Houston Symphony Opens 2007-08 Season with 'Musical Gems of Russia'

Classic Arts News   Houston Symphony Opens 2007-08 Season with 'Musical Gems of Russia'
Hans Graf opens his seventh season as music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra this evening with "Musical Gems of Russia," a gala program: Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, with Russian pianist Denis Matsuev making his Houston Symphony debut, and Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

The following week, pianist Garrick Ohlsson joins Graf and the orchestra for Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto; the program also includes Beethoven's First Symphony No. 1, Exalted Virelai, by American composer Kevin Puts.

Among other contemporary works on the HSO's season program are John Adams's Tromba Lontana, Einojuhani Rautavaara's Cantus Arcticus (a "concerto for birds and orchestra"), and Joseph Schwantner's Percussion Concerto with soloist Evelyn Glennie. (That program also includes Glennie's arrangement of a Vivaldi recorder concerto for vibraphone and strings.)

In January, Graf and principal trombonist Allen Barnhill will give the world premiere of Texas composer Cindy McTee's Trombone Concerto, the latest in a series of HSO commissions for the principal players of the orchestra.

Actress Maureen Thomas joins the orchestra later in September for a semi-staged version of A Midsummer Night's Dream featuring Mendelssohn's complete incidental music. On the same program, new Houston Symphony concertmaster Angela Fuller makes her debut as a concerto soloist with the orchestra with Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1.

On October 18-21, former Houston Symphony resident conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto leads Copland's Third Symphony and Appalachian Spring, and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg plays the violin solos in Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

In January, the orchestra will play Strauss's Alpine Symphony with a photographic montage by Tobias Melle; in late Feburary Claus Peter Flor will lead Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and Orff's Carmina Burana with the Houston Symphony Chorus and the Houston Children's Chorus.

Guest conductors at the Houston Symphony this season include Michael Christie, Kwam_ Ryan, Bernard Labadie and Hannu Lintu making their Houston Symphony debuts; among the returning conductors are Louis Langr_e, Christoph Campestrini and a former music director of the orchestra, Lawrence Foster.

Making his Houston Symphony debut will be baritone Mariusz Kwiecien, who sings alongside soprano Twyla Robinson in Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony. Also in Houston for the first time will be Peter Schickele in "PDQ Bach: The Vegas Years," featuring Oedipus Tex and Schickele's infamous Songs from Shakespeare.

Other soloists include Emanuel Ax in Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1; mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer, continuing Graf's Mahler song cycle with the R‹ckert-Lieder; Stephen Hough playing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1; Brinton Averil Smith in Elgar's Cello Concerto; pianist Kirill Gerstein in Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme of Paganini; and Jean-Yves Thibaudet performing Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.

One major event of the season will be "The Beethoven Experience," a full day of programming on March 8, 2008 with Graf and the orchestra; the lineup includes family events, symphonic performances, solo piano and chamber music concerts.

There will even be a visiting orchestra: the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra, conducted by Charles Dutoit with piano soloist Martha Argerich.

The Houston Symphony season ends on May 18 with Graf conducting guitarist Eliot Fisk in Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez and pianist Shai Wosner performing de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain; the program also includes de Falla's El amor brujo Suite and Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol.

Information on and tickets for the Houston Symphony's 2007-08 season are available at www.houstonsymphony.org.

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