Into the Future

This week at the Jacksonville Symphony we announced our programs for next season. Of course all of the music has been planned for some months, but I’m always delighted and relieved to tell everyone what’s in store. It can be a little like waiting for Christmas.

This current season’s programs have outlined an artistic vision that I’ve spoken about before: a great orchestra should be at home in as wide a range of repertoire as possible, from the Baroque music of the eighteenth century, all the way up to music being written by living composers. A great orchestra should also reach as many people in our community as possible, through Masterworks concerts, but also through Pops presentations and education programs. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved in all these areas so far. But next season, there is more of everything.

Let’s start with our Masterworks concerts. Presenting passionate and brilliant concerts of classical music is the most important part of our profession: it’s what we do. To reflect that, the Masterworks season grows from ten weekend programs to twelve. You’ll notice the rising calibre of our guest conductors and artists. Our season opens with Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan, currently Artist in Association with the New York Philharmonic, performing Rachmaninoff’s electrifying Second Piano Concerto. Later in the season we welcome established maestro Hugh Wolff and rising star conductor Karina Canellakis. In October, we will present “Bachoberfest”, conducted by the acclaimed music director of Apollo’s Fire (the Baroque orchestra based in Cleveland), Jeannette Sorrell. I know many of you will be delighted to hear Handel, Vivaldi and Bach return to our stage. These concerts will feature violin solo performances from our concertmaster, Philip Pan, and our newly-appointed principal second violin, Aurelia Duca.

The masterpieces of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries lie at the heart of everything we play. Hugh Wolff will conduct Brahms’s autumnal Second Symphony, and I’m especially looking forward to conducting Beethoven’s Second, Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique and Sibelius’s Seventh. This is the music we know and love above all else, and it’s centre-stage next season.

I believe performing the music of today is vital. It’s fresh, it’s shocking, it tells us about who we are today, it reaches younger audiences, and it ensures the future of our art form. None of us would dream of visiting an art gallery that had stopped acquiring paintings in 1900, so why should we think any differently about an orchestra? Next season is peppered with new adventures, from established masterpieces of the late last century, like György Ligeti’s fierce Piano Concerto (1988) and Henri Dutilleux’s sensuous Métaboles (1964) to recent compositions by living composers such as Julian Anderson’s folkloric Imagin’d Corners (2002), Marty Schiff’s bombastic Stomp (1990), and young American composer Andrew Norman’s thrilling Unstuck, premiered in 2008. Let the Jacksonville Symphony be your guide on this exciting expedition.

To begin and end the season, we will perform two towering masterpieces that have been long absent from Jacksonville. We open with The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. Probably the greatest music of the entire twentieth century, this ballet caused a riot at its premiere in Paris in 1913. Let’s see what happens in Jacksonville in 2016. And we end with Mahler’s colossal and rejuvenating Second Symphony.

This year we launched a new trio of concerts, Symphony in 60. Complete with cocktails and HD video projections, these informal sixty-minute performances on Thursday evenings at 6 have been a great success. Next year we expand the series to four. Our pops programs also increase from ten to twelve. Join us for Ella and Louis, a celebration of Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday, and on New Year’s Eve for a celebration of Frank Sinatra with Steve Reineke. We’ll also be presenting the movies West Side Story and Bugs Bunny at the Symphony, complete with live music from the Jacksonville Symphony.

Last year saw an incredible amount of change at the Jacksonville Symphony. We welcomed many new staff members, launched a new brand, logo and website, changed our programming and even saw seven new musicians join the orchestra. We are focussed on being a vital and integrated part of our community, and we are striving to lead Jacksonville into a future where great music is accessible to everyone. Next season builds on those aims, presenting a bold vision of what a 21st century orchestra can be.

Reprinted with the kind permission of The Florida Times-Union.

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