Looking good for a century
The Houston Symphony is looking mighty fresh in the eve of its centennial anniversary. A new, artsy logo alongside a robust guest list of musicians and conductors ushers a year-long musical fête fitting of a platinum jubilee in its just released 2013-2014 season lineup.
Because, as they say, you only turn 100 once.
And given the state of affairs of many professionals symphony orchestras around the country, that the Houston Symphony is — according to officials — offering its most ambitious, exciting and expansive season ever, especially during a transition year, is reason to walk the red carpet and take in many of the tuneful events.
There's much to celebrate: The appointment of new music director Andrés Orozco-Estrada, who officially starts his five-year tenure in the 2014-15 season, new commissions, multimedia works and music celebs like Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams, Joshua Bell, Renée Fleming and Yefim Bronfman and on and on — and on.
"We have purposefully planned our centennial season as a celebration of our rich history, the breadth and quality of current concert and education programs and our very exciting future," Mark Hanson, CEO and executive director, tells CultureMap when asked how the programming honors the past while looking toward the future.
"The involvement of current music director Hans Graf, two former music directors and incoming music director Andrés Orozco-Estrada is an obvious way that we are endeavoring to accomplish this goal. Current and new audiences will come away from every concert feeling that they have experienced something very special, very unique and very inspiring."
Included in that effort is the release of a new Commemorative Centennial Book, a 160-page hardcover tome that illustrates the development of the Houston Symphony from its humble beginnings to its Carnegie Hall debut in 1965 with historical images, timelines and personal stories.
"Current and new audiences will come away from every concert feeling that they have experienced something very special, very unique and very inspiring."
"Our centennial book, special lobby exhibits and alumni events will celebrate the hard work, generosity, commitment and creativity of thousands of people who have made the Houston Symphony what it is today," Hanson says.
The Symphony then and now
It was on June 21, 1913, when on a $2,500 budged sponsored by Ima Hogg, 35 part-time musicians led by Julien Paul Blitz sounded the group's first melodies — including Mozart's Symphony No. 39 and " Dixie" — of what would become the city's premiere orchestra three decades later. The Houston Symphony will mark that inaugural performance with two free concerts.
The 100th Birthday Concert (June 21), set for exactly 36,525 days after that concert, gathers the Houston Symphony, the Houston Symphony Chorus and surprise guests at Miller Outdoor Theatre. That presentation will be followed by a 12-hour Day of Music (July 13) marathon at Jones Hall in the company of 30 local art presenters, including Music Doing Good, The Houston Blues Museum, Sugar Hill Studios and Guitar Houston, on different stages set up through out the 1996 concert venue, with food trucks on the plaza.
For its Opening Night Concert and Gala (Sept. 7), the Houston Symphony is dropping its strategy of featuring its own musicians and hiring a major star of the genre, Renée Fleming. Though no specific repertoire has been released, expect a melange of classical, jazz, Broadway and contemporary art songs and arias. Concert goers may attend the performance alone or join in the black tie dinner, which typically occurs after the curtain falls.
The American premiere of Mexican composer Juan Trigos' La Trista Historia (Nov. 1 to 3), co-commissioned by the Houston Symphony, nods to the organization's awareness of Houston's cultural make up. The score, performed atop a film by Duncan Copp (producer of The Planets: An HD Odyssey and Orbit: An HD Odyssey), photographer George Jackson and writer Ben Young Mason, delves deep into the cultural significance of the Día de los Muertos tradition.
Christoph Eschenbach returns to perform Mahler's Symphony No. 8 "Symphony of a Thousand."
Yo-Yo Ma and John Williams (Dec. 5) meld flavors that will satiate pop audiences and classical music junkies alike. The longtime friends will collaborate in a musicale that enlivens many of Williams' Hollywood film scores and his Cello Concerto.
For those who were lucky enough to secure a seat for Mahler's Symphony No. 5 led by former music director (1988-99) Christoph Eschenbach, that he returns to perform Mahler's Symphony No. 8 "Symphony of a Thousand" (May 9 and 10, 2014) is no small matter. It takes a force of 250 to take on Mahler's epic masterpiece.
The new kid on the podium, that would be Orozco-Estrada, is scheduled to lead four concert runs. His programs showcase Midori playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Yefim Bronfman in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Mozart's Symphony No. 41 "Jupiter," Holst's The Planets and Orbit: An HD Odyssey.
More esteemed artists
Among the conductors who will be appearing during the 2013-14 season are Hannu Lintu, Peter Oundjian, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Andrey Boreyko, James Gaffigan, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Thomas Dausgaard, former music director Lawrence Foster and minimalist composer John Adams, who will be conducting his own City Noir.
Featured soloists percussionist include Colin Currie, pianists Daniil Trifonov and Kirill Gerstein (who rocked the Rachs), violinist Gil Shaham, trumpeter Chris Botti, NBC's Smash star Megan Hilty and actor Sigourney Weaver.
See-and-be-seen types, mark your calendars for the Centennial Wine Dinner and Collectors Auction chaired by Lindy and John Rydman and Lisa and Hermen Key on March 7, 2014 and the white tie Centennial Ball chair by the Mach family on May 17, 2014.