Due to the strike by CSO musicians, this program has been canceled. Patrons may exchange their tickets for another upcoming Symphony Center performance, donate their tickets to the CSO or receive a refund. Please contact Patron Services by phone at (312) 294-3000 or by email. 

When Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony return to Chicago, their program March 26 will feature a whimsical salute to one of its most devoted supporters.

Along with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (featuring Christian Tetzlaff) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica), the San Franciscans will perform Tilson Thomas’ own Agnegram (1998), dedicated to longtime patron Agnes Albert (1908-2002). It was written to celebrate the 90th birthday of Albert, an accomplished pianist, and a “mentor, patroness and muse.”

In his program note for the work’s 1998 premiere, Tilson Thomas called Agnegram “a portrait of her sophisticated and indefatigably enthusiastic spirit. It is entirely composed of themes derived from the spelling of her name.”

The work begins with “a mini-concerto for orchestra” in 6/8, “giving brief sound-bite opportunities” for the motivic material to “settle into a jazzy and hyper-rangy tune.” The central trio section evokes “a kind of sly circus atmosphere” in which “different groups of instruments in different keys make their appearance in an aural procession.” After “the winds in C play a new march tune saying ‘Agnes Albert,’ other instruments play the tune in their respective keys (not transposed), thus creating “a jungle-like cacophony … punctuated by alternately elegant and goofball percussion entrances.” In 2016, Tilson Thomas revised the score, and it’s this revision that will be heard on tour.

“She loved young people, and one of her enduring legacies is the SFS Youth Orchestra,” said Robin Freeman, director of public relations, in an article published by San Francisco Classical Voice. “Her generosity made possible the Symphony’s Agnes Albert Youth Music Education Fund, Adventures in Music, and the Concerts for Kids and Music for Families series. In her later years, she helped ensure that [Jascha] Heifetz’s Guarnerius del Gesù violin would be played in public after the great violinist willed it to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Through all the years of the [San Francisco] Symphony, she was a steady and rallying force.”