Sym­phony sea­son pre­view


Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Sunday Arts & Style - By Anna Reguero

South­west­ern Con­necti­cut has no short­age of or­ches­tras: six or­ches­tras from New Haven down through Greenwich fill their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties with pas­sion­ate and ded­i­cated mu­sic mak­ing.

“That’s the amaz­ing thing, Con­necti­cut’s legacy for sup­port­ing mu­sic, all these or­ches­tra of­fer­ing dif­fer­ent lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ences,” says Jonathan Yates, mu­sic di­rec­tor of the Norwalk Sym­phony Or­ches­tra. “I think we have more or­ches­tras per capita than any other state. It’s a very spe­cial en­vi­ron­ment for the arts and for mu­sic.”

The hard­est part about pro­gram­ming a sea­son? Nar­row­ing down the op­tions, a feel­ing shared among area mu­sic di­rec­tors. None of the or­ches­tras has the ex­ten­sive per­for­mance sched­ules of big- bud­get sym­phonies. Yet care­ful choices re­veal sea­sons full of the clas­sics, col­lab­o­ra­tions with dra­matic po­ten­tial and cre­ative pro­gram­ming with timely themes and evoca­tive new works.

This sea­son cel­e­brates ev­ery­thing from the civil rights move­ment and com­poser Leonard Bern­stein’s cen­ten­nial to the 50th an­niver­sary of NASA’s moon land­ing.

“I just love it when some­one comes in and is will­ing to be open enough to pos­si­bly be moved by some­thing they weren’t ex­pect­ing,” says Greater Bridge­port Sym­phony’s mu­sic di­rec­tor Eric Ja­cob­sen. “And I think it’s kind of a metaphor for em­pa­thy in this world.”

In ad­di­tion, lis­ten­ers will say good­bye to mu­sic di­rec­tor Wil­liam Boughton of the New Haven Sym­phony Or­ches­tra while em­brac­ing Ridge­field Sym­phony Or­ches­tra’s new­est mu­sic di­rec­tor Yuga Cohler, all while the Stam­ford Sym­phony searches for its next leader.

Here’s what to ex­pect from each or­ches­tra this sea­son.

Greenwich Sym­phony

Greenwich Sym­phony’s sea­son fur­thers its mis­sion to spot­light ris­ing tal­ent on the solo cir­cuit with two dy­namic young vi­o­lin­ists. On Nov. 17 and 18, the 25year- old Amer­i­can ris­ing star Wil­liam Ha­gen, a prize- win­ner in the 2015 Queen Elis­a­beth In­ter­na­tional Mu­sic Com­pe­ti­tion, per­forms the marathon Men­delssohn Vi­olin Con­certo, a con­certo that broke with clas­si­cal con­ven­tions by bar­rel­ing through its move­ments with­out pauses. French vi­o­lin­ist Chloe Kif­fer, who first met long­time mu­sic di­rec­tor David Gilbert when per­form­ing a con­certo un­der his ba­ton at Carnegie Hall in 2015, helps close out the sea­son on April 13 and 14, 2019, with the fiery Dvor ák Vi­olin Con­certo.

Es­tab­lished tal­ent is also on the ros­ter, such as Hun­gar­ian pi­anist Peter Toth, per­form­ing Hun­gar­ian works on Jan. 26 and 27, and trum­pet player Ryan An­thony on Feb. 23 and 24. The same con­cert also fea­tures a re­cent ad­di­tion: African Amer­i­can mez­zoso­prano Lu­cia Brad­ford, whose “phe­nom­e­nal” per­for­mance cap­tured Gilbert’s ear in a re­cent con­cert of the Har­lem Cham­ber Play­ers.

Along with an in­ter­na­tional dis­play of mu­sic, rang­ing from Ar­me­nian, Span­ish, Rus­sian, and Hun­gar­ian mu­sic, along­side Ger­man- Vi­en­nese greats, liv­ing Amer­i­can com­posers also make their mark. The sym­phony’s own bass player Jeff Levine presents an orig­i­nal com­po­si­tion on Feb. 23 and 24. The 101- year- old com­poser An­ton Cop­pola, the un­cle of film­maker Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola, will have his pas­tiche work “Fa- Fa- Do”— Fran­cis Ford’s ini­tials in mu­si­cal pitch — per­formed April 13 and 14 and is likely to make an in- per­son ap­pear­ance for the con­cert.

