Sugar Land love too
A hot Broadway diva, an even better Planets & a Rach Fest make Symphony waves
In a bold artistic move, the musical bones of the Houston Symphony Orchestra's upcoming 2011-2012 season puts an emphasis on new concert formats and new approaches to programming under one common theme: Music Inspires!
Following a traditional season, this change in strategy has the potential to elevate the success of the organization and put the Symphony in the ranks of other Houston arts groups, both large and small, that have had quite impressive results in these trying economic times. Houston Grand Opera finished with a surplus of $25,700 in its last season, while the Alley Theatre recorded a $300,000 surplus with a budget of $13.5 million.
Support for the arts is strong in Houston. With tighter economic conditions, the trend is to support local programs that affect the immediate community.
The Symphony's 2011-12 season kicks off with two performances of the dramatic and captivating Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Opus 125, and closes with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, both featuring the powerful voices of Houston Symphony Chorus under the direction of Charles Hausmann.
Anecdotally, while “Ode to Joy” moves and inspires the human spirit, Carmina Burana's bookend movements are stereotypically associated with horror movie-like images — though it's much more than that. Both works are recognized as rousing masterpieces of the orchestral repertoire and could yield sold-out performances.
You may want to consider reserving your seat as soon as possible.
"The upcoming season demonstrates the impressive breadth of the Houston Symphony,” music director Hans Graf said in a statement. “We will welcome back to Houston some of the world's most accomplished guest artists, some young talent just bursting onto the scene and, as always, we offer a bounty of music that will stimulate, excite, entertain and hopefully inspire you. I am looking forward to it!"
As the end of the 2013 season approaches, marking the culmination of Graf’s tenure, this upcoming season marks the second year of the new music director search.
Check out the visiting conductors. Any favorites? Any guesses? Dibs for Jimmy Gaffigan?
Returning soloists to the Houston Symphony stage are violinists James Ehnes and Hilary Hahn, and pianists André Watts, Olga Kern and Emanuel Ax.
After acclaimed performances of Mozart’s Magic Flute as Queen of the Night at both HGO, Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper am Rhein and at the Bolshoi Opera, virtuoso coloratura soprano Albina Shagimuratova, a Houston Grand Opera Studio alum, also joins the Houston Symphony’s concert stage. Incidentally, she also will be here later this month to debut the title role of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor with the Houston Grand Opera.
While returning artists always attract personal fans, the HSO keeps things fresh and zesty with an abundance of debuting artists including cellist Daniel Mueller-Schott, percussionist Colin Currie, violinist Chloe Hanslip, and guest conductors David Afkham, Gilbert Varga, Christoph Konig, Edward Gardner, Jakub Hrůša, John Storgårds, Vasily Petrenko, Alexander Shelley and Pablo Heras-Casado.
In the spirit of keeping what works, after the great success of The Planets – An HD Odyssey which included a UK tour, sold-out concert halls and the popular DVD/Blu-ray disc, the Symphony's new Orbit – An HD Odyssey will focus on planet Earth, with much more exciting music.
Short Ride in a Fast Machine is one of John Adams iconic minimalist compositions, sounding exactly as the title suggests. Combining it with Richard Strauss Also Sprach Zarathustra is a confident choice, one to thrill both musicians and audiences alike.
Courtesy of NASA, high-definition images of shuttle missions, the International Space Station and satellites orbiting Earth will be weaved together to narrate the story of our planet’s land, sea and sky.
Then there is “Rach Fest” in January 2012. Featuring the swooning and achingly romantic music of Sergei Rachmaninoff — he is often lovingly referred to as “Rocky” — a three weekend concert series will be filled with his compositions including all four piano concertos performed by the celebrated young pianist and 2010 Gilmore Artist Award winner, Kirill Gerstein.
A form of delicious musical masochism (for the performer), this should be nothing short of sublime aesthetic exhaustion.
The ACCESS Series is a new interactive concert format this season aimed at making a more personal and meaningful connection between music, musicians and audiences, hosted by Miles Hoffman of National Public Radio. Pre-cocktail party and Q&A sessions are included.
The POPS Series also looks rather fresh with Broadway diva Idina Menzel (known for Rent, Wicked and TV’s Glee), a John Williams/Steven Spielberg concert as well as Cole Porter and John Denver themed-evenings. Tiempo Libre closes the Pops season with a hint of Afro-Cuban flair.
Also new are regular Sugar Land appearances. Recognizing the fast growing Southwest Houston suburb, HSO will present Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Handel’s Messiah and one of the ACCESS interactive programs. Serious but accessible repertoire shows smart programming.
And then, the Symphony is off to Carnegie Hall to participate in the 2012 Spring for Music Festival, kicking off the “Uncommon Concerts for $25.” This week-long series allows North American orchestras to show off their creative programming skills.
Houston, you have to represent.