Feb. 16 - With (hopefully) the last of this winter's super cold weather on its way out, it's clearly time to think about what's up for next season. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra today so accommodated us by releasing its programming schedule from this September through the following June. As always we'll have a season dominated by its Classical Series and well supported by its Pops Series -- both sets of subscription concerts for 2014-2015.
ISO music director Krzysztof Urbański returns for his fourth season, starting with the Opening Night Gala on Sept. 14. It includes orchestral excerpts from Carmen and Beethoven's first piano concerto with pianist Jeremy Denk. During the classical season Urbański will be conducting familiar repertoire by Brahms, Beethoven and Mahler, works the patrons always enjoy hearing. He will feature, in addition, a midwinter Russian festival entitled "War, Fate and Fantasy" in which he concludes with the first ISO performance of Shostakovich's monumental Symphony No. 7 ("Leningrad"), a musical memoir of Nazi-Germany's 1941 siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). The festival will also feature both major and lesser-known works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Urbański ends the season in grand style with the ISO's first performance in four years of Beethoven's Ninth, with of course the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir (their usual programming frequency of this "greatest of all symphonies" is every three years).
"I've programmed the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's classical season with music that inspires me personally, and challenges me as a conductor," said Urbański. "I love the sounds of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially the stories and events in history told through works by Russian composers, and the power portrayed in late-Romantic works. It's gratifying to present a season of music that the orchestra loves to play and audiences will love to hear."
Former ISO music director Mario Venzago will return to the podium (where "red scarfs" will undoubtedly be seen in abundance as they were at his last fall's appearance). He will feature a performance of Beethoven's "Eroica." ISO conductor laureate Raymond Leppard returns to the Classical Series with works by Elgar. In addition, the ISO will present performance debuts of eight new works, including principal trombonist Jim Beckel's Brass Concerto.
Another season highlight will be the ISO's first performance of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du soldat (The Soldier's Tale), normally scored for a chamber ensemble of seven players wielding winds, brass, percussion and a solo violin -- this time using a libretto by Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut.
Jack Everly returns once again to lead the ISO Pops Series. He has programmed a season with a nod to the leading men -- the artists, composers, singers, songwriters, actors and creators -- who left a significant mark on American music and film from the last century. Highlights include a tribute to the Beatles, to the late Marvin Hamlisch, to the signature songs of Broadway's leading men. Saxophonist Kenny G returns for two performances. Finally, for Valentine's day, Everly will conduct Max Steiner's music to the famed movie Casablanca as it is being shown on the "big" screen -- clearly with the music being stripped from the film track. It may include parts of Herman Hupfeld's signature song, "As Time Goes by."
It is noteworthy that the number of classical concerts for the upcoming season has increased from 14 to 18, suggesting a bit of a financial recovery from the contract lockout of 2012. However, counting the Opening Night Gala, Urbański will be on the podium for only eight of them--less than half the season. When asked about it, an ISO spokesperson stated, "Krzysztof is just in demand everywhere. We're glad to get him whenever we can." Here is the calendar of events for all the ISO series currently programmed.