Review: Julia Bullock’s curated program of works by women composers of color at San Francisco Symphony

Posted on: May 25, 2022

Julia Bullock (left) and composers Carolyn Yarnell, Allison Loggins-Hull, and Pamela Z take a bow with conductor Christian Reif and members of the San Francisco Symphony. Photo: Kristen Loken

“ ‘History’s Persistent Voice,’ the dazzlingly multifarious recital program that [classical singer Julia] Bullock unveiled on Tuesday, May 17, with the San Francisco Symphony, marshaled new works composed by five Black women to present a taut musical symposium on an array of subjects: race, freedom, art, language, motherhood and more,” writes Joshua Kosman in Friday’s (5/20) San Francisco Chronicle (subscription required). “With her husband and collaborator, German conductor Christian Reif, leading members of the Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall … Bullock brought an almost unearthly measure of eloquence to the proceedings. This was music operating simultaneously as probing social commentary and pure sensual delight…. Bullock … is one of the eight Collaborative Partners that Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen has gathered around him to revitalize and rethink the possibilities of a symphony orchestra…. There was nothing about this 90-minute intermission-free program that felt like business as usual.” Composers were Jessie Montgomery, Carolyn Yarnell, Tania León, Allison Loggins-Hull, and Pamela Z. “Bullock noted that the practices of discrimination and racial oppression extend everywhere, including the history of the San Francisco Symphony itself. Reckoning with that history is an urgent task for all artistic organizations, and ‘History’s Persistent Voice’ marks a step in that direction.”