The Philharmonic Society of Orange County will offer a hat-trick of sorts in the 2014-15 season it announced Monday: Audiences can hear programs led by the music directors of three of California's top orchestras.
Gustavo Dudamel will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carl St.Clair will lead the Pacific Symphony's chamber music sections, and the San Francisco Symphony's music director, Michael Tilson Thomas, will also be accounted for – although on this occasion he'll marshal the London Symphony Orchestra as one of its principal guest conductors in a program featuring piano star Yuja Wang.
Wang, who gave a recital for the Philharmonic Society 3 1/2 months ago, will play George Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F (March 28, 2015); Tilson Thomas and the Londoners also will essay Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 and Benjamin Britten's "Four Seas Interludes" from "Peter Grimes."
Something unusual has to be up for the Philharmonic Society, whose mission is importing top outside musical talent to Orange County, to feature hometown heroes St.Clair and the Pacific Symphony. It is: their appearance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre (May 19, 2015) is a tribute to St.Clair's 25th anniversary leading the Pacific, with which he debuted in 1990. They'll play Dvorak's Serenade for Strings and other chamber works to be determined.
Two other London-based ensembles will turn up as well.
The London Philharmonic opens the season with conductor Vladimir Jurowski and piano soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet in a program that includes Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, Dvorak's "The Noon Witch" and Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" symphony (Oct. 11).
And John Eliot Gardiner will lead the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in two all-Monteverdi programs: "Vespers of 1610" (April 24, 2015) and the opera "L'Orfeo" (April 25, 2015).
The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Jiri Belohlavek, will celebrate its nation's musical heritage, playing Janacek's "Taras Bulba" rhapsody and Dvorak's "New World Symphony." They'll veer into Hungarian territory for Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring French soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Nov. 4).
A matinee by Dudamel and the L.A. Phil (Nov. 23, 2014) is guaranteed to pull out some, if not all of the stops, since all three pieces feature organists – guest soloist Cameron Carpenter and Phil member Joanne Pearce Martin. On tap are Samuel Barber's "Toccata Festiva," Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3 and the world premiere of Stephen Hartke's Symphony No. 4, co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philharmonic Society and Edward Halvajian, a former head of the Philharmonic Society's board who died last year.
It's the third commission Halvajian helped instigate for the Philharmonic Society and the L.A. Phil following Jacob Druckman's "Seraphic Games," which premiered in 1992, and John Adams' "Dharma at Big Sur," which did double duty as one of the featured pieces during Walt Disney Concert Hall's opening week in 2003, and as part of the Philharmonic Society's 50th anniversary celebration the following year.
The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, led by its music director, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, will perform Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and, joined by soloist Helene Grimaud, Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 (Feb. 11, 2015).
The classical mandolin will have its moment when Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital performs with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, playing a program to be announced (Feb. 28, 2015).
The State Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, led by music director Enrique Batiz, will offer both Mexican and Russian music. Mexican composer Manuel Maria Ponce's piano concerto (with Russian pianist Irina Chistiakova) and his "Concierto del Sur," featuring guitarist Alfonso Moreno, will be balanced by Rimsky-Korsakov's "Russian Easter Festival Overture" and the Polovtsian Dances from Alexander Borodin's opera, "Prince Igor" (March 5, 2015).
The orchestral concerts are at Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, as is a violin recital by Ray Chen, who'll perform a program of Beethoven, Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel and Eugene Ysaye (May 12, 2015).
Chamber music programs are at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. In addition to the one featuring St.Clair and Pacific Symphony members, they include the Czech group Smetana Trio, featuring piano, violin and cello (Oct. 18); Austrian baroque string quartet Quatuor Mosaiques (Oct. 30); the Kronos Quartet (Feb. 21, 2015); and the Takacs Quartet, joined by pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin (April 19, 2015).
The season's wild-card offering features the dance ensemble the Mark Morris Dance Group essaying a 326-year-old English Baroque opera, Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" at the Irvine Barclay Theatre (May 15-16, 2015). The Santa Monica baroque group Musica Angelica will provide accompaniment, with a choir to be announced.
Morris danced two female roles – Dido and her nemesis, the Sorceress – when he debuted the piece in 1989, but now he leaves the execution of his choreography entirely to his group. Morris will direct and conduct the performance, as he did in 2008, when "Dido and Aeneas" previously was done at the Irvine Barclay – a performance The Times’ Mark Swed praised as “an elegant classic” with "hundreds of ingenious touches in translations of music to movement.”
It'll be the third of Morris's danced versions of classic operas presented by the Philharmonic Society, following Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Platee" in 2001 and Gluck's "Orfeo ed Euridice" in 1996 (a co-presentation with the now-defunct Opera Pacific).
The 2014-15 season will be the last one exclusively picked by the Philharmonic Society's president and artistic director, Dean Corey, who'll retire June 30 after 21 years. But since orchestral seasons typically are lined up at least two years in advance, Corey said that before he steps down he'll have solidified "quite a bit" of the 2015-16 season and "a few touches" for 2016-17. A search is underway for his successor.
Corey said that with 15 programs and 17 performances, the 2014-15 season is a bit more bountiful than the current 2013-14 season, which consists of 14 one-nighters and "is one of the smallest we've had."
Corey said that that reflects spending limits the Philharmonic Society's board set during the recession, in which a coming season's budget was pegged to a past one's revenues. Strong box-office returns during the 2013 calendar year made it possible to be a bit more expansive with programming for 2014-15, he said, predicting further growth for the 2015-16 season that he's working on now.