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Getty’s Other, Other Family

On SF Symphony's party for Gordon Getty's 80th birthday, a look back at the musical side of the philanthropist.

Gordon Getty

The Gordon Getty 80th birthday celebration is tonight.

Oil heir turned composer-philanthropist Gordon Getty and the S.F. Symphony are practically synonymous. For the institution, he’s both patron and player, sugar daddy and working stiff, which is why it’s celebrating his 80th birthday on January 6 with an operatic bang. Below, why Getty gets a fête to remember.

1979: Getty joins the San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors.

March 1985: The symphony premieres Scene I from Getty’s opera Plump Jack, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V.

June 1987: The now critically acclaimed Plump Jack is performed in full as part of the “New and Unusual Music Series,” conducted by Andrew Massey.

1991–92: Getty and his wife, Ann, sponsor the acoustic renovation of Davies Symphony Hall, which costs a total of $10 million.

Jan. 1993: The Russian National Orchestra, one of the world’s best, performs Getty’s “Waltz of the Ancestors” from The Fall of the House of Usher at Davies.

Oct. 1998: Michael Tilson Thomas leads the Men’s Chorus in Getty’s interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee.”

2001: Getty gives financial support to the Mahler Recording Project, which goes on to win seven Grammy Awards.

Feb. 25–28, 2004: MTT conducts Getty’s cantata, Young America.

2005: Pentatone releases a compilation of Getty’s works, some performed by the symphony. Critics rave, comparing his work to that
of Beethoven and Schubert.

Jan. 6, 2014: Gordon Getty 80th Birthday Celebration, during which the symphony will perform the world premiere of Getty’s newest work, A Prayer for My Daughter.


Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco

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