News Column

2014-15 DSO season to celebrate works first performed in the U.S.

January 26, 2014

By Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press

Jan. 26 --The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has been sharpening its programming in recent years as music director Leonard Slatkin introduced new ideas and deepened his commitment to others already in the air at Orchestra Hall. Now with the 2014-15 season, which is being announced today, Slatkin has funneled all of these initiatives into the single sweep of 21 subscription weeks. There's a three-week midwinter festival devoted to Tchaikovsky, a concert performance of Puccini 's "Tosca" and a significant dose of contemporary music, including works by Americans William Bolcom , Michael Daugherty , John Corigliano and Andre Previn . And Slatkin has also added a fresh twist: For the first time, he's created a thematic thread linking the entire season, "Concerto in America," a celebration of pieces for soloist and orchestra first performed in the U.S. These range from repertory works by Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff to new or rarely heard pieces like the U.S. premiere of the Trumpet Concerto by Swede Tobias BrostrÖm (b. 1978) and the late Benjamin Lees' Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra (1964). Entering his seventh season with the DSO, Slatkin said he has reached a point of knowledge and comfort in Detroit that is paying dividends in his ability to plot out not only an arc within a single season but connecting tissue linking one season with the next. "I know the audience," he said. "I know the orchestra, and I have a much better idea of what the community wants and needs. And I think when you couple what we're doing at Orchestra Hall with the neighborhood concerts and education you begin to get a pretty good idea of what an orchestra needs to look like in the first decades of the 21st Century. "Next season fits into an overall plan. It takes chances, but it plays it safe when it needs to." Today's announcement finds the orchestra feeling particularly optimistic. The newly inked three-year contract signed by the musicians a full eight months before the expiration of the current deal helps drive memories of the six-month strike in 2010-11 further into the past. Fund-raising and ticket-sales increases led to the first balanced budget last year since 2007. A quick survey of the 2014-15 season shows how Slatkin is balancing the scales. The Winter Music Festival devoted to Tchaikovsky features standard fare that should prove catnip to conservative tastes. Yet by wrapping the music into a concentrated 17-day period in February it helps create a sense of occasion. On tap are all six of the composer's symphonies, plus the beloved Violin and First Piano Concerto, the little-heard second and third piano concertos and other works. Ancillary events like chamber music, lectures and the like are expected too. The festival grew out of a similar Beethoven celebration in 2012 that bore artistic and box-office fruit, drawing strong houses during a period when the weather and snowbirds offer challenges. On the other hand, some 23% of the music on the docket is by American composers, 20% could fairly be called contemporary and roughly 30% of the music hasn't been played before by the DSO. Here are some highlights: -- There are two world premieres: Previn's Double Concerto with soloists Jaime Laredo on violin and Sharon Robinson on cello ( April 24-25 ) and Slatkin's own "Endgames" (Nov. 20-22). -- Among the other works by living composers are Bolcom's "Circus Overture," Daugherty's "Lost Vegas," Corigliano's Violin Concerto, Augusta Read Thomas' Cello Concerto, Arvo Part's "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten ," George Walker's Violin Concerto and the Trombone Concerto by Cindy McTee (Slatkin's wife) with DSO principal Ken Thompkins as soloist. -- Gabriela Lena Frank eases into a two-year stint as resident composer with education activities and a performance of "Concertino Cusqueno," though she'll have a larger presence on the classical series in her second season. ¦The season concludes with Slatkin conducting one of his favorite operas, " Tosca ," with a strong cast including soprano Patricia Racette , tenor James Valenti and bass-baritone Eric Owens ( May 29 and 31) ¦Guest conductors include DSO music director emeritus Neeme Jarvi , Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, James Gaffigan , Andrey Boreyko , Jakub Hrusa and others. Among the guest soloists are violinists Sarah Chang , Midori, Julian Rachlin and Elina Vahala ; pianists Stephen Hough , Garrick Ohlsson and Olga Kern , and trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger . ___ (c)2014 the Detroit Free Press Visit the Detroit Free Press at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)

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