Op-Ed: A Safe Season on the Horizon for the Louisville Orchestra

Alan Brandt is the weekday afternoon  host on Classical 90.5 WUOL, Louisville Public Media’s classical station.

The Louisville Orchestra recently announced its 2013-14 Classics series. Out of the entire scheduled season of compositions, only two were written by living composers. The rest of the composers are on the list of the Immortals.

It’s understandable why the Louisville Orchestra would want to fall back on the old reliables. The “season that wasn’t” is still fresh in the public’s memory and this second year after the L.O.’s near collapse is a rebuilding year – rebuilding the public’s trust and the musical foundations that the Louisville Orchestra built its reputation on. Although the organization made its name premiering new works by 20th Century composers, it thinks it needs to refill the seats with the chestnuts of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Brahms.

But it that a winning scenario? While talking about the 2013-14 season with a colleague, we found ourselves searching for excitement regarding the music. It’s exciting to see Elgar’s “Sea Pictures” on the schedule as it’s an old favorite. The Tchaikovsky fourth Symphony isn’t heard enough, in my opinion. But the Brahms Violin Concerto and Double Concerto are burned into my memory. Rachmaninoff’s second Symphony is an hour long and famous for just one of its movements. I’ve heard these works so much on recorded performances it’s difficult to generate a buzz.

I’m pleased to see works by the contemporary composers Oscar Navarro and Christopher Theofanidis on the schedule. Theofanidis’s “Rainbow Body” is based on a melody by Hildegard Von Bingen. After a rather austere cello solo, the strings begin a lush tuneful line that continues and builds throughout the orchestra. Oscar Navarro’s “II Concerto for Clarinet & Orchestra” is his second work for clarinet and orchestra. The piece was dedicated to clarinetist Jose Fanch-Ballester, who will perform the work with the Louisville Orchestra. The concerto goes through many moods, some sounding like a film score, some with jazzy passages reminiscent of Shostakovich.

I would like to have seen a season schedule comprising of at least one challenging or unfamiliar work per program. Even if it’s a short ten minutes, it would excite those of us looking for something new. It would also continue a grand tradition begun by Robert Whitney at the orchestra’s inception.

With the music schedule comprised of the tried-and-true, it will be up to the guest conductors and soloists to bring added attraction to the season.

Here’s a look at the 2013-14 Classics series: 

September 7, 2013 (Whitney Hall)

Fanfara: Jorge Mester, conductor

Featuring Emanuel Ax, piano

Dvorák, Carnival Overture

Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 9

Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 3

October 3-4, 2013 (Whitney Hall)

Midori plays Brahms: Jorge Mester, conductor

Featuring Midori, violin

Prokofiev, Symphony No. 5

Brahms, Violin Concerto in D Major

October 24-25, 2013 (Whitney Hall)

Rhapsody in Blue: Robert Moody, conductor

Featuring Markus Groh, piano

Theofanidis, Rainbow Body

Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue

Rachmaninoff, Symphony No. 2

November 7-9, 2013 (Whitney Hall)

Tchaikovsky’s Fourth!: Noam Zur, conductor

Featuring Karen Gomyo, violin

Wagner, Overture to The Flying Dutchman

Saint-Saëns, Violin Concerto No. 3

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4

January 11, 2014 (Brown Theater)

Dvorák’s New World: Rossen Milanov, conductor

Featuring Jose Franch-Ballester, clarinet

de Falla, Three-Cornered Hat, Suite No. 1 & 2

Navarro, Il Concerto for Clarinet & Orchestra

Dvorák, Symphony No. 9 “New World”

January 23-24, 2014 (Whitney Hall)

Schubert’s Unfinished: Julian Kuerti, conductor

Featuring Susan Platts, mezzo soprano

Elgar, Sea Pictures

Schubert, Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished”

Mendelssohn, Symphony No. 4 “Italian”

February 27-March 1, 2014 (Whitney Hall)

Shostakovich: Teddy Abrams, conductor

TBA

March 15, 2014 (Brown Theater)

All-Mozart: Marcelo Lehninger, conductor

Featuring Michael Davis, violin and Jon Gustely, horn

Mozart, Overture to The Marriage of Figaro

Mozart, Violin Concerto No. 5 “Turkish”

Mozart, Horn Concerto No. 4

Mozart, Symphony No. 35, “Haffner”

March 27-28, 2014 (Whitney Hall)

Double Concertos!: Jorge Mester, conductor

Featuring Emerson Quartet

Britten, Soirées Musicales

Mozart, Sinfonia Concertante in E flat Major

Brahms, Double Concerto

Brahms Arr. Schoenberg, Piano Quartet in G Minor

April 10-11, 2014 (Whitney Hall)

Beethoven’s Ninth: Jorge Mester, conductor

Beethoven, Symphony No. 1

Beethoven, Symphony No. 9

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