Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, up to their collective neck in preparations for a big tour of Asia that will include first-time-ever visits to Beijing and Macau, have been polishing up the repertoire they will be showing off. Soloist Yuja Wang, who will accompany them, was here running through the Prokofiev Concerto No. 2 earlier this week, and Thursday and Friday, it's her fellow pianist Lang Lang's turn with the same composer's Third Concerto. Also on the program with Lang Lang is the Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2, and Henry Cowell's "Music 1957," both of which will be showcased on the tour, as will Mahler's Fifth Symphony and Lou Harrison's "The Family of the Court" from "Pacifika Rondo." The tour, which begins Wednesday, touches down in six cities, including Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei, Taiwan, and ends with concerts in Tokyo on Nov. 19-20.
Tickets to Thursday and Friday night's 8 p.m. concerts with Lang Lang are $15-$156, available at 415-864-6000 or www.sfsymphony.org.
SOUNDS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT: Many of the future members of our professional symphonies are honing their skills today in well-regarded youth orchestras; as luck would have it, three of the Bay Area's best are all giving their first concerts of the season this weekend. First up is the Oakland Youth Orchestra, which has programs at 1 p.m. Saturday in Rossmoor's Del Valle Clubhouse and 3 p.m. Sunday at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland. The 75-member orchestra, in existence since 1986 and aligned with the Oakland East Bay Symphony, welcomes John Kendall Bailey as new principal conductor this season. This weekend's concerts, which are free, will feature Copland's "Fanfare for a Common Man," Barber's Overture to "The School for Scandal," Ginastera's Suite from "Estancia" and Dvorak's Symphony No. 8. Go to www.oyo.org for more information.
The Young People's Symphony Orchestra, which, at 76, is the oldest youth orchestra in California and the second-oldest in the nation, is teaming up with Lynn Morrow's 120-member Oakland Symphony Chorus for an ambitious season opener at 8 p.m. Saturday at Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church. The 95 young musicians, who come from 26 cities in five Bay Area counties, will perform the monumental and uplifting "A German Requiem" by Johannes Brahms. David Ramadanoff conducts the orchestra, chorus and guest soloists soprano Heidi Moss and baritone Zachary Gordin. Award-winning American composer Christopher Theofanidis' "Rainbow Body" is also on the program. Tickets, $15-$20, are at 510-849-9776 or www.ypsomusic.net.
The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, after participating for the first time in the San Francisco Symphony's annual Dia de los Muertos community concert the previous day, will open its own season under conductor Donata Cabrera's baton at 2 p.m. Sunday in Davies Symphony Hall. On the program is Aaron Copland's "El Salon Mexico," Jan Sibelius' Symphony No. 1 and the Mozart Oboe Concerto, featuring the SFSYO 2012 Concerto Competition champion Liam Boissert, a senior at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco, as soloist. Tickets, $12 general admission and $45 reserved, are at 415-864-6000 or www.sfsymphony.org.
THE AX MAN COMETH: Pianist Emanuel Ax is a familiar and much beloved visitor to these parts, but he has never before appeared with the Bay Area's preeminent experts in period music, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. But conductor Nicholas McGegan has engaged him for an all-Beethoven program, and there's a twist. Ax will be the soloist for the performance of the composer's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, a work he has doubtless traversed many times -- but this will be his first foray with it on a period fortepiano, the instrument that was king during Beethoven's time.
Beethoven's 12 Contredanses for Orchestra are also on the program, which is rounded out with his Symphony No. 4. A fleet and lighter work composed in the earlier, more formally classical style, the Fourth is an underrated gem, eclipsed by the more powerful and overarchingly Romantic Third and Fifth symphonies. But composer Robert Schumann recognized its genius, labeling it "a Grecian maiden between two Norse Giants." Perhaps its special virtues will emerge with bristling clarity in a period performance. There are four performances of the Philharmonia Baroque's program: 8 p.m. Nov. 8 in Atherton's Center for Performing Arts, 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco and 8 p.m. Nov. 10 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at First Congregational Church in Berkeley. Tickets, $30-$105, are at 415-392-4400 or www.philharmonia.org.
Contact Sue Gilmore at firstname.lastname@example.org.