Louisville Orchestra Kicks Off Season with Piano Concertos and Emanuel Ax

The Louisville Orchestra traditionally opens its new season with the gala performance Fanfara, a bill of classics conducted by music director Jorge Mester. This year’s season opener on Sept. 7 in Whitney Hall features acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax. 

Ax is a seven-time Grammy Award winner for his solo work on Haydn’s piano sonatas (1994, 2005) and collaborations, including three with Yo-Yo Ma on sonatas for cello and piano by Brahms (1986, 1993) and  Beethoven (1987).

For Fanfara, Ax will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. 

“These pieces are so full of different possibilities and so much life that you never get tired of playing them or hearing them. That’s the mark of the great composers, at least to me,” Ax says. “It’s always a thrill to be thinking about them and performing them.”

Ax last performed with the Louisville Orchestra in 2003. A highly sought-after soloist, Ax tours regularly and performs with orchestras around the world. 

“It’s exciting. That’s what makes life interesting, because it’s always a different interaction—different conductor, different oboeist, different group of string players, different personality,” he says.

The Orchestra will also perform Dvořák’s “Carnival Overture.” The evening officially kicks off the whole season, which also includes a Pops series, the informal NightLites, the L.O. WOW! Series and OrKIDStra

This year’s classics program includes performances of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” conducted by Robert Moody (Oct. 25) and acclaimed violinist Midori on Brahms’ Violin Concerto (Oct. 4). Guest conductor Noam Zur will lead Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 (Nov. 9), and Julian Kuerti will conduct Schuert’s unfinished Symphony No. 8 (Jan. 24). In April, Mester will cap off the season with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. 

The Orchestra’s Pops series begins September 21 with an evening of classic film scores conducted by Bob Berhardt. On October 5, pianist Jim Witter will perform “The Piano Men,” a tribute to Elton John and Billy Joel. The Canadian Brass Band will appear on March 29. 

The popular L.O. WOW! series explores the intersections of popular and orchestral music. This season’s offerings include an evening with Natalie Merchant (Nov. 2), Windborne’s “The Music of Pink Floyd” (Oct. 26) and an evening with John Williams. The Academy Award-winning composer and Boston Pops conductor laureate will lead the Louisville Orchestra through some of his most acclaimed film scores, including “Star Wars” and “Superman.” Tickets for the John Williams concert go on sale Sept. 3. 

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