Washington's National Symphony Orchestra Opens 2007-08 Season, Leonard Slatkin's Last

Classic Arts News   Washington's National Symphony Orchestra Opens 2007-08 Season, Leonard Slatkin's Last
Leonard Slatkin takes the podium at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall this evening for the opening night concert of his final season as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra.

The program — which will be repeated tomorrow afternoon and Saturday evening (Oct. 6) — opens with the world premiere of Sacred Heart: Explosion, a 15-minute orchestral work commissioned by the National Symphony from 33-year-old American composer Jefferson Friedman. (The score has been thoroughly revised from an earlier version which garnered the composer both a prize in the Juilliard Competition and the ASCAP Morton Gould Award.) Concluding the concert is that opening gala favorite, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, with soloists Measha Brueggergosman, Susanne Mentzer, Richard Croft and Morris Robinson and the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

Sacred Heart: Explosion is the first of several American works on the National Symphony's programs this season. Among other scores on the schedule are Irving Fine's Toccata Concertante and William Schuman's Prayer in Time of War, as well as the NSO premieres of David Del Tredici's Final Alice and the Second Symphonies of John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse.

One highlight of the season will be concert performances (June 12-16) of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, with Sergei Leiferkus in the title role, Olga Guryakova as Tatiana, Daniil Shtoda as Lenski, Ekaterina Semenchuk as Olga and Gustav Andreassen as Prince Gremin.

Ivšn Fischer — currently the NSO's principal guest conductor and as of next season the orchestra's principal conductor — will lead three programs: an all-Beethoven evening, featuring violinist Nikolaj Znaider in the Violin Concerto (Nov. 1-3); excerpts from Smetana's Mš vlast and Dvoršk's Moravian Duets in Fischer's own orchestrations (Nov. 8-10); and Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony (No. 2).

The NSO's lineup of visiting soloists includes Midori in Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2, Emanuel Ax playing Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2, Emmanuel Pahud in Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 1, Julian Rachlin in the Shostakovich Violin Concerto, Heinrich Schiff in Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, Han-Na Chang in Elgar's Cello Concerto, Ingrid Fliter in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2, Hilary Hahn in Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1, and Thomas Hampson in Mahler's Kindertotenlieder.

Guest conductors include Hans Graf, leading Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev; Mark Elder conducting pianist Louis Lortie in Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1 and works by Poulenc, Shostakovich and Stravinsky; Hugh Wolff leading pianist Stephen Hough in Saint-Saëns's Piano Concerto No. 5 and works by Debussy and Dutilleux; and Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting Sibelius and Grieg's incidental music to Ibsen's Peer Gynt.

The final program of Slatkin's tenure as music director, on June 29, 2008, will include Shostakovich's Festive Overture and Bernstein's overture to Candide as well as Elgar's Serenade for strings in E minor; Yo-Yo Ma will play Ernest Bloch's "Hebraic rhapsody" for cello and orchestra, Schelomo, and the program will conclude with Gershwin's An American in Paris.

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