Stam­ford Sym­phony

Stam­ford Sym­phony con­tin­ues to flirt with guest con­duc­tors this sea­son in hopes of land­ing a longterm re­la­tion­ship for mu­sic di­rec­tor. Suit­ors in­clude con­duc­tor and com­poser Lucas Rich­man, who re­ceived a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Clas­si­cal Cross­over Al­bum. He’ll con­duct a con­cert ver­sion of Gersh­win’s bluesy, English- lan­guage opera “Porgy and Bess” on Feb. 9 and 10 with the Greenwich Cho­ral So­ci­ety in honor of Black His­tory Month, in ad­di­tion to other opera fa­vorites.

Michael Stern, the Kansas City con­duc­tor who just fin­ished con­duct­ing “The Red Vi­olin” film score with vi­o­lin­ist Joshua Bell at the New York Phil­har­monic, will lead four of the or­ches­tra’s prin­ci­pal player lead­ing ladies in Haydn’s Sin­fo­nia Con­cer­tante for vi­olin, cello, oboe, and bas­soon on March 9 and 10.

Broad­way con­duct­ing master Ted Sper­ling, cur­rently con­duct­ing the pit or­ches­tra for the Lin­coln Cen­ter pro­duc­tion of “My Fair Lady” and who was the 2005 Tony and Drama Desk award win­ner for his or­ches­tra­tion of “Light in the Pi­azza,” con­ducts a night of clas­sic and iconic movie mu­sic on Jan. 19. Ris­ing con­duc­tor Vladimir Ku­len­ovic fin­ishes off the sea­son lead­ing award- win­ning Ital­ian pi­anist Fed­erico Colli in Tchaikovsky’s stately First Pi­ano Con­certo and the im­pas­sioned Rach­mani­noff Sym­phony No. 2 on April 13 and 14.

But be­fore the mu­sic di­rec­tor au­di­tions con­tinue, An­drés Cár­denes will do dou­ble duty con­duct­ing Vi­valdi’s ever­green “Four Sea­sons” from the vi­olin on Nov. 10 and 11.

Norwalk Sym­phony Or­ches­tra

In cel­e­bra­tion of Bern­stein’s cen­ten­nial, the Norwalk Sym­phony Or­ches­tra’s sea­son presents a re­cently cre­ated and rarely heard con­cert ver­sion of Bern­stein’s “West Side Story,” a chance to hear the cross- cul­tural lovers Tony and Maria croon to a full or­ches­tra on Feb. 23. Due to the per­form­ing rights for the work, con­cert­go­ers world­wide could only ei­ther see the full show or hear a con­densed in­stru­men­tal ver­sion prior to only a few years ago. Ac­tors and singers from the New Par­a­digm Theatre of Stam­ford per­form with the sym­phony.

And that’s not the only col­lab­o­ra­tion of the sea­son. The New Eng­land Acad­emy of Dance straps on bal­let shoes for the or­ches­tra’s hol­i­day ex­trav­a­ganza called Bach to Pops on Dec. 15 that

in­cludes Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from “The Nutcracker.” Ad­di­tion­ally, dancers and the young mu­si­cians of the Norwalk Youth Sym­phony pair up for a con­cert along­side the Norwalk Sym­phony on March 17 in a dra­matic per­for­mance of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” the mu­si­cal tale of youth­ful over­con­fi­dence that fea­tures the or­ches­tra’s in­stru­ments as char­ac­ters in the plot.

The or­ches­tra will also per­form twice with the Men­delssohn Choir of Con­necti­cut, first for a per­for­mance of Bach’s “Mag­ni­fi­cat” on Dec. 15 and again for the sea­son’s show­stop­per, Beethoven’s his­toric fi­nal sym­phony, the ninth, on May 18 that cel­e­brates the 80th an­niver­sary of the Norwalk Sym­phony.

Ridge­field Sym­phony Or­ches­tra

This is Ridge­field Sym­phony Or­ches­tra’s first full sea­son with trend­set­ting Yuga Cohler at the helm. Cohler brings his Juil­liard train­ing and a prize- win­ning re­sume to Ridge­field along with a knack for con­nect­ing dots be­tween dis­parate mu­si­cal styles, ev­i­denced by a cel­e­brated pro­gram he cre­ated for the Young Mu­si­cians Foun­da­tion in Los An­ge­les that fused Beethoven with rap­per Kayne West.

With his fin­ger on the pulse of the cur­rent, Cohler con­ducts a work for the De­cem­ber 1 con­cert by con­tem­po­rary bassist and com­poser Michael Thurber called “Love Let­ter,” a con­certo for vi­o­lin­ist Tessa Lark that zigzags be­tween gen­res such as jazz, hiphop, rock, and Amer­i­cana fid­dling. Well- loved ul­tra- ro­man­tic works of Tchaikovsky and Brahms sand­wich the con­tem­po­rary con­certo.

