On 22 September the San Francisco Symphony and Esa-Pekka Salonen open their 23/24 season with the US premiere of Anders Hillborg’s Rap Notes (2000). It is a joyful 12-minute piece for orchestra, backing track, two or three rappers – who improvise throughout – and coloratura soprano. Each rapper in turn takes centre stage before the soprano joins the fray by quoting Mozart’s Queen of the Night.

Freestyle artist Anthony Veneziale (AKA Two-Touch) and Hip-hop artist Kev Choice, who has previously collaborated with the orchestra, join Salonen for the gala concert. Hila Plitmann sings the soprano solo in a performance that will also include an innovative integration of AI elements.

The piece reflects Hillborg’s eclectic interests, wicked sense of fun, and formative experiences as a pop and rock musician. Rap Notes was commissioned by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, who gave the first performance 19 August 2000 with Swedish rappers: Markoolio, Petter, and Blues, soprano Tua Åberg and conductor Jonas Dominique.

Rap Notes is the first of two projects for Hillborg with the San Francisco Symphony this autumn. On 12 October Emanuel Ax premieres of Hillborg’s Piano Concerto No.2 – The MAX Concerto with Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony. The 21-minute work was commissioned for Emanuel Ax by the San Francisco Symphony with the generous support of John Kongsgaard. In 2021 the orchestra gave the US premiere of the Kongsgaard Variations for string orchestra.

Salonen has championed Hillborg's work since the late 1990s, giving the UK premiere of Liquid Marble at the BBC Proms in 1997, and conducting the world premieres of Eleven GatesAeterna, Sirens (with the LA Philharmonic), Flood Dreams and the soprano saxophone version of Hillborg's Peacock Tales last year in Lucerne withe Vienna Philharmonic. In January 2024 he leads the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in the celebration of Hillborg's 70th birthday.