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tv   Nightly Business Report  PBS  September 23, 2011 1:00am-1:30am PDT

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and, always, in the lively sound pouring from its theaters... its music halls... its bars, dance halls, and brothels. "san francisco is naturally and temperamentally a musical city," noted damrosch.
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"they love music and give it enthusiastic acclaim, much as in a city in italy or france. what it needs is a good orchestra. [ up-tempo music plays ]
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in four horrific days in april 1906, the heart of san francisco's civic, economic, and cultural life vanished. in the aftermath of the earthquake, as the sense of shock lifted, a new passion arose to rebuild san francisco bigger, better, more beautiful than before. >> well, the great earthquake of 1906 was the making of the city as we now understand it. it was a great disaster, but the way the city rallied to not only rebuild the city, but to try and rebuild a city that was of much greater significance than the one that had been destroyed. and a major part of that plan had to do with the arts, specifically with classical music, the opera, and the
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symphony. >> narrator: san francisco, like the phoenix emblazoned on the city's flag, re-emerged from the ashes with breathtaking speed. it was a time for bold initiatives. in mid-december, a group of 10 civic-minded music lovers met at the mercantile trust company's offices on california street. their objective -- to augment the city's resurgent cultural life by establishing a professional orchestra. >> for years people had been thinking, "we must have an orchestra here. we must have an orchestra," and there had been some tries before. there had been earlier attempts. >> there had been a number of different symphonies in and around san francisco, but this was now the moment to put this totally on the map. >> narrator: by august 1911, the musical association raised
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$220,000 through the contributions of 2,400 san franciscans. it was ready for the next step -- hiring a conductor. [ richard wagner's "pilgrim's chorus" plays ] among the candidates were two renowned europeans and one american, henry hadley, the music director of the fledgling seattle symphony. >> so that was most significant, that the symphony would choose as its first conductor an american and also a composer, someone associated with what was then contemporary music. all these things were very forward in their thinking. >> he wasn't a big-name conductor, but he was very, very good. i think he was a perfect choice to get this orchestra off the ground. >> ♪ baba-dooba-daba ♪ swing big ♪ ee-ba-daba-dooba-daba ♪ swiig >> narrator: when he arrived in
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october, henry hadley went to work immediately, charming the city's downtown association and making a whirlwind tour of theaters and cafés to find the best musicians san francisco had to offer. >> people made music live, which means that a city like san francisco had bands and musicians everywhere. >> they worked in hotels. they worked in restaurants. they worked in theaters. they worked in bars. all those places had their own orchestras, and that's where hadley went to recruit them. >> narrator: in under a month, he assembled an orchestra of 60 musicians. but there was a hitch. >> all the best musicians in san francisco had other jobs. their other jobs kept them busy at night, so all the symphony's performances would have to be matinees. >> they didn't have a concert
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hall, so they had to use the cort theatre, which was a very, very busy theater at night, and, as a result, they couldn't use that except for the off times for the theater. so everything had to be worked around that. [ classical music plays ] >> narrator: on friday afternoon, december 8, 1911, a crowd, described as one of the most fashionable ever to attend a matinee, began gathering outside the cort theatre for the debut of the san francisco orchestra. >> hadley meant to dazzle them with a program of blockbusters -- liszt's "les preludes," wagner's "overture to die meistersinger," the tchaikovsky "pathétique symphony," and the audience obliged at the end with what wickham described as "applause, hand clapping, and thunderous cheers." >> narrator: that first season, the san francisco symphony would
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perform 13 times. to create a symphony for all, the season included sunday concerts for working people and two performances across the bay in oakland. within a year, harvey wickham of the san francisco chronicle would write, "the orchestra, which was a novelty, has become an institution. by 1915, the san francisco symphony had completed four successful seasons. late in february, the glimmering symbol of san francisco resurgent -- the panama pacific international exposition -- opened along the shore of san francisco bay. among the headline attractions -- the boston symphony orchestra. when the music began, it was nothing short of a revelation. >> what happened is the boston symphony came to town. and [laughs] as good as the
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san francisco symphony was for where it was and the time it was, our poor orchestra was not coming out very well in comparison. as a result, i think that led to a lot of soul-searching. >> narrator: the limitations of the young san francisco symphony under hadley were evident. recognizing the need to take the orchestra to the next level, the musical association began considering options. by july, amidst much controversy, the decision was made to hire alfred hertz, the recently retired conductor of new york's metropolitan opera. the critics raved. hadley was out. hertz was in. >> hertz -- well, for one thing, you have to imagine a great big genial bear because he was a great big man -- horizontally, mostly. he had a big beard, and when he conducted -- this is a wonderful true story -- he perspired like crazy.
