Saturday, October 17, 2009

ArtsPreview 2009-10: The season in classical music

Philippe Entremont. (Illustration by Pat Crowley)

By Greg Stepanich

Some things will be absent or reduced in the upcoming classical music and opera season, but overall, the coming supply of concerts will be relatively robust, and well worth investigation.

Here’s an overview of the season by genre – orchestral, solo, chamber and choral – with the proviso that this is a selective list and not a comprehensive one.

Orchestras: Fans of orchestral music have three locally based ensembles in Palm Beach County to enjoy: the Boca Symphonia, Palm Beach Symphony and the Lynn Philharmonia conservatory orchestra. Conductor Alexander Platt, who will leave the Boca Symphonia at the end of the season, has scheduled a quartet of fine programs that feature his admirable penchant for fresh repertoire, including the Violin Concerto of the eminent American composer Ned Rorem (Jan. 17, with soloist Livia Sohn), Irving Fine’s Notturno for Strings and Harp (Nov. 8), and the Capricorn Concerto (Feb. 14) of Samuel Barber.

The Palm Beach Symphony’s five concerts are again at five different venues, and conductors Ray Robinson and Ramon Tebar will share the duties, which include the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 with soloist Jonah Kim at Palm Beach Atlantic University (March 16), a program of concerti for piccolo, clarinet, trumpet and marimba (Feb. 16, Bethesday-by-the-Sea), and to close the season, the Lord Nelson Mass of Haydn and the Te Deum of Anton Bruckner, with the symphony’s chorale (April 12, Flagler Museum).

The Lynn Philharmonia’s six programs, including the annual concerto competition concerts (Jan. 30-31) feature oboist Joseph Robinson in the late Oboe Concerto of Richard Strauss (Nov. 14-15), the rarely heard Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings of Mendelssohn (Dec. 5-6), and to start the year, the Prokofiev Fifth Symphony and the Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16 (1949 version) of Arnold Schoenberg (Oct. 24-25).

Nicholas McGegan.

Down south, Michael Tilson Thomas’ New World Symphony is in the middle of building a new rehearsal space and concert hall off Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, and has a wonderful season planned that includes the Mahler Fifth Symphony (April 11-12), and features Tilson Thomas himself at the piano for the Mozart Concerto No. 23 on a program with the Sibelius Third Symphony (Jan. 8-10); violinists Jennifer Koh in the Violin Concerto of John Adams (Feb. 5-7) and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg in the Barber Violin Concerto (Feb. 20, with Atlanta Symphony conductor Robert Spano); and Baroque specialist Nicholas McGegan in music by Bach (Brandenburg Concerto No. 1), Vivaldi, C.P.E. Bach and Corelli.

Up north, Stewart Robertson’s Atlantic Classical Orchestra enters its 20th season with four pairs of concerts in Vero Beach and Stuart that feature inventive programming. The concerts include American composer Michael Torke’s Adjustable Wrench on a program with the Beethoven Violin Concerto, played by soloist Elmar Oliveira (March 11-12), a chamber version of the Mahler Fourth Symphony with soprano Laura Warriner (Jan. 7-8), and on March 25-26, music by American composer Paul Dooley (Pomo Canyon Air) on the same bill as the Schumann Piano Concerto (with soloist Tom Poster) and a completed version of the Schubert Unfinished Symphony (No. 8 in B minor, D. 759).

Yuja Wang.

There also will be several visiting orchestras during the season, such as the Cleveland Orchestra down at Miami’s Knight Concert Hall for three concerts including the Violin Concerto of Britain’s Thomas Adès with soloist Leila Josefowicz (Jan. 22-23) and Argentine pianist Ingrid Fliter in the Chopin Second Concerto (March 26-27). The Russian National Orchestra returns in March with the great young Chinese pianist Yuja Wang in two concerts at the Kravis; she plays the Beethoven Emperor
Concerto on March 3, and the Rachmaninov Second Concerto on March 4. Not much later, Chinese pianist Lang Lang solos in the Prokofiev Third Concerto and the Mozart No. 17 with Christoph Eschenbach and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra (March 29, Knight; March 31-April 1, Kravis).

The eminent French pianist and conductor Philippe Entremont celebrates his 75th birthday this year with his Vienna Chamber Orchestra, which will present the North American premiere of Souvenirs, a five-movement orchestral piece by Richard Danielpour, who grew up in West Palm Beach and has gone on to a major compositional career (Nov. 16-17, Kravis; Nov. 19, Lyric Theatre, Stuart). Pinchas Zukerman brings the Israel Philharmonic and his wife, cellist Amanda Forsyth, to the Knight Concert Hall on Dec. 16 and the Kravis on Dec. 17 in music by Bloch, Haydn and Tchaikovsky.

