San Francisco Symphony with the St. Lawrence String Quartet Recommended Soundboard

When: Wed., March 21, 8 p.m. 2012

Canadian-born American composer Henry Brant, a pioneer of spatial music (a practice that involves situating parts of an ensemble around a space), first encountered the music of Charles Ives in 1929, in an anthology put together by Henry Cowell. Brant remained an admirer until his death in 2008, and perhaps his greatest act of adoration was to undertake the epic task of arranging Ives's second piano sonata, Concord, Mass., 1840-1860, for symphony. (Ives self-published this bold masterpiece in 1920, but it didn't get a proper debut until 1939.) Brant spent 30 years on the project, and his version premiered in 1996 in New York. The Ives work is notoriously difficult, especially its opening movement, "Emerson" (all four movements are named after New England transcendentalists: the others are "Hawthorne," "The Alcotts," and "Thoreau"). Brant was forced to make tough choices, adapting both dense, harrowing passages and moments of ethereal lightness for orchestra, and the result of his labors is obviously much transformed from the original—though it's an equally powerful and mercurial beast. Last year the San Francisco Symphony, under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, released a powerful recording of A Concord Symphony (SFS Media), and the piece also anchors tonight's program. The concert is part of Tilson Thomas's American Mavericks festival, which began in 2000; also featured are Cowell's rarely heard Synchrony (1930), intended for choreo­grapher Martha Graham and full of his trademark dissonant note clusters, and a new John Adams work for string quartet and orchestra called Absolute Jest. —Peter Margasak

Price: $25-$180

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