DSO Clef Notes: Summer 2018

There are many joys of being Music Director of the Delaware Symphony: working with wonderful musicians; playing stellar repertoire; engaging with our loyal audience; kindling a love of what we do with new audiences. One of my greatest joys, though, is a relatively private one: programming a season.

Balancing taste with budget, and needs with wants, programming a season is a high wire act with so many extra-musical constraints each vying for preeminence, that it threatens, without careful thought and guidance, to yield a lumpy, bureaucratic season that willfully pits old-school pot-boilers with brusque, off-putting new works. In the end, those seasons leave all involved—on both sides of the proscenium—with artistic vitamin deficiencies—feeling unsatisfied.  

I love the challenge of making a season that is broad, interesting to the audience, interesting to the musician, has themes for those who crave them, but are subtle enough to overlook for those that don’t want them. I pride myself on my ability, with the help of Alan Jordan and Stephanie Wilson, to make satisfying musical programs that also fit the budget, and that fit the appetite of all involved.

The true measure of my, and our success, is whether people come.  I think we’ve succeeded, and I am optimistic that our 2018-2019 season will succeed too.  

Our five Classics concerts cover a lot of territory—from the New World to the Old, from the 18th Century to the 21st. Our opening concert honors Leonard Bernstein’s centenary featuring his Serenade—a masterpiece for solo violin and orchestra (featuring DSO audience favorite Jennifer Koh), two seminal ballet scores: Copland’s Appalachian Spring, and Barber’s (of West Chester!) Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, and a vivid 21st Century portrait of Vermont’s Green Mountains by Robert Paterson.  Our all-American opening is balanced by our final Classics concert.  Each work—by Respighi, Rachmaninoff, and Rozsa—either speaks to, or listens to, Hollywood.  Respighi’s Fountains of Rome is cinematic in its sweep, drama, and technicolor orchestration; Rachmaninoff’s ripe romanticism of his Third Symphony, though written in Switzerland, speaks the lush language of Hollywood’s golden age.  Rozsa’s (El Cid, Ben-Hur) Cello Concerto (featuring brilliant young cellist Nick Canellakis) is concert music written by a silver screen master.  

In between these bookends, we’ll investigate Beethoven’s relationship to revolutionary values with his Third Symphony and Cherubini’s glorious Requiem—a work Beethoven held in higher regard than Mozart’s.  Soprano Mary Wilson will return to the Grand for Strauss’s final work, his Four Last Songs.  Steeped in post-war, late-career melancholy, it is the last breath of Romanticism. We’ll also welcome living legend Leon Fleisher.  With a career beginning in the 1940s, he has worked with the greats—from Szell to Schnable.  It will be deeply inspiring for us all to share the stage with him in Mozart’s 12th piano concerto.  All this, plus Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony (Winter Dreams), Bruckner’s 7th, Sibelius’s Night Ride and Sunrise.  I have worked hard to create a season that has variety and balance—a season that presents new works and old, familiar and not— all great; all satisfying; all compelling.  My 16th season.  Sweet 16 it is.