The Detroit Symphony and Leonard Slatkin come to the Kravis on Feb. 10, then the Knight on Feb. 14 (cellist Sol Gabetta will play the Barber Cello Concerto on a program with the Rachmaninov Second Symphony), and JoAnn Falletta leads her Buffalo Philharmonic in a concert of music by Ravel (Piano Concerto in G, with Fabio Bidini) and Rachmaninov (the Second, again) at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale (March 12).

Finally, no fewer than three orchestras will do multimedia productions this year, beginning with Hans Graf and the Houston Symphony accompanying a high-definition film of NASA outer space photos with the Holst tone poem The Planets (Jan. 30, Kravis; Jan. 31, Broward Center for the Performing Arts); music by Stravinsky and Dutilleux fills out the program. The Palm Beach Symphony under Ramon Tebar will play excerpts of Shostakovich symphonies as the background to a showing of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (Jan. 13, Kravis), and the Russian National Orchestra will be on hand with mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor and Miami’s Seraphic Fire concert choir for Prokoviev’s Alexander Nevsky, performed along with a showing of the Eisenstein film (March 7, Festival of the Arts Boca).

Vladimir Feltsman.

In addition to the soloists already mentioned, piano aficionados can look forward to solo recitals by the fine Richard Goode (Jan. 13, Society of the Four Arts), Russia’s Vladimir Feltsman (Feb. 21, Kravis), and Menahem Pressler, accompanied by orchestral musicians (April 13, Kravis) in the Mozart Concerto No. 27 and the Beethoven Second Concerto. Violinist devotees can see Joshua Bell (Feb. 15, Broward Center) and Itzhak Perlman (Jan. 12, Knight), both frequent seasonal guests.

Some of the world’s major singers are scheduled this season, including soprano Renée Fleming, who opens the Festival of the Arts Boca on March 5 in operatic arias accompanied by the Russian National Orchestra, soprano Kiri te Kanawa in recital at the Broward Center (March 9), and tenor Salvatore Licitra (Dec. 15, Kravis). In addition, rising mezzo Sasha Cooke plays the Lyric (March 19), and pianist Haochen Zhang, who shared the gold medal at this year’s Van Cliburn competition, can be heard on the historic Stuart stage Feb. 7. Pianist Xiayin Wang also makes a return appearance to the Lyric on March 31.

Rising young musicians are featured this year in place of the string quartet series usually mounted by Palm Beach Community College’s Duncan Theatre. Violinists Chad Hoopes (Dec. 16), Yuki Numata (Jan. 27) and Mikhail Simonyan (Feb. 24) share the series with pianist Ran Jia (March 24). Hoopes also plays the Lyric Theatre in Stuart on Dec. 14, and Simonyan opened the New World’s season in Miami Beach on Oct. 10 with the Glazunov Violin Concerto. The Kravis Center’s young artists series includes 14-year-old Palm City violinst Michael Province (Dec. 7), clarinetist Igor Begelman (Jan. 19), sister duo-pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton (Feb. 8) and Brazilian pianist Pablo Rossi (March 15).

The Claremont Trio.

Chamber music:
A good deal of chamber music is on the way for the season, too, particularly at the Society of the Four Arts, which welcomes the American Chamber Players again (Jan. 17), as well as the Tempest (Dec. 13) and Claremont (Feb. 7) trios, and the Brentano (Jan. 10), Jupiter (Feb. 28) and Hugo Wolf (March 14) string quartets. Also coming to the Palm Beach arts stalwart are the Faure Piano Quartet (Jan. 24) and the husband-wife team of cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han, joined by violinist Philip Setzer (March 21).

Nearby at the Flagler Museum, the Leipzig (Jan. 26) and American (March 9) string quartets will be on the bill for Whitehall's five-concert series, which also includes the Amelia Trio (Feb. 9).

Miami-born composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, who turned 70 in April, will be honored Jan. 17 at the Kravis with a performance of her new Septet for Piano and Strings, featuring the Miami String Quartet and the revered Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, while the veteran chamber music raconteur and pianist Charles Wadsworth will come to the Kravis on Jan. 3 for a program of chamber music featuring Spoleto Festival standouts such as violinist Chee-Yun.

