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San Francisco Symphony Visits With Groupon Discount

By Alexander Hough in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 19, 2012 5:40PM

Photo by Bill Swerbenski

The San Francisco Symphony starts a tour celebrating its 100th anniversary in Chicago this Wednesday, carrying on its "American Mavericks" festival that wrapped up there last night. The orchestra is well worth the price of admission, but especially now that there's a Groupon for the concert.

Groupon is offering two options: For $25, you can get a seat on the main floor. For $45, you can sit in the lower balcony. If you can swing the extra money, go for the lower balcony; those seats enjoy Orchestra Hall's best acoustics and sight lines, and they're normally priced accordingly. Either way, this is about as cheap as it gets to see a top-tier orchestra.

Perhaps you, like us, have read between the lines and are curious why there's a Groupon for such a renowned ensemble. You don't offer steep discounts if the demand is high, you know? We suspect the answer lies in the repertoire. Programming certain composers will sell more tickets. For instance, the SFS playing Gustav Mahler would've sold like hotcakes, particularly given the acclaimed recordings of Mahler's symphonies music director Michael Tilson Thomas and the group have made. Instead, the SFS is bringing a slate of American modern and contemporary music.

This is a good thing. Tilson Thomas created the American Mavericks festival in 2000 to feature composers who trace their lineage—in spirit, if nothing else—to Charles Ives, the first composer to break from the European tradition to create a uniquely American voice in classical music. Tilson Thomas has been a tireless advocate, and it makes sense that the SFS is taking this music on the road.

Wednesday's concert will feature works by two early American iconoclasts, Henry Cowell's Synchrony and Ives's Concord Sonata (arranged for orchestra over a 36-year period by Henry Brant). The SFS will also perform John Adams's Absolute Jest for string quartet and orchestra, which received its premier last Thursday (one critic called it "a work of terrific imagination and out-of-the-gate energy," another said it sounds "like a vodka commercial written by David Foster Wallace"). Groupon's copy has a higher informative-to-insufferable ratio than usual, so you can read a bit about the pieces over there.

The Groupon deal expires at midnight tonight, so grab your tickets now.

Wednesday at 8 p.m., Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, $25-$180