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Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra season is full of returns, debuts and surprises

| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Mason Bates
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Mason Bates
Conductor Jeannette Sorrell,
Roger Mastroianni
Conductor Jeannette Sorrell,
Bassoonist Nancy Goeres
Pittburgh Symphony
Bassoonist Nancy Goeres
Cellist Anne Martindale Williams
Pittsburgh Symphony
Cellist Anne Martindale Williams

The Pittsburgh Symphony will play 20 weeks of classical subscription concerts in the 2014-15 season, one less than in the current season. Half will be lead by music director Manfred Honeck. The season will feature the first returning composer of the year, Mason Bates, the local debuts of several promising young conductors, and commissioned works for symphony principal players.

Honeck will conduct some new repertoire for him, such as Hector Berlioz' “Symphonie fantastique” at the first BNY Mellon Grand Classics, Sept. 19 to 21, which also features Bates' “Rusty Air in Carolina” and Valentina Lisitsa playing Sergei Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini.

Honeck also will lead three “Focus on Beethoven” concerts – Dec. 5 to 7; Feb. 20 to 22, 2015; and June 5 to 7 – which will include the Symphonies Nos. 3, 5, 7 and 9. The Fifth and Seventh will be recorded for commercial release.

Other repertoire which will be recorded includes Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7, April 10 to 12, and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, April 17 to 19.

Honeck's new arrangement of a suite from Antonin Dvorak's opera “Rusalka” will be played on the program, culminating in Tchaikovsky's Sixth. This concert will be completed by Benjamin Britten's Violin Concerto, with Vienna Philharmonic concertmaster Rainer Honeck (the conductor's brother) as soloist — which also will be recorded.

The symphony will take a break from Viennese polkas and waltzes on Thanksgiving weekend for evenings of musical comedy by violinist Aleksey Igudesman and pianist Hyung-Ki Joo, Nov. 28 to 30.

Guest conductors will include Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Oct. 10 to 12, and Yan Pascal Tortelier, Oct. 24 to 26. Gianandrea Noseda will not conduct the orchestra next season, but will return in 2015-16, as will Leonard Slatkin.

Bob Moir, the symphony's vice president for artistic planning, points to three conductor debuts as especially promising: James Gaffigan, Jan. 23 to 25; Krzysztof Ubariski, Jan. 30 to Feb. 1; and Andres Orozco-Estrada, March 27 to 29.

Bates, the young American composer who blends electronics from the techno dance-club scene with imaginative use of orchestra, was composer of the year in 2012-13.

“When Mason Bates was our composer of the year, we got a reaction from our audience unlike any we'd had before. Which is not to say other composers of the year were not also liked, but there was a very strong desire for more of Mason Bates,” Moir says.

Bates' music will be played on the first subscription concert and on Jan. 23 to 27, March 27 to 29, and May 15 to 17.

The symphony also will continue its 25 year tradition of commissioning new works for its principal players with three premieres — Jake Hegge's “The Work at Hand” for cellist Anne Martindale Williams, May 15 to 17; Alan Fletcher's Oboe Concerto for Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, May 29 to 31; and David Ludwig's “Pictures from the Floating World,” May 15 to 17, for bassoonist Nancy Goeres.

Symphony musicians will be the featured soloists performing older repertoire at many concerts, starting with Lorna McGhee playing Carl Nielsen's Flute Concerto, Oct. 24 to 26, and continuing with Noah Bendix-Balgley playing Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto, Jan. 30 to Feb. 1; Bendix-Balgley and violist Randolph Kelly playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Sinfonia concertante, March 6 to 8; eight soloists in a baroque program led by Jeannette Sorrell, March 20 to 22; and the horn section in Robert Schumann's Konzertstuck, March 27 to 29.

The Disney film “Fantasia” will be shown with live performance of its classical music soundtrack, under a conductor to be determined, May 8 to 10.

Subscriptions are available in six-, seven-, 14- and 20-performance packages, $114 to $1,720. Single tickets will go on sale around Labor Day.