The March 1 con­cert is a com­men­tary on high art from a Re­spighi mu­si­cal trip­tych de­pict­ing three works by Re­nais­sance painter Bot­ti­celli to We­bern’s dif­fi­cult Six Pieces for Or­ches­tra that aimed to chan­nel the great Ger­man art mu­sic tra­di­tion through a new mu­si­cal lan­guage. “I wanted the con­cert to em­body all the no­tions of what clas­si­cal mu­sic thinks of it­self, not in a pe­jo­ra­tive way but as an ex­er­cise in post­mod­ernism,” Cohler says.

The fi­nal con­cert on May 11 takes on spring­time with Schu­mann’s “Spring” sym­phony and Stravin­sky’s Rite of Spring.

Greater Bridge­port Sym­phony

The 50th an­niver­sary of the first land­ing on the moon is the Greater Bridge­port Sym­phony’s in­spi­ra­tion for its sea­son and the outer- space theme holds tight among the con­certs. Com­poser and DJ Ma­son Bates over­lays record­ings of the John F. Kennedy’s his­toric “We choose to go to the moon” speech over the or­ches­tra for his work “Pas­sage 18” on Nov. 10. The March 16 con­cert waltzes to Strauss’ “The Beau­ti­ful Blue Danube,” a work in­stantly rec­og­niz­able from its place­ment in the 1968 clas­sic film 2001: A

Space Odyssey. Ac­tor Keir Dul­lea, who played as­tro­naut David Bow­man in the film, will be at the con­cert to in­tro­duce the work.

The or­ches­tra also brings in star power soloists. High- pro­file pi­anist Yuja Wang makes a spe­cial Con­necti­cut ap­pear­ance, dis­play­ing high- oc­tane per­for­mances and a com­ple­men­tary wardrobe for the Schu­mann Pi­ano Con­certo on Dec. 8. And the pow­er­house vi­o­lin­ist Gil Sha­ham helps wrap up the sea­son on April 13 per­form­ing a re­cent work by Stam­ford na­tive and ac­com­plished com­poser David Bruce. The lo­cal bright stars of the Fair­field County Chil­dren’s Choir col­lab­o­rate on Vi­valdi’s “Glo­ria” on March 16, singing a work Vi­valdi orig­i­nally wrote for young singers.

“The cho­ruses around Con­necti­cut are just so spe­cial,” said Ja­cob­sen, Greater Bridge­port’s mu­sic di­rec­tor.

And what else could close a sea­son about the cos­mos bet­ter than Holst’s “The Plan­ets,” on April 13?

New Haven Sym­phony Or­ches­tra

A civil rights- themed pro­gram of all- Amer­i­can mu­sic is among the high­lights at the New Haven Sym­phony Or­ches­tra’s 125th an­niver­sary sea­son. The con­cert on April 4 ranges from Pulitzer Prize- win­ning com­poser Joseph Sch­want­ner’s “New Morn­ing for the World” (“Day­break of Free­dom”) based on the speeches of Martin Luther King, to Co­p­land’s “Lin­coln Por­trait,” based on Abra­ham Lin­coln’s speeches. Chil­dren from around the city of New Haven will join the or­ches­tra for African Amer­i­can com­poser Daniel Bernard Roumain’s ( known as DBR) Hip- Hop Es­say, Part I.

African- Amer­i­can vi­o­lin­ist Ty Mur­ray, whose mu­si­cian­ship was a stand­out in a con­cert at the Proms in Lon­don for Mu­sic Di­rec­tor Wil­liam Boughton, makes her New Haven de­but on March 19 with the Prokofiev Vi­olin Con­certo No. 2.

The de­light­ful sym­phonies of Mozart and Haydn open and close the con­cert.

It’s all a con­trast with Mahler’s Sym­phony No. 3, Mahler’s largescale med­i­ta­tion on the cre­ation of the world, which not only closes out the sea­son but also Boughton’s ten­ure as mu­sic di­rec­tor af­ter 12 years with the or­ches­tra.

“For this par­tic­u­lar work, imag­ine a work so large that it mir­rors the en­tire world,” says Boughton. “I think af­ter 12 years that’s the way I want to leave the or­ches­tra. It mir­rors the whole of the 12 years and the jour­ney we’ve taken to­gether.”

Wil­liam Ha­gen ap­pears on the Greenwich Sym­phony pro­gram this sea­son.

Chil­dren lis­ten to the New Haven Sym­phony Or­ches­tra dur­ing a NHSO Young Peo­ple's Con­cert at Yale Univer­sity's Woolsey Hall.

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