The Delray String Quartet is undergoing a major expansion this year, adding two venues outside its base at the Colony Hotel in downtown Delray Beach: All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale and St. Thomas Episcopal in Coral Gables. With new cellist Claudio Jaffe, the quartet will play relative rarities such as the Fifth Quartet of Brazil’s Heitor Villa-Lobos (Jan. 2-3, Jan. 8), the Glazunov Fifth Quartet (Feb. 5-7) and the Second Quartet of Juan Arriaga (April 9-11), plus the beautiful F minor Piano Quintet of Cesar Franck, with pianist Tao Lin (Dec. 4-6).

Keith Paulson-Thorp’s series at St. Paul’s Episcopal in Delray will feature pianist Roberta Rust with violinist Carol Cole and cellist David Cole in trios by Haydn and Mendelssohn (Nov. 15), organ and harpsichord duets with Paulson-Thorp and Adam Brakel (Jan. 17), and the Camerata del Re and St. Paul’s choir in one of the Requiem settings by the early Brazilian composer and priest Jose Maurico Nunes-Garcia (March 14).

Fort Lauderdale’s Chameleon Musicians series is expanding to five concerts this season with string trios by Beethoven, Dohnanyi and the Czech Holocaust victim Gideon Klein (Oct. 18), piano trios with pianist Kemal Gekic, violinist Dmitri Pogorelov and Chameleon founder Iris van Eck on cello (March 14), and the Amernet Quartet, joined by van Eck in the early String Quintet in F minor of Alexander Borodin (April 11).

Two worthy Miami-area groups, the Friends of Chamber Music and the Sunday Afternoons of Music, offer good programs worth traveling for. Julian Kreeger’s Friends will welcome the Talich (Nov. 16) and Artemis (March 3) quartets, pianists Kevin Kenner (Oct. 28), Yefim Bronfman (Dec. 21, with Cho-Liang Lin and others) and Nareh Argahmanyan (March 23), while the Sunday Afternoons series features the Eroica Trio (Feb. 6, a Saturday), Russian pianist Olga Kern (March 21) and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian (Dec. 20).

And the Chopin Foundation celebrates the 200th birthday of its guiding spirit with the 8th National Chopin Piano Competition from Feb. 20-28 at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium; the group also presents free recitals throughout the year in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables. The young American Claire Huangci opened the series Oct. 3-4, and the young Polish pianist Magdalena Baczewska is next on Nov. 7-8.

Just announced is a two-concert survey of the complete works for cello and piano of Beethoven -- five sonatas and three sets of variations on music by Handel and Mozart -- to be performed Nov. 5 and Nov. 7 by Robert DeMaine, principal cellist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He'll be joined by pianist Heather Coltman for the recitals at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton.

James Judd.

The Master Chorale of South Florida opens its season with the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven in two performances at the Knight Concert Hall (Oct. 24-25), accompanied by Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony, and its second concert, a complete performance of Handel’s Messiah at three venues including the Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, will be led by James Judd, the former director of the Florida Philharmonic (Dec. 4-6). The chorale also plans the MozartRequiem (April 16-18) to close the season.

Two other performances of Messiah will be mounted in December: The Masterworks Chorus of the Palm Beaches’ annual version at the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach, in what will be Jack Jones’ final season as its director (Dec. 20), and on Dec. 19 at the Knight Center, the work is sung by Seraphic Fire and its resident ensemble, the Firebird Chamber Orchestra. The Masterworks also plans the Gloria of Vivaldi and the Magnificat of Pergolesi (Nov. 29, St. Edward’s, Palm Beach) and the German Requiem of Brahms (April 11, Palm Beach Atlantic University).

Seraphic Fire, which is not returning to a Palm Beach County venue this season, opened Oct. 1 with the gorgeous Missa Papae Marcelli of Palestrina, offers Handel’s Israel in Egypt (March 25-28) and concludes with a 400th anniversary celebration of the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, accompanied by the Western Michigan University Chorale (May 13-16). And in response to popular demand, the choir will mount its first-ever Seraphic Fire Christmas concert, singing traditional carols by candlelight (Dec. 10-13).

Community choirs also will offer interesting programming, such as the Delray Beach Chorale in the Haydn St. Nicholas Mass and the Saint-Saens Christmas Oratorio (Dec. 13), followed by a program of American music by composers such as Bernstein, Copland and Randall Thompson (March 28).

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