Details: 412-392-4900 or

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

Pittsburgh Symphony's 2014-15 BNY Mellon Grand Classics season

Sept. 19 to 21: Manfred Honeck, conductor; Valentina Lisitsa, piano

Mason Bates: “Rusty Air in Carolina”

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Paganini Rhapsody

Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Oct. 10 to 12: Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, conductor; Pablo Sainz Villegas, guitar

Felix Mendelssohn: “A Midsummer Night's Dream” incidental music Joaquin Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez Manuel DeFalla: The Three-Cornered Hat Suites 1 and 2

Oct. 24 to 26: Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor; Lorna McGhee, flute

Edvard Grieg: “Peer Gynt” Incidental Music Carl Nielsen: Flute Concerto Alexander Borodin: “In the Steppes of Central Asia”

Alexander Scriabin: “Poem of Ecstacy”

Oct. 31 to Nov. 2: Juraj Valcuha, conductor; Nicola Benedetti, violin; Mendelssohn Choir

Sergei Rachmaninoff: “Isle of the Dead”

Karol Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1 Maurice Ravel: “Daphnis and Chloe” ballet

Nov 28 to 30: Honeck, conductor; Alexsey Igudesman, violin; Hyung-Ki Joo, piano

Thanksgiving with Igudesman and Joo

Dec. 5 to 7: Honeck, conductor

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7

Jan. 23 to 25, 2015: James Gaffigan, conductor; Gabriela Montero, piano

Bates: “White Lies for Lomax”

Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major

Richard Wagner: “Good Friday Spell” from “Parsifal”

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 (“Reformation”)

Jan. 30 to Feb. 1: Krzysztof Ubariski, conductor; Noah Bendix-Balgley, violin

Sergei Prokofiev: Russian Overture

Aram Khachaturian: Violin Concerto

Modest Mussorgsky/Ravel: “Pictures at an Exhibition”

Feb. 20 to 22: Honeck, conductor; Lars Vogt, piano

Beethoven/Honeck: String Quartet No. 4, 1st movement

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”)

Feb. 27 to March 1: Honeck, conductor

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: “Swan Lake” Suite

Prokofiev: “Romeo and Juliet” Suite

March 6 to 8: Honeck, conductor; Bendix-Balgley, violin; Randolph Kelly, viola

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante Einojuhani Rautavaara: Cantus Arcticus Igor Stravinsky: “The Firebird” Suite

March 20 to 22: Jeannette Sorrell, conductor and harpsichord

Baroque program featuring music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, and Georg Philip Telemann

March 27 to 29: Andres Orozco-Estrada, conductor

Bates: “The Rise of Exotic Computing”

Robert Schumann: Konzertstuck for Four Horns Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1

April 10 to 12: Honeck, conductor; Helene Grimaud, piano

Schumann: Piano Concerto

Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 7

April 17 to 19: Honeck, conductor; Rainer Honeck, violin

Antonin Dvorak/Honeck: “Rusalka” Suite

Benjamin Britten: Violin Concerto

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6

May 8 to 10: Conductor TBD

“Fantasia” in concert

May 15 to 17: Michael Francis, conductor; Anne Martindale Williams, cello; Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano

Bates: “Alternative Energy”

Jake Hegge: “The Work at Hand”

Bela Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra

May 29 to 31: Joseph Mena, conductor; Nancy Goeres, bassoon

Claude Debussy: “Iberia”

David Ludwig: “Pictures from the Floating World”

Alberto Ginastera: “Panambi” Suite

Ginastera: “Estancia,” four dances

DeFalla: “La via Breve,” Interlude and Dance

June 5 to 7: Honeck, conductor; Christian Tetzlaff, violin; Simona Saturova, soprano; Jennifer Johnson Cario, mezzo-soprano; tenor TBD; Liang Li, bass; Mendelssohn Choir

Beethoven: Violin Concerto

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

June 12 to 14: Honeck, conductor; Yefim Bronfman, piano; Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, oboe

Alan Fletcher: Oboe Concerto

Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1

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