Although some say that metropolitan orchestras are on the decline with symphonies including Philadelphia and Louisville declaring bankruptcy over the past decade, the Houston Symphony is going full steam ahead as it announces its lineup for its action-packed centennial season. Here are the concerts not to miss as the symphony says goodbye to musical director Hans Graf and welcomes newly announced musical director Andrés Orozco-Estrada, whose official debut will be in October 2013.
Centennial 100th Birthday Concert Friday, June 21, 2013
The first ever performance of the Houston Symphony, sponsored by Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg, was on June 21, 1913. Exactly 100 years later, this kickoff event of the new season will celebrate the centennial milestone by bringing the power of music to all with a free concert in Miller Outdoor Theater. Selections will include popular works such as Beethoven's Ode to Joy, Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, and selections from Holst's The Planets.
Opening Night with Renée Fleming Saturday, September 7, 2013
You may know that Renée Fleming is one of the world's greatest sopranos. What you may not know about her, though, is that one of her first big breaks as a soprano was with the Houston Grand Opera's production of The Marriage of Figaro in 1988. In fact, Fleming made numerous appearances in the Houston Grand Opera in the 1995 and 1998 seasons as well.
In case you missed the dazzling Grammy-award winning diva back then, make sure to see her visit to Houston this year as she performs with the Houston Symphony in Jones Hall for the first official performance of the season. Fleming will be performing classical works but will also show off her impressive range with selections from Broadway and songs of today.
Kirill Gerstein: Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, September 12, 14, 15, 2013
Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto is a crowning achievement in the world of classical music with its glorious orchestration, dynamic range, and exciting dialogue between piano and orchestra. Russian-American pianist Kirill Gerstein will channel Tchaikovsky's virtuosic and impressive work in September after his well-received performance of Rachmaninoff during the 2012 season.
But the action doesn't end there. This program will also have a slight Italian flavor as it opens with Verdi's overture to La Forza del Destino and concludes with Respighi's triumphant Pines of Rome, a work inspired by the different hills of the ancient city of Rome.
Joshua Bell Returns to Houston Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, September 20-22, 2013
Virtuoso Joshua Bell came to Houston in 2010 to deliver a spectacular performance of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, Op. 64. This year he returns as he offers up his interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, Op. 35, known as one of the most difficult and brilliant works for violin in the entire repertoire.
At the helm of this performance will be conductor Lawrence Foster, previously a musical director of the Houston Symphony from 1971-79. Also on the program are Mussorgsky's Dance of the Persian Maidens and American composer Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Greensleeves, inspired by the English folk tune.
Midori Plays Mendelssohn Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 17-20, 2013
Acclaimed violinist Midori will join the Houston Symphony as newly appointed Andrés Orozco-Estrada in his performing debut. Midori, who made her debut with the New York Philharmonic at age 11, will be performing Mendelssohn's beautiful Violin Concerto, Op. 64. The symphony will also be performing 20th century Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina's Fairytale Poem and Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2, a brooding and mysterious, but also beautiful work that shows the composer's diverse romantic and military influences.
John Williams and Yo-Yo Ma Thursday, December 5, 2013
Put these two legends together and you truly have a musical dream team. Ma, widely known as the most talented cellist in the world, and Williams, a 5-time Oscar winner and 21-time Grammy winner, have collaborated for years on movie soundtracks such as Memoirs of a Geisha and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Their concert in Houston should prove to be dazzling, with the program to include exciting, familiar works from Hollywood films in addition to Williams' own Cello Concerto.
The Planets and Orbit: An HD Odyssey Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, January 9, 11, and 12, 2014
This cosmic event will be a multimedia production of truly epic proportions as Orozco-Estrada again takes to the podium for Holst's The Planets suite and Strauss' tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra, better known as "that epic music from 2001: A Space Odyssey." These two works will represent installments titled "The Planets" and "Orbit" in the debut of a new "HD Odyssey" series exploring the universe beyond.
Women of the Houston Symphony Chorus will join the symphony and the performance will be accompanied by a special presentation of breathtaking NASA images from the exploration of the solar system.
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John Adams Conducts "City Noir" Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, January 31-February 2, 2014
Celebrated American composer John Adams has lead a storied career with his minimalist-inspired, powerful works for orchestra, opera, chamber music, and beyond. Often influenced by historical events or time periods, he will be conducting his piece City Noir which takes cues from historian Kevin Starr's work documenting urban California in the 1940s and '50s.
This concert will also showcase other 20th century composers with Copeland's El Salon Mexico inspired by Mexican folk music and Israeli-American violinist Gil Shaham performance of Korngold's Violin Concerto, Op. 35 written in 1945.
For more information about these concerts or the Houston Symphony's new season, visit houstonsymphony.org. Tickets are available for purchase online or by calling 713-224-7575.