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one of the juniors in the orchestra was always assigned the task of going backstage after the concert and mopping down the maestro. >> narrator: everything about hertz was different -- he was short, bald, overweight, and a demanding perfectionist. the orchestra expanded, musicianship improved, and, in a first for any major orchestra in the united states, hertz hired women to play instruments other than harp. for the san francisco symphony, alfred hertz would make all the for the san francisco symphony, alfred hertz would make all the difference. >> narrator: under hertz, the san francisco symphony built a reputation for quickly using the latest technology to bring music to audiences beyond the concert hall. >> and through the remarkable
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achievements of modern electronic recording, a performance like this may be enjoyed in our homes whenever we please. >> narrator: in 1925, the symphony made its first recording with the victor talking machine company. [ orchestral music plays ] >> now, that violin solo was played by louis persinger, who was the concert master. it's a very impressive achievement given that the recording technology wasn't really up to that. but it is the san francisco symphony. [ orchestral music plays ] >> narrator: a year later, the symphony debuted on radio with the first weekly series presented by any orchestra in the country -- a program that ran for 30 years, reaching its height under music director pierre monteux, who conducted the symphony from 1935 until 1952. >> tonight, we greet you from the war memorial opera house in
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san francisco from the stage of which the standard oil company of california is presenting the san francisco symphony orchestra. [ classical music plays ] >> standard oil began sponsoring the symphony in 1926. standard oil, which is now chevron, really was one of, i think, virtually the first corporate sponsor of the arts in the country. [ music continues ] >> i was only 15 or 16 years old. i was playing trumpet previously in the public schools, and then i had an opportunity to get complimentary tickets to the standard oil broadcast. and it was my first real introduction to hearing a live orchestra like the san francisco symphony. i fell in love with the orchestra from the time i was in my early years of high school. >> narrator: the early days of radio and recording sometimes presented unique obstacles, including the need to record
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over telephone lines. >> we used to record at midnight, because we did it through the phone line, through los angeles. [ music continues ] >> we were doing ravel's "la valse," which is a little bit bombastic in certain areas. and there was a certain section of this work that monteux wasn't very happy with and he worked and worked and worked with it, until he finally got it the way he wanted it. and just as he started this particular section, the operator came on the phone and said, "number please." and that was the end of that. >> the sound engineer is ready, and i see a record made. >> narrator: inevitably, technology progressed -- from sound film to magnetic tape, from stereo to digital sound.
