at 9:00 PM and 1 AM on Bay Area’s NBC KNTV, channel 11.1.
Watch a preview.

Narrated by famed Bay Area native Amy Tan, the documentary features interviews with current symphony members and archival footage. It will not be released on DVD until spring 2012.

For years, the symphony’s season was limited because it shared the War Memorial Opera House with the San Francisco Opera. It was regarded as a good regional orchestra, but its budget actually trailed those of the Oakland and San Jose Symphonies, both of which later collapsed in bankruptcy. The Oakland Symphony, in fact, purchased its own home, the Paramount Theatre in 1973. The San Francisco symphony only took off in 1980 with the opening of the acoustically-challenged Davies Symphony Hall in what was then a dangerous neighborhood surrounded by housing projects. Gentrification soon set in city-wide.

The orchestra’s quality improved through multiple strong hires by Herbert Blomstedt, who served as music director from 1985-1995, and the professionalization of the orchestra’s symphonic chorus. The quality of the chorus set the orchestra apart from other American orchestras, and it was engaged to record the Mozart Requiem in the 1984 film “Amadeus” asserting the orchestras ascension to the international stage. This was followed by several live PBS broadcasts and landmark recordings under Blomstedt’s tenure of the symphonies of Carl Nielsen and choral works such as the Brahms Reqiuem and Orff’s Carmina Burana. A 1996 symphony strike lead to highly competitive pay levels allowing the orchestra to attract the strongest musicians.

Blomstedt handed a solid foundation over to the orchestra’s current charismatic Music Director, Michael Thomas who has expanded the orchestra’s recording projects and has proved to be a strong fundraiser and public speaker.