Coming Events: Plans Big, Diverse In Middle America

The Cincinnati Symphony is into the second part of its ‘Pelléas Trilogy,’ a three-year multimedia project that explores how Schoenberg, Fauré and Debussy interpreted Maeterlinck’s Symbolist play. (Photo by Quinn Wharton/LINES Ballet)

DATE BOOK — Clever programming is a hallmark of the opening weeks at symphony orchestras around the country, when music directors are on hand to introduce some of their most ambitious projects for the season. Here’s a sampling from seven orchestras in the central U.S.

Lindbergh’s plane (The Smithsonian)

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra began its new season with an attention-grabbing 90th-anniversary tribute to the Spirit of St. Louis, the custom-built single-engine monoplane that Charles Lindbergh flew on that historic transatlantic flight back in 1927. Music director David Robertson’s opening concerts featured Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s rarely performed The Flight of Lindberghthe all-but-forgotten radio cantata that celebrated the man and his machine.

[This is Part 2 of a Classical Voice North America series devoted to highlights of the 2016-17 season; click here for a look at fall season highlights from Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia.]

Milwaukee: De Waart’s final season begins with Figaro

Sept. 17, 18, 20, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts: Full details
Edo de Waart has put together a season of favorites.
Edo de Waart plans a season of favorites. (Jesse Willems)

To celebrate his eighth and last season at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra with music and musicians holding a special place in his memory, Edo de Waart starts off with a semi-staged concert of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, completing a trilogy that included Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte in previous seasons. De Waart is joined by Rachel Willis-Sørensen as the Countess, with whom he performed it last in 2014 at the Metropolitan Opera. Willis-Sørensen hangs around for the next concerts, Sept. 23-24, to sing Strauss’ Four Last Songs. As de Waart explained his programming choice to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “When I was 14 or 15, my father took me to hear Concertgebouw with Josef Krips conducting. We were sitting behind the orchestra and they did this piece (the Four Last Songs). That’s when I said to my father this is wanted I wanted to do with my life.”

Houston: Orozco-Estrada gears up for busy international round

Sept. 23, 24, 25: Full Details
Andrés Orozco-Estrada (Martin Sigmund)
Andrés Orozco-Estrada (Martin Sigmund)

In his third year as music director of the Houston Symphony, 38-year-old violinist and conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada has become a hot hand, with a number of major international debuts under his belt and more to come in 2016-17 with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, along with return visits to other orchestras in major cities. The Medellín-born, Vienna-trained maestro conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 on a concert that also features the winners of the orchestra’s recent composing competition: Pathways, by American composer and pianist Ben Krause, who is also at work on a new piano quartet for Philadelphia’s Network for New Music; and El Sombrerón, by Colombian composer Victor Agudelo, who was also winner of an ASCAP young composer award in 2009. El Sombrerón is a goblin-like character of Latin-American lore who appears at dusk and causes trouble.

St. Louis: John Adams’ birthday marks season-long celebration 

Sept. 30, Oct. 1, Powell Hall: Full Details
John Adams (Christine Alicino)
John Adams (Christine Alicino)

As American composer John Adams turns 70 this year, the St. Louis Symphony undertakes the most ambitious list of his major works of any symphony orchestra. Violinist Leila Josefowicz performs Adams’ Violin Concerto with music director David Robertson on the podium. The concerto (1993-94) was revolutionary for its time because of its endlessly singing line, which Adams called “hypermelody.”

Coinciding with these concerts, Nonesuch Records on Sept. 30 will release Adams’ Scheherazade.2a dramatic symphony written for Josefowicz that takes a feminist spin on the old tale of the Arabian Nights. She has played it around the world since its 2015 premiere by the New York Philharmonic. Arecording was made in February 2016 with Robertson and his St. Louis forces, their third with Nonesuch, after Adams’ City Noir and Saxophone Concerto, and the Doctor Atomic Symphony.