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with each progression, the symphony continued to expand its reach to new audiences with multiple award-winning recordings. >> we managed to make records and to make very good records and lots of them and to win grammys and to reinforce, nationally and internationally, that we were an important and very high-quality orchestra. [ carl orff's "carmina burana" plays ] >> narrator: in 1993, the symphony won its first grammy award for the san francisco symphony chorus' recording of "carmina burana." [ up-tempo music plays ] a string of grammys soon followed when the symphony began recording with rca red seal under michael tilson thomas in 1995. but by then, recording companies were producing fewer and fewer classical releases. >> we decided that we were going
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to take the huge leap of forming our own recording company so that we could release the mahler cycle. [ classical music plays ] >> narrator: in 2001, the san francisco symphony would be the first u.s. orchestra to launch its own in-house multimedia label -- sfs media. over the next eight years, m.t.t. and the orchestra would record all nine massive symphonies of gustav mahler. [ fanfare plays ] >> the music is, above all, the supreme tour de force of orchestral playing. the mahler project is really a way of building the relationship between me and the orchestra -- our coming to trust one another a lot more. [ music continues ] >> narrator: the symphony's
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recordings of the mahler cycle would go on to win seven grammy awards, including their most recent for mahler's "8th" with the san francisco symphony chorus. [ song ends ] [ cheers and applause ] >> we are looking to the future where we disseminate and distribute globally and with total access. and sfs media will be the conduit for us to achieve that goal. >> narrator: the founders of the san francisco symphony envisioned a symphony for all -- a people's orchestra. in the crucible of the great depression, a mutual bond of support between symphony and
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community would be strengthened in new ways. in 1931, with thousands out of work, the symphony held a benefit concert for hundreds of unemployed musicians. soon, it was the symphony itself that was in trouble. with revenues down and deficits mounting, the 1934-1935 season was canceled. as the symphony struggled back to its feet, support would come from the most unlikely of places -- a student at the university of california -- philip boone. [ classical music plays ] >> in 1937 -- that would be my sophomore year in college -- three of us bought season tickets to the san francisco symphony.
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and i don't know -- it seemed very natural to go over there. and i remember seeing gershwin very well there. [ piano playing ] and we jammed that box "e" with 16 of us, almost religiously. now, this made a bit of a stir on the campus, because whoever heard of taking your girl to a symphony on saturday night? but we were having a marvelous time. [ music continues ] >> and somehow he met howard skinner. howard skinner was the executive director of the symphony at that time. and i think howard skinner must have seen that phil was kind of an extraordinary man. >> he said if i thought there were youngsters on campus who wanted seats or boxes, he felt he could arrange it. well, i went back to berkeley. and by about 2 1/2 hours later, i had sold 11 boxes in that
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opera house. >> narrator: by the 1940 season, saturday night sold out. a separate midweek series of concerts was created to accommodate the overwhelming demand by what was now called the student forum. >> it absolutely exploded over a number of years, and we had students from colleges in the entire bay area. the enthusiasm was incredible, just incredible. >> narrator: once they moved on to careers, the former students would provide a valuable base of community support for future years. >> the forum did produce two presidents of the symphony -- philip boone and lawrence metcalf -- a number of people on the board. so it was a terrific, terrific program. [ classical music plays ]
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>> narrator: when war broke out in december 1941, the san francisco symphony would do its part -- presenting multiple free concerts for the deluge of workers, soldiers, and sailors flooding into the bay area. the tradition of free public concerts in times of crisis would live on in years to come. in 1989, five after the loma prieta earthquake, 20,000 people gathered in golden gate park for a special concert for the bay area. >> just to feel the unanimous response from the whole city, from these thousands of people around us, is a fantastic feeling of unity and togetherness. [ applause ] >> narrator: and, on the one-year anniversary of 9/11, a memorial concert featuring
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violinist joshua bell. [ somber music plays ] >> we thought there might be 500, 1,000 people that would show up for this afternoon concert. we had nearly 10,000 people hanging from the rafters of metreon, occupying every square inch, just to remember. [ orchestral music plays ] >> narrator: intent on being a symphony for all, concerts continue to reflect the rich diversity of the bay area. [ up-tempo music plays ] >> the fact that the san francisco symphony has this
