Sunday, March 1, 2009

Richmond Symphony 2009-10

What it couldn’t handle logistically during five seasons of performing in church sanctuaries – piano concertos, large-scale orchestral and choral music – the Richmond Symphony will program extensively in the coming season, as its mainstage Masterworks series returns to the Carpenter Theatre in downtown Richmond’s new CenterStage complex.

The 1,800-seat theater, which opened in 1928 as a Loew’s movie palace and was known as the Carpenter Center after its 1983 conversion to a performing-arts center, also will be the venue for the orchestra’s Pops concerts, a new LolliPops series for children and families, the Christmas-season performance of Handel’s "Messiah" and a special spring concert with violinist Gil Shaham.

The symphony’s chamber-orchestra series, devoted to composer-centered festivals over the past four seasons, will acquire a more generalized moniker, Metro Collection, with Friday-night performances at four different suburban venues and Sunday matinees at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland.

Alastair Willis, Christian Knapp and Arthur Fagen, the last three of nine candidates auditioning to become the orchestra’s fifth music director, will conduct concerts in the fall. The symphony is expected to name its new maestro around the end of the year. The conducting slots for four winter and spring Masterworks programs and the Shaham concert are being held open for the winning candidate and/or guest conductors.

In addition to Shaham, guest soloists for the season include pianists Jeremy Denk (playing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3) and Jon Nakamatsu (Beethoven’s "Emperor" Concerto), violinist Tai Murray (Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto) and Yang Wei, playing the pipa (Chinese lute) in "Nanking! Nanking! A Threnody for Orchestra and Pipa" by the Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng.

Metro Collection concerts will feature three of the symphony’s principal players: concertmaster Karen Johnson (Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and Astor Piazzolla’s "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires"), clarinetist Ralph Skiano (Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2) and harpist Lynette Wardle (Rodrigo’s “Sones en la Giralda” and Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro). Johnson also will play short works by Dvořák and Paganini in a Masterworks program.

The Pops series will present Arturo Sandoval, the Cuban-born jazz trumpeter; singer Steve Lippia in songs popularized by Frank Sinatra; a program of music and footage from the films of Alfred Hitchcock; and the annual Christmas pops program "Let It Snow!"

In addition to the Bright Sheng and Piazzolla works, the season’s contemporary music programming includes Roberto Sierra’s Sinfonia No. 4 in one of its first performances (the symphony is part of a consortium of orchestras that commissioned the piece), Christopher Theofandis’ "Rainbow Body" and Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra, part of a program, also featuring Lili Boulanger’s "D’un Matin de Printemps," staged in conjunction with "Minds Wide Open: Virginia Celebrates Women in the Arts 2010."

The Masterwork series will begin and end with orchestral blockbusters by Camille Saint-Saëns: the Bacchanale from "Samson et Delila" (the first piece the symphony played in its 1979 tryout of the then-abandoned Loew’s as a potential concert hall) and the "Organ" Symphony. Other major works on tap: Berlioz’s "Symphonie fantastique,” Stravinsky’s “Pétrouchka,” the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony, Franck’s Symphony in D minor, Bizet’s Symphony in C major, Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, Ravel’s Bolero and “La Valse” and the Symphony No. 40 in G minor and "Gran Partita" of Mozart.

The Richmond Symphony Chorus, directed by Erin Freeman (who is also the symphony’s associate conductor), will perform in Orff’s "Carmina Burana," Borodin’s "Polovtsian Dances" and two works by Brahms, "Gesang der Parzen (Song of the Fates)" and "Nänie," as well as "Messiah" and "Let It Snow!"

For a 2009-10 season brochure and details on subscription ticket packages, call the Richmond Symphony box office at (804) 788-1212. Single tickets will go on sale on Sept. 8.

The season’s dates, programs, venues and subscription ticket prices (adult unless listed otherwise):

8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays at Carpenter Theatre, Richmond CenterStage, Sixth and Grace streets
Subscriptions: $154-$448

Sept. 26-27 – Alastair Willis conducting. Saint-Saëns: Bacchanale from "Samson et Dalila;" Brahms: "Variations on a Theme by Haydn;" Orff: "Carmina Burana" (soloists TBA; Richmond Symphony Chorus, Erin Freeman directing).

Oct. 17-18 – Christian Knapp conducting. Debussy: "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun;" Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 (Jeremy Denk, piano); Berlioz: "Symphonie fantastique."

