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Fall Arts: Classical offerings range from Renaissance to debuts

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 4:48 p.m.
The Orion String Quartet will play as part of the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society season
Andreas Hafenscher
The Orion String Quartet will play as part of the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society season
Yo Yo Ma
© Todd Rosenberg Photography
Yo Yo Ma
Violinist Joshua Bell
Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Violinist Joshua Bell

The broadest range of performing arts in Pittsburgh is found in classical music, where concerts every season go back as far as the Renaissance and continue straight through to music being heard for the first time.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is the biggest player on the scene, with the most concerts and most guest artists. The Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society also presents music from the 18th century to contemporary scores and with an impressive roster of internationally prominent ensembles. The Renaissance and Baroque Society presents touring artists, too, but ones covering earlier eras. Add concerts by worthy smaller ensembles, such as Pittsburgh Camerata, and quality offerings at universities and classical-music lovers have more concert options than anyone could sensibly attend.

The symphony returns from a three-week European tour led by music director Manfred Honeck to open its season with its annual gala Sept. 27, starring cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

The 21 weeks of subscription concerts begin Oct. 4 to 6, sounding the season's theme of Pittsburgh composers with the world premiere of David Stock's Symphony No. 6, coupled with Carl Orff's popular “Carmina Burana.”

Honeck will conduct the premiere of a piece by five local composers — Patrick Burke, Bomi Jang, Matthew Rosenblum, Reza Vali and Amy Williams — coupled with Gustav Holst's “The Planets,” Feb. 7 to 9.

Other new music at the symphony will include works by Carnegie Mellon University's Leonard Balada, Nov. 8 to 10, and Amy Galbraith, March 21 to 23, as well as Christopher Rouse, April 4 to 6.

Principal guest conductor Leonard Slatkin will lead only a single weekend of concerts this season, March 14 to 16, which will feature jazz pianist Michel Camilo playing his Piano Concerto No. 2. Gianandrea Noseda's second week of concerts, Feb. 21 to 23, is one of the strongest programs of the season, including the neglected “Faust” Symphony by Franz Liszt and Edouard Lalo's “Symphonie espagnole” with Joshua Bell as violin soloist. Yan Pascal Tortelier will lead an all-Russian program, Nov. 1 to 3.

Honeck's concerts include pianist Till Fellner playing Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 and music of the Strauss family of waltz composers, Nov. 29 and Dec. 1; a two-week festival of music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, April 25 to May 4; Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 9, June 6 to 8; and a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss, June 13 to 15.

The chamber music society will present six concerts in its subscription series, starting with the Emerson Quartet, Oct. 1, which will be performed with a new cellist. Three other excellent quartets are on the schedule: the Orion, Oct. 28; the Park, Nov. 18; and the Artemis, March 24. The society will present a piano recital by Peter Serkin, Feb. 13, and the Opus One piano quartet, Feb. 24.

The Renaissance and Baroque Society's subscription series includes Stile Anticho, Oct. 12; the Flanders Recorder Quartet, Nov. 2; Les Delices, Jan. 18; and Juilliard Baroque, March 15.

Smart concertgoers also pay attention to concerts at local universities, which are either free or low in cost. Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne have full symphony orchestras and offer chamber and vocal concerts as well. The University of Pittsburgh's Music on the Edge series offers alluring programs of new music performed mostly by touring artists.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

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