“Artistic inspiration can take root in the most unpredictable places,” writes Joshua Kosman in Friday’s (2/8) San Francisco Chronicle. “Sometime in the 1930s, by his own testimony, a young bass player named Charles Burrell heard a broadcast of the San Francisco Symphony playing Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony under Music Director Pierre Monteux, and decided that the life of a musician was what he wanted. Burrell saw that dream become reality in 1959 when he joined the Symphony, and although his tenure here lasted only five years, it made him the first African American member of a major American orchestra. On Thursday, Feb. 7, the Symphony saluted Burrell on his 60th anniversary as the ‘Jackie Robinson of classical music’ by dedicating its performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth to him. Burrell, now 98 and living in Denver, couldn’t be in Davies Symphony Hall in person, but there was a suave video clip of him reminiscing on the musical life, as well as a proclamation from Mayor London Breed. And of course, there was music—not only Tchaikovsky’s Fourth led by Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, but a world premiere by composer Steven Mackey [Portals, Scenes and Celebrations] and … Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with soloist Gil Shaham.”

Posted February 11, 2019

Photo of Charles Burrell by Kim Huynh