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type of music and has this type of event really is validating to the chinese community. and it's an invitation to get involved in that musical world, because music is so universal. involved in that musical world, because music is so universal. [ mid-tempo music plays ] [ igor stravinsky's "rite of spring" plays ] >> narrator: by the time he came to the san francisco symphony in 1935, pierre monteux already had a spectacular international reputation. >> pierre monteux was one of the signature changes in this orchestra's history. now, his pedigree was enormous. we must remember that pierre monteux was the man who was conducting "the rite of spring" the night of its premiere. he had conducted orchestras all over the world. this man was an extraordinary and very experienced conductor,
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and for the san francisco symphony to nab him was an amazing achievement. >> narrator: in 17 years, the longest tenure of any music director in the symphony's history, monteux would begin to build the san francisco symphony's national reputation. [ train horn blows ] in march 1947, monteux would lead the orchestra on a monumental 9,000-mile journey -- the san francisco symphony's first national tour. [ classical music plays ] captured in this home movie, the tour crisscrossed the united states, playing in big cities and small towns across america. it was an orchestral marathon -- 53 cities, 56 concerts, 57 days -- a grueling schedule
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that no american orchestra has attempted since. >> we used to perform a concert and then leave at 12:01 a.m. and then we'd arrive at our destination for the next concert. >> narrator: the orchestra would stay in hotels only twice. the rest of the time, the train was home with cities and countryside flying by. [ music continues ] >> i had a lot of fun. i mean, i was 20 years old. i had a good time. >> narrator: it was a tour of many memorable moments -- some more than others. >> marcia van dyke was in the first fiddle section -- a good violin player, very pretty girl. and she had aspirations to be a movie star, and at practically every place we'd stop, there were newspaper people, not for
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monteux, not for the orchestra, but for marcia. on the tour, she had gotten engaged to our first horn player, bill sabatini, and that was in life magazine, and we were on tour and nothing. >> narrator: but for those eight weeks in 1947, it had become something -- it became america's orchestra. >> this tour was one of the great high points, i think, in the symphony's history. [ classical music plays ] >> narrator: the san francisco symphony's reputation would continue to grow in the '60s under the leadership of viennese conductor josef krips. in 1966, time magazine declared san francisco one of the nation's 11 elite orchestras. with its national reputation finally and firmly established,
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it was time to look abroad. with the young seiji ozawa now at the helm, the symphony set out on its first european tour in 1973. the highlight would come behind the iron curtain, in moscow, with the great cellist and soviet dissident mstislav rostropovich. >> actually, the russian authorities were discussing whether to have him play or not. seiji ozawa told them that if he did not play, that the orchestra would not play. so that was going on right until the first concert. [ finale plays ] [ cheers and applause ] >> here comes slava rostropovich, in triumph
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to his homeland, accompanied by the san francisco symphony, one of the most serendipitous things that i can ever imagine happening. this is the stuff of legend. >> i can't tell you the way that man played. played like an angel that night. after the performance, seiji sat down on the podium and bawled like a baby. it was incredible. >> narrator: it was just the beginning of the symphony's ascent to international acclaim -- a reputation further enhanced when music director herbert blomstedt arrived in 1985. under his direction, the symphony began touring annually one year later. [ up-tempo music plays ]
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>> it helps to establish the orchestra on sound when you play the same program in many venues for different publics. >> i think touring is absolutely essential. it's virtually impossible to build a national or international or even local reputation for an orchestra that doesn't tour. [ music continues ] >> when the symphony's invited regularly to appear at the proms in london or at the lucerne festival or in salzburg... it doesn't get much better than that. [ finale plays ] [ cheers and applause ]
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[ violin plays ] >> acoustically, i like this hall very much. it's, i would say, user-friendly. it makes every performance... special.
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>> narrator: today, the sound of concertmaster alexander barantschik playing heifetz's rare 1742 guarneri del gesu violin at davies symphony hall seems foreordained. but the symphony's vagabond journey to a permanent home was a long one. it began at the cort theatre, where the symphony played for 10 years... then the columbia theatre for a season... the curran theatre for nine years... and the tivoli opera house for one. in 1932, the vision of the symphony's founders was fulfilled with the building of the war memorial opera house. [ classical music plays ] for the next 48 years, the symphony would share the


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