Wednesday, February 11, 2015

New ISO season includes an all-star September Gala concert and maestro's 'dreams come true'

Krzysztof Urbanski stands by as Gary Ginstling talks about 2015-16.
With representatives of the media and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra community forming an appreciative audience, the ISO's chief executive officer and two staff conductors publicly presented the 2015-16 season Tuesday morning on the stage of Hilbert Circle Theatre.

Music director Krzysztof Urbanski, who added to his international luster the other day when he received the Leonard Bernstein Prize, a German award linked to the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, spoke of dreams come true here.

One of them will be the opportunity to work with Emanuel Ax as soloist in a Beethoven piano concerto Sept. 18 and 19, when (unusually) the Classical Series will open before the traditional Opening Night Gala (which features Urbanski with Joshua Bell and Time for Three). Ax, long a popular guest artist here, was the soloist in a recorded set of Beethoven piano concertos Urbanski remembers purchasing in his teens — "one of the first music I bought," as the Polish maestro put it.

Besides Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto, the program will contain Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor.  Known for his affinity for large-scale, important yet somewhat splashy pieces, Urbanski  said he considers Mozart the most difficult composer to bring off well — hence his delay in challenging himself with the Austrian classicist.  This will mark the first time Urbanski has conducted the ISO in Mozart, helping to fulfill one of his twin programming goals — to play what is good for the artistic development of the ISO and Urbanski himself. (The other goal is "diverse programming to meet the expectations of our audience.")

Other aspects of the new season that excite Urbanski:

*the chance to replicate here a collaboration with Dejan Lazic, a pianist he admires enormously, on the two Brahms piano concertos. Precedent for the two-weekend Brahms collaboration with Lazic came with the Trondheim, Norway, orchestra of which Urbanski is chief conductor.(Lazic attained some notoriety last year when he attempted to have the Washington Post remove from online a mixed review of a solo recital he gave in the capital long ago; he invoked the European Union's "right to be forgotten" strictures on social media.)

*the opportunity to combine "the two things I love the most: music and science" in "Out of This World," the annual, three-weekend midwinter festival that this time will also involve the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and popular guest conductor Jun Markl, stretching from Jan. 22 through Feb. 6. Urbanski will conduct the outer two programs, one using music included on the Voyager "Golden Record" that has been going far out into space since 1977, the other honoring music from "2001: A Space Odyssey," the Stanley Kubrick film that Urbanski calls "one of the greatest movies I've ever seen." The Voyager program comprises two perpetually mind-blowing compositions, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."

Also notable next season will be the ISO debut of Menahem Pressler, the nonagenarian pianist and distinguished professor of music at Indiana University; violinist Caroline Shaw, a Pulitzer Prize-winner whose new violin concerto is an ISO co-commission; an "Organ Spectacular" in April featuring soloist Paul Jacobs, and popular guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson in the only Urbanski-led program focusing on composers from his homeland (Chopin and Szymanowski), the season finale in June 2016.

Zach De Pue introduces duo with Ahrim Kim.
Pops maestro Jack Everly was also on hand Tuesday to discuss such highlights of the Pops Series as his first time working with country singer Kenny Rogers, a celebration of the Frank Sinatra centennial with Tony DeSare, Frankie Moreno and a female vocalist yet to be named, the return of the eclectic, Hoosier-founded 12-piece ensemble Pink Martini, and a "Cecil B. DeMille, cast-of-thousands" finale, dubbed "A Choral Spectacular!," with Everly conducting the ISC, the Indianapolis Children's Choir, and the Indianapolis Men's Chorus.

Ginstling also announced that there will be four "Happy Hour" concerts in 2015-16, as the string ensemble Time for Three continues its residency with the ISO; the continuation of the 317 Series taking HCT classical programs into the metropolitan area, with Duke Energy as the new title sponsor, in Hendricks County and Greenwood; and the 20th anniversary of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, newly armed with a title sponsorship from Roche Diagnostics.

A musical interlude was provided by concertmaster Zach De Pue and acting principal cellist Ahrim Kim with the Handel/Halvorsen "Passacaglia," whose light-and-shade parade of variations on a brief bass line indicated by the title seemed concisely symbolic of the variety and wonder of the new ISO season. Unspoken at the main event was the challenge of filling a number of vacancies in the orchestra, which is currently below its contractual strength of 74 and has several musicians in "acting" capacity filling titled chairs.

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