San Francisco Chronicle

by Joshua Kosman

Nagano takes final Berkeley bow

Thursday’s presentation by the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra was more than just a concert. It was a summation, a farewell, a page-turning event.

For 30 years, Kent Nagano has been standing in front of the orchestra and leading it through performances of everything from Bach to Berlioz to Busoni to, well, the Beatles (who could forget the pseudonymous Paul McCartney opus that showed up one night as an encore?). Now he’s moving on – another maestro, still to be determined, will take over next season – and this concert in Zellerbach Hall was Nagano’s final appearance as music director.

As a parting gift, the orchestra commissioned a superb encore from Kurt Rohde, the San Francisco composer and violist whose music Nagano has championed over the years. Bis Bald (in German, “Until Soon”), which opens with fierce orchestral flurries and then subsides in a wistfully inconclusive ending, is a virtuosic and often beautiful work that says both “See ya” and “Hurry back,” all in the span of five minutes. It was the perfect way to end not only one evening, but a 30-year chapter in the Bay Area’s musical life.