Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen joined the press conference via Skype. Photo: Lance Knobel

Cal Performances launched their 2012-13 season yesterday with a live Skype chat with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, whose Philharmonia Orchestra will be in residence in November. “It’s a neat little program of concerts you’ve got for Berkeley,” Salonen told Cal Performances Director Matías Tarnopolsky. That “neat little program” includes massive pieces: Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, a concert performance of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, and Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Simon Bolivar youth orchestra. Photo: Bryan Reinhart

As Tarnopolsky stressed, however, the 125 performances in the next season cover a bewildering range of genres, scales and periods. As well as the London-based Philharmonia, music director Gustavo Dudamel is bringing his Simón Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela in late November — which will also be the occasion for a conference on music education (Venezuela’s La Sistema is envied worldwide). Three circuses — from China, Canada and Australia — will be performing; there are dance groups from Chicago (both Hubbard Street Dance and the Joffrey Ballet), Russia (both the  Mariinsky Ballet and the Eifman Ballet) and Switzerland (the Béjart Ballet); jazz from two Marsalis brothers (both Wynton and Delfeayo); theater, including Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinocéros from Paris’s Théâtre de la Ville; world music including Benin’s Angélique Kidjo and Chucho Valdés & The Afro-Cuban Messengers; and chamber music from the Brentano, Afiara and Kronos quartets, among many others.

“We have this intersection of world-class artists and performances with the incredible intellectual atmosphere on campus,” Tarnopolsky said, trying to explain what sets Cal Performances apart from many other concert series.

His conviction that Berkeley is a different place was echoed in video messages from some of the artists.

“Berkeley is a great audience for me,” said performance artist Laurie Anderson. “It’s very political.”

“Going back to Zellerbach [the main concert hall for Cal Performances] — it’s another home for me,” said composer Philip Glass, whose Einstein on the Beach will have three performances in October.

Tarnopolsky also spoke at length about the importance of education programs as part of the Cal Performances season. Next season there will be 10 school-time concerts, with 2,000 students in attendance for each one. Tarnopolsky said Cal Performances was committed to “the three As: artistic excellence, advocacy and accessibility”.

The 2012-13 season kicks off with the third annual Fall Free for All — a day of free performances — on September 30.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...