Nov. 14-15 – Arthur Fagen conducting. Beethoven: "Egmont" Overture; Bright Sheng: "Nanking! Nanking! A Threnody for Orchestra and Pipa" (Yang Wei, pipa); Franck: Symphony in D minor.

Jan. 16-17 – conductor TBA. Prokofiev: "Lieutenant Kijé" Suite; Borodin: "Polovtsian Dances" (Richmond Symphony Chorus, Erin Freeman directing); Mussorgsky-Ravel: "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Feb. 6-7 – conductor TBA. Roberto Sierra: Sinfonia No. 4; Dvořák: Romance in F minor, Paganini: “La Campenella” from Violin Concerto No. 2 (Karen Johnson, violin); Stravinsky: “Pétrouchka.”

Feb. 27-28 – conductor TBA. Mozart: "The Magic Flute" Overture; Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”) (Jon Nakamatsu, piano); Dvořák: Symphony No. 6.

March 20-21 – Erin Freeman conducting. Lili Boulanger: "D’un Matin de Printemps;" Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto (Tai Murray, violin); Jennifer Higdon: Concerto for Orchestra.

May 15-16 – conductor TBA. Christopher Theofandis: "Rainbow Body;" Brahms: "Gesang der Parzen," "Nänie" (Richmond Symphony Chorus); Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 ("Organ") (organist TBA).

8 p.m. Fridays at listed venues, 3 p.m. Sundays at Blackwell Auditorium, Randolph-Macon College, 205 Henry St., Ashland
Subscriptions: $64 (general-admission seating)

Oct. 2 (Collegiate School, North Mooreland Road, Henrico County), Oct. 4 (Randolph-Macon) – Alastair Willis conducting. Ravel: "Le Tombeau de Couperin;" Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 2 (Karen Johnson, violin); Beethoven: Symphony No. 4.

Nov. 6 (Bon Air Baptist Church, Forest Hill Avenue at Buford Road), Nov. 8 (Randolph-Macon) – Arthur Fagen conducting. Wagner: "Siegfried Idyll;" Weber: Clarinet Concerto No. 2 (Ralph Skiano, clarinet); Mozart: Symphony No. 40.

Jan. 12 (Kingsway Community Church, 500 LeGordon Drive, Midlothian), Jan. 14 (Randolph-Macon) Mozart: Serenade No. 10 in B flat major ("Gran Partita"); Astor Piazzolla: "The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires" (Karen Johnson, violin).

March 5 (Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond), March 7 (Randolph-Macon) – Erin Freeman conducting. Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Sinfonia in D major ("L’amant anonyme" Overture); Rodrigo: "Sones en la Giralda" for harp and orchestra, Ravel: Introduction and Allegro (Lynette Wardle, harp); Bizet: Symphony in C major.

8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Dec. 6, at Carpenter Theatre
Subscriptions: $83-$234

Oct. 10 – Christian Knapp conducting. "Hitchcock! A Symphonic Night at the Movies," music and footage from Alfred Hitchcock’s films.

Dec. 5-6 – Erin Freeman conducting. "Let It Snow!" Christmas program, with Richmond Symphony Chorus.

Jan. 30 – conductor TBA. "Simply Sinatra." Steve Lippia, vocalist.

March 13 – conductor TBA. Arturo Sandoval, trumpet.

11 a.m. Saturdays at Carpenter Theatre
Subscriptions: $45 for adults, $30 for children and students with ID

Oct. 31 – Erin Freeman conducting. "The Composer Is Dead," musical murder mystery by Lemony Snicket and Nathaniel Stookey.

Feb. 20 – Erin Freeman conducting. Prokofiev’s "Peter and the Wolf," semi-staged with cast from Theatre IV.

May 8 – Erin Freeman conducting. "Beethoven Lives Upstairs," Beethoven’s music introduced through letters between the composer and his young neighbor, Christoph.

8 p.m. at Carpenter Theatre

Dec. 4 – Erin Freeman conducting. Handel: "Messiah" (soloists TBA, Richmond Symphony Chorus). ($25-$40)

April 24 – conductor TBA. De Falla: "The Three-Cornered Hat" Suite No. 2; Ravel: Bolero, "La Valse;" Debussy: "Clair de Lune," "L’isle joyeuse;" Sarasate: "Carmen" Fantasy, "Zigeunerweisen" (Gil Shaham, violin). ($25-$75)