A recording of the Violin Concerto taken from the upcoming performances is also in the works, according to Sarah Bryan Miller in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Further SLS programming of Adams’ music in 2016-17 includes On The Transmigration of Souls, his reflection on the World Trade Center attacks (Nov. 18-20), The Chairman Dances, from his opera Nixon in China (Jan. 13-15, 2017), and The Gospel According to the Other Mary (March 24 and 26, 2017), which will also travel to Carnegie Hall (March 31, 2017).

Cincinnati: Multimedia Pelléas Trilogy continues with Fauré focus

Sept. 30; Oct. 1, Taft Theater: Full details

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra continues an innovative three-year exploration of Pelléas et Mélisande under music director Louis Langrée with a multimedia performance of Fauré’s incidental music for Maeterlinck’s 1893 Symbolist drama. Begun in October 2015 with Schoenberg’s symphonic poem based on the same work, the project focuses on various composers’ adaptations, culminating in a complete performance of the opera Pelléas et Mélisande by Debussy in the third season. The project involves projections, costumes, lighting and spoken text. James Darrah, the director, has collaborated often with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and with Opera Omaha. Each Pelléas installment will have an accompanying elemental theme: smoke, water or stone. Below is an excerpt from the CSO’s first installment:

Indianapolis: Young pianist Lisiecki joins rising star Urbański

Nov. 12, 13, Hilbert Circle Theatre: Full details
Krzysztof Urbański (Indianapolis Symphony)
Krzysztof Urbański (Indianapolis Symphony)

Polish conductor and composer Krzysztof Urbański made his New York Philharmonic debut at age 32 as a last minute replacement for Christoph von Dohnányi, and the young conductor’s stature has continued to grow. Now beginning his sixth season as music director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Urbański collaborates with another young talent, the 21-year-old Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, who performs Chopin’s First Piano Concerto. Urbański also conducts Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Lutosławski’s Musique funèbre.

Born to Polish parents, Lisiecki came to international fame after the release of a recording of him playing both Chopin concertos at ages 13 and 14, and he made his Carnegie Hall debut in January 2016 with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin, an event praised by Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times as “an uncommonly sensitive performance” of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. Lisiecki’s calendar shows both Urbański and Nézet-Séguin also performing with him in 2017, Nézet-Séguin on a tour of German cities with the Rotterdam Philharmonic in March and Urbański with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra in May. Below is Lisiecki performing Chopin etudes:

Louisville: Shakespeare tribute timed with tour stop of rare First Folio

Nov. 18, 19, Kentucky Center: Full details
A First Folio tour inspires music.
A First Folio tour inspires music.

In honor of the display of a rare original edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623, currently at Louisville’s Frazier History Museum on a North American Tour of all 50 states, the Louisville Orchestra under music director Teddy Abrams presents a Shakespeare in Music concert with excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, Berlioz’s dramatic symphony Roméo et Juliette, and Debussy’s two movements of incidental music written in 1904  for Le roi Lear. The program is part of a yearlong celebration by all sorts of cultural institutions to honor Shakespeare’s life’s work and legacy, most of them coordinated by King’s College London or the Folger Library in Washington, D.C., to mark the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.

Atlanta: Mandolin concertos a rare delight

Dec. 1, 3, Atlanta Symphony Hall: Full details
Mandolinist Avi Avital (
Mandolinist Avi Avital performs Vivaldi, Avner Dorman.

The Israeli mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital brings his diminutive instrument to center stage in concertos by Avner Dorman and Vivaldi, under the baton of Laura Jackson, music director of the Reno Philharmonic and a former ASO conducting fellow. For Naxos, Avital has recorded Dorman’s concerto, whose neo-Baroque melodic elements pay homage to Bach’s violin concertos while adding Middle-Eastern spice that reflects both Dorman’s and Avital’s heritage. Avital also recorded Vivaldi’s only mandolin concerto last year for Deutsche Grammophon, where he has also released albums of folk tunes and many Baroque transcriptions. Jackson’s orchestral program also includes Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony and Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances Suite 1, based upon lute music. To sample the Dorman concerto, see below: