San Francisco replaces Mirga with diverse concert

San Francisco replaces Mirga with diverse concert


norman lebrecht

February 04, 2020

Veteran Oakland Symphony music director Michael Morgan will make a belated debut with the San Francisco Symphony on April 30.

He replaces Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, who is having a baby break from guest conducting, and he completely rips up her planned concert.

Morgan will conduct the first SFSO performance of Florence Price’s 3rd symphony (1940). Also in the lineup: Carlos Simon’s 2019 work “AMEN!”, Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody and Franck’s Le Chasseur Maudit.



  • Bravo says:

    Morgan is a great conductor! It’s a shame that it has taken them so long to invite him. He was a Solti assistant in Chicago many years as well as winner of the Hans Swarowsky Competition in Vienna which led to his Staatsoper debut there.

    • Larry L. Lash / Vienna, Austria says:

      Just for clarification – not judgement – Morgan conducted only one performance at Wiener Staatsoper, “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” in 1982.

  • Anonymous says:

    How can a single person be diverse?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      It’s the program that’s diverse

      • MacroV says:

        You might want to alter the headline because that’s not how I read it. How about “SF’s Mirga sub brings in novel program.” Or “Belated SF Debut for Noted Oakland Maestro.”

        It IS a fair question why such an experienced and AFAIK well-regarded conductor is only getting invited to conduct them now (never mind other bands of similar distinction).

        • Annon says:

          Especially since he lives just a short drive away.

          But this is the same orchestra that had a chief which once said that “Blacks have no place here”.

          • Greg Bottini says:

            I’ve lived in the Bay Area all my life, and began attending concerts of the SF Symphony during the Krips era.
            I’ve never heard of this accusation.
            Details, please, Annon!

          • Donald Hansen says:

            Perhaps he was referring to the non-tenure of timpanist Elayne Jones after two seasons. She played for another season and sued the symphony for racial discrimination. This was 1972-1975. At that time the symphony was also the SF Opera Orchestra and its director, Kurt Herbert Adler, kept her as the Opera timpanist for 23 years.

          • Greg Bottini says:

            I’m very familiar with that situation, Donald – Elayne was my timpani teacher at SF Conservatory.
            I heard all the inside dope, but never once did she tell me that anyone actually said “Blacks have no place here”.
            And good for KH Adler; he was the finest general manager that the SF Opera ever had (pace Merola).

          • fflambeau says:

            I lived a dozen years in the Bay Area in the Krips era and there was never a black person invited to do anything with the SF Symphony during that entire time. Asians yes, Blacks, no.

          • Greg Bottini says:

            OK, granted – but did any other major symphony orchestra at the time invite a black person “to do anything”, as you put it? Please provide examples, if you have any.

          • Max Grimm says:

            I think Annon needs to remove the quotation marks from that last part of their post. It seems to me though that the reference pertains to the SF Symphony’s former executive director Brent Assink, when he said “we don’t have the resources or the energy, or whatever it is, to slot ourselves into a logical relationship with the African-American community, a relationship built on the kind of cultural tradition we have in other communities. If you don’t have that connection, the effort feels forced; it feels artificial, and then, I think, you’re worse off than if you didn’t do anything at all.”

        • MacroV says:

          New headline is better.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, but it still doesn’t make complete sense. Now a person is being replaced by a concert.

  • Michael Emmerson says:

    It’s about time! Michael is a remarkable conductor who should be conducting all the major orchestras on a regular basis!

  • Dennis says:

    I hope the hall is empty and people who bought tickets expecting Beethoven’s 5th demand refunds.

    Absurd to allow a mere guest/replacement conductor to rip up a program that’s been advertised well in advance as part of the SFSO’s Beethoven250 concerts and impose his own PC program obsessed with ticking some “diversity” box.

    • Steven Larsen says:

      I think people will have many opportunities to hear B5 this year. Michael is no “mere” conductor; he’s a fine artist and a great person. Maybe he had the good sense to know that he could offer more to the audience than yet another performance of the world’s most often-played symphony.

    • Karl says:

      Actually there is so much Beethoven this year. I would rather hear Price than Beethoven at this point. I got to hear her Symphony No.1 in E minor at Bard in December and I was very pleased. I love to hear good neglected works. I missed the Price in Boston last year, but this review advocates expanding the repertoire.

    • Nat says:

      Personally I’m far more likely to attend the new program. I’ve already played the 5th multiple times, so driving into the city and spending $40 to watch it from the second balcony isn’t very compelling. And to be totally frank, the least interesting SFSO performances have always been “famous guest conductor parachutes in to lead rote interpretation of standard repertoire”. (I’m still complaining about the Scheherazade they phoned in back in 2014.). That’s probably unfair to Grazinyte-Tyla, whom I’ve never seen conduct, but I’d rather take a chance on Morgan’s program.

