Seattle Symphony's next season will feature a world premiere of a John Luther Adams piece, guest appearances by Joshua Bell and Garrick Ohlsson, and a new late-night experimental-music series.
Just weeks before he took the helm as the Seattle Symphony’s music director last September, conductor Ludovic Morlot already had a notion of what he’d be doing in his 2012-13 season.
“I ultimately want to go back and work on the classics,” he said. “I’ll do a lot of Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms with the orchestra, so that we start really working on the sound as well.”
Well, Mozart, Beethoven and the gang are all well represented in the newly announced season. But there are less expected items on the roster, too.
Olivier Messiaen’s monumental Turangalila Symphony (with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist) will get its first Seattle Symphony performance. The 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birth will also be observed with performances of his War Requiem and hismagnificent Cello Symphony(originally composed for Mstislav Rostropovich).
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The season was announced following a free Symphony concert introduced by Mayor Mike McGinn at City Hall on Wednesday, which found Morlot sometimes levitating off the podium as he coaxed his players through the buoyant rhythmic trickery of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
City Hall’s lobby was packed with youngsters and oldsters alike.
At a reception following the concert, Morlot addressed a question he’s frequently asked: Why does he sometimes conduct with a baton and sometimes with just his hands?
“It’s very important to understand that the conductor doesn’t conduct with his hands, actually,” Morlot explained. “He conducts with his eyes and a burning heart. And if this is happening, ultimately having a baton or no baton, hands or not hands, makes no difference whatsoever.”
Then he recalled the first conducting lesson he ever had, when he was asked to kick off the first movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with both his hands in his pockets.
“So I sometimes try to remember that, and what the actual role of a conductor is, which is creating that environment where all those wonderful players can give the best of themselves. Because ultimately they don’t me to make great music. They don’t need any of us on the podium to make great music. They just need our energy and our focus, and us reminding them how good they are.”
The Symphony’s executive director Simon Woods noted that, with the Beethoven, listeners had been given “a little taste of the kind of electricity that’s going on right now between our incredible musicians and Ludovic.”
He added that the 2012-2013 season would make “a great commitment to accessibility and to opening the doors to new audiences. … You might like to know we have 1,000 more subscribers than we had this time last year.”
He also enthused about the hundreds of families who come with their children to the new Family Connections program, which grants free admission to youngsters accompanied by a parent. Mentioned as well: the free Day of Music last September, which had 8,000 attendees, and the Arts & Education concerts which attracted 12,000 fifth-graders.
An upbeat Morlot hardly knew where to start in highlighting the coming season “because everything, in my taste, is really exciting.”
Among the changes he announced: Conducting fellow Stilian Kirov will take over as assistant conductor from Eric Garcia in September. And the Visiting Orchestras series has been put on hiatus.
“We used to have a tradition of having guest orchestras come from all around the world,” Morlot explained. “I want to change this for a little while, and I think it’s really important that we connect with the orchestras that are our neighbors in the Pacific Northwest. You’ll have the chance to hear the Vancouver Symphony and the Oregon Symphony here in Benaroya Hall. And I hope we can be invited back to those places, because it’s very important that we also nurture those relationships.”
The season opens with a concert and gala conducted by Morlot on Sept. 15, featuring violinist Joshua Bell in an all-American program (Gershwin, Copland and Bernstein). Morlot will conduct 10 of the 21 Wyckoff Masterworks Season programs, along with the Symphony’s returning Celebrate Asia concerts and “Sonic Evolution” concert, featuring an appearance by Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs. (“It’s a very important thing for us to connect to all the music that is being made in the city,” Morlot noted.)
He’ll also lead the Symphony through a two-night Rach Fest, in which four pianists take on Rachmaninov’s four piano concertos … presumably not at the same time.
Morlot will conduct the world premiere of a John Luther Adams work in June 2013, and then take it with the Symphony to Carnegie Hall in May 2014.
He’ll also take an active hand in the Symphony’s Beyond the Score, Mainly Mozart and Symphony Untuxed offerings (the latter a renaming of the “Rush Hour” series “because,” says Morlot, “we want to be very casual and invite everybody to come as they are.”)
An experimental-music showcase, titled “[untitled],” may represent Morlot’s most unusual programming move, with its cutting-edge content, its 10 p.m. Friday showtime and its conversion of Benaroya Hall’s Grand Lobby into a musical venue. “We’ll have wonderful new music being performed there,” Morlot says, “so we can really connect to the city through that wonderful window.” He’s especially excited about a program called “1962,” that will mark the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair with performance of music composed that year.)
Come the holidays, Morlot will take over baton duty on Beethoven’s 9th from conductor laureate Gerard Schwarz.
Clearly, we are going to be seeing a lot of Maestro Morlot.
Schwarz won’t be left empty-handed. He’s conducting a four-concert “Russian Spectacular” package, featuring works by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, plus a concert in the spring with Garrick Ohlsson as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9.
Some big-draw recitals — by pianists András Schiff and Yefim Bonfman and violinists Anne-Sophie Mutter and Itzhak Perlman — are on the calendar, as are visits from conductors of interest: John Adams, Neeme Järvi, Jakub Hrusa and Christian Knapp. Guest conductors making their Seattle Symphony debuts include Thomas Søndergård and Andrey Boreyko.
The Baroque & Wine series, a Symphony chamber series and an organ-recital series — all three concerts apiece — round out the musical offerings. On a nonmusical note, Bill Cosby will appear on Oct. 21.
“I think there’s something for everybody,” Morlot concluded, “and more than one thing for everybody.”
Season tickets go on sale today. Call 206-215-4747, go to www.seattlesymphony.org or buy them in person at Benaroya Hall (10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 1-6 p.m. Saturday), 200 University St., Seattle. Prices will be held at 2011-12 rates until March 3. Single tickets go on sale in August.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org