      • Appleby says:

        I can assure you that there is absolutely nothing ‘rote’ about her Beethoven 5. And if SF audiences consider Mieczyslaw Weinberg and Raminta Serksnyte to be ‘standard repertoire’, I can only salute them.

        Which is not to say that the replacement programme doesn’t look highly rewarding on its own terms.

        • Nat says:

          Yes, it would have been nice to see Weinberg (although so far I’m underwhelmed by his symphonies), and Serksnyte is an entirely new name to me. But I would still much rather see her conduct an entirely fresh program.

    • Where is Sue? says:

      Bellyaching “PC” is the last refuge of a bigot.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Iowa!! LOL

        • Greg Bottini says:

          Hi Sue dear,
          If you meant by your short comment that the Iowa caucus was screwed up, you’re totally right. It was a pathetic showing for the first so-called “primary” of the election season.
          I don’t know whether the major screw-uppedness was particularly partisan, though – I believe it was because a new electronic tallying system failed miserably.
          I am doubtful whether “PC”-ness or bigotry had anything to do with it.

    • “Programs and artists subject to change”

      It’s on your ticket.

      • Dennis says:

        Still not very good PR to advertise a program as part of a big “Beethoven250” series, then pull a switcheroo. No reason a replacement conductor shouldn’t be able to do the advertised program.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Apart from the Beethoven piece, the original programme had some rarely played pieces such that it would be surprising if another conductor had them in his/her repertoire. Having said that, I am sure that the venue will offer refunds to those who don’t want to go.

  • Calvin says:

    Interesting program. I wish I could be there.

  • Larry says:

    Michael is wonderful, however it is not at all uncommon for a major orchestra not to invite a local conductor of a smaller size and stature. You’re probably not going to ever hear the music director of, say, the Springfield MA Symphony conduct the Boston Symphony nor the music director of the Elgin IL Symphony conduct Chicago Symphony. (No disrespect to Maestro Rhodes and Maestro Grams.)

    • annon says:

      I know for sure that both the music director and the resident conductors of Elgin have conducted the Chicago Symphony…..Neither is nearly as experienced as Morgan who by the way was an assistant in Chicago to Solti.

  • anon says:

    This post totally supports the post about “Why Black Males Don’t Go to White Concerts”. How can someone of Morgan’s experience and talent is only now booked for San Francisco??? When every young-white-thang is snapped up like some rare commodity ‘ohhhh a WHITE conductor, better get her before they disappear”

    Shame on San Francisco.

    But really, San Francisco is NOT diverse, except for gays and transgenders, but not for blacks.

    • fflambeau says:

      There are lots of Asians in the Bay Area too. Chicanos as well. I lived there for 12 years and found it very diverse. Blacks form about 5% of the city’s population (far more in Oakland).

  • Bonquiqui says:

    Michael is one of the finest conductors on the circuit…unlimited knowledge and perception.

    However, it’s his subscription series debut, not his San Francisco Symphony debut. That already happened.

  • A Florence Price symphony would be interesting.

    There are a number of mid-century American composers that hadn’t fallen for mid-century foolishness who would merit resurrecting.

    • Cubs Fan says:

      I heard the Price symphony no. 1 last year in concert. No earth-shattering masterpiece to be honest. The last two movements were pretty lame. But you’re right, there are many mid-century works that deserve exposure, but tell that to the conductors, orchestra managers and boards that must sell tickets and bring people in! Audiences are just as stuck in the 19th century as our Musical Museums, aka “orchestras”. Even the older symphony by Amy Beach is a tough sell – and it’s a wonderfully romantic symphony.

      • Karl says:

        Nashua did the Beach Symphony a few years ago. It was great to hear it live. I seem to recall them also doing it back around 2007.

  • kuma says:

    Price’s 3rd Symphony is a beautiful piece. Muti will be premiering in Chicago in April. I would have loved to see this conductor. Speaking of diversity, I am trying to convince my neighbour’s kids to come to this concert to no avail. ( a tough sell without Star Wars)

  • Patrick says:

    Long overdue. Congratulations, Maestro!

  • fflambeau says:

    I’m not sure how this could be his “debut” with the San Francisco Symphony. Wikipedia says this about him:

    “As a guest conductor he has appeared with most of America’s major orchestras as well as the New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, St. Louis Opera Theater, the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet, and Washington National Opera.”

    Wikipedia also notes that he teaching conducting at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and that he served under Leonard Bernstein, S. Ozawa, and that in 1980, he won first prize in the Hans Swarovsky International Conductors Competition in Vienna, Austria and became Assistant Conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, under Leonard Slatkin. In short, he is very talented.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    my heart-felt congrats go out to Michael Morgan. He’s very deserving of this opportunity.

  • Edward says:

    Wonderful opportunity for Michael, and bravo to the SF Symphony for reaching out to him. I met him at the Swarowsky competition in ’84, which he won in the late 70s. He is a consummate pro, and has resurrected my hometown orchestra in Oakland, after it fell on hard times following the tragic death of the brilliant Calvin Simmons in ’82.