The Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel will start their 2015-16 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall by rolling over Beethoven's symphonic oeuvre as thoroughly and massively as Chuck Berry or anyone else could wish.
The "Immortal Beethoven" festival, Oct. 1-13, will deploy the combined heft of the Phil and the other group Dudamel leads, the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. Each will handle four of the nine Beethoven symphonies separately, then join for Symphony No. 9, bringing to bear a combined force of about 300 musicians.
Beethoven lovers will have a chance to hear all nine symphonies in order from Oct. 1 to 4 or Oct. 8 to 11. The 9th gets played four times; everything else twice. For dessert there's a festival-wrapping program of Beethoven's chamber music.
As a prelude to the Beethoven festival, the Phil and the Bolivar orchestra will perform the season's Sept. 29 opening gala concert together — another all-Beethoven program that hasn't been picked yet but that aims to evoke the composer's life story, according to L.A. Phil President Deborah Borda.
After the Beethoven festival, Dudamel will lead the Phil in 11 more concert programs totaling 31 performances.
Highlights include Stravinsky's ballet "Apollo," starring dance soloist Roberto Bolle of American Ballet Theatre; Bach violin concertos featuring Gil Shaham; Mahler's Symphony No. 3; and a program of 20th and 21st century music that includes John Williams' "Soundings" (an aural portrait of Disney Hall), Alberto Ginastera's Piano Concerto No. 1 featuring the composer's Argentine countryman, Sergio Tiempo, Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" and the world premiere of a piece by Los Angeles composer Andrew Norman.
The season also offers the Phil's usual helpings of music never heard in L.A. — or, in a dozen cases, anywhere — along with a raft of celebrated soloists and periodic programs that feature video art or photographic installations to go with the music.
Stars giving recitals include pianists Andras Schiff and Murray Perahia, violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Yo-Yo Ma with pianist Kathryn Stott and the violin-piano duo of Itzhak Perlman and Emanuel Ax.
Pianists performing with the Phil include Yuja Wang playing Mozart, Ax tackling Franck's "Symphonic Variations," Yefim Bronfman serving up a mid-season helping of Beethoven and Jean-Yves Thibaudet essaying Grieg.
The season's violin soloists on orchestral programs include Shaham; Perlman in a program of Mozart and Tchaikovsky that he'll also conduct; Hilary Hahn playing Henri Vieuxtemps; and Leila Josefowicz in a program conducted by her frequent collaborator, John Adams.
Opera stars Anne Sofie von Otter and Andreas Scholl will perform Handel arias and duets with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and the Phil will back Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell for a program of show tunes.
Conductor laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead three programs, including two that form a mini-festival of French music dubbed "City of Light." After conducting Mahler's Symphony No. 1 and Beethoven's piano concerto No. 1 played by Bronfman in January, Salonen will turn from Vienna to France with a program of Ravel and Poulenc and semi-staged performances of Debussy's opera "Pelleas and Melisande" in February.
Disney Hall will host some of the proceedings in the quadrennial Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, which also includes events at USC, where the celebrated cellist Gregor Piatigorsky taught before his death in 1976. Leonard Slatkin will conduct three cello-centric programs in three days, featuring concerto and cellist pairings of Ernest Bloch and Ralph Kirshbaum, Edward Elgar and Truls Mork and Bohuslav Martinu and Sol Gabetta in May 2016. The Piatigorsky proceedings at Disney Hall also include Ma's recital and a concert featuring the Emerson String Quartet and scores of cellists involved in the festival playing en masse.
The dozen world premieres the Phil will offer include pieces it has commissioned from veteran composers Louis Andriessen and Arvo Part.
The debut of Andriessen's "Theater of the World" will be embellished by visuals from avant-garde animators the Quay Brothers, with Reinbert de Leeuw conducting. Dudamel will lead the U.S. premiere of Andriessen's "Mysterien," paired with Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring."
Part's music will be featured on four programs in May 2016, starting with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra concert of vocal music led by Nicholas McGegan. Then Dudamel will conduct three programs pairing Part and Mozart. It will start with vocal music — the Mozart "Requiem" and Part's "Miserere." It will continue with Part's Symphony No. 4 "Los Angeles" and "Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten" alongside Mozart's Piano concerto No. 17 with Israeli soloist Inon Barnatan. It will culminate with the world premiere of an as-yet untitled orchestral work by Part, sharing the bill with Mozart's symphonies No. 25 and 40.
In addition to the Quay Brothers providing a new animation to go with Andriessen's music, the Phil will use an existing work by video artist Bill Viola, "Inverted Birth," to enhance Part's "Los Angeles" symphony. Ars Electronica Futurelab, an Austrian group that does video installations, will goose Ravel's "Mother Goose" with visual embellishments in the first of Salonen's "City of Light" concerts.
Borda said the Phil's concerts with visuals — a trend for American orchestras — date back at least to the 2004 "Tristan Project" that paired Wagner's music with video art by Viola. She said they have appealed particularly to younger audiences and that if traditionalists have any gripes, they're pretty much keeping them to themselves.
"We're not trying to create a revolution" in which multimedia will become the norm rather than the exception for classical concerts, Borda said. "It's an evolutionary step. No matter what, we just want to train the young audience to come here, period."
Jazz, pop and world music offerings include Kristin Chenoweth; Latin jazz with Eddie Palmieri and Chucho Valdes; Billy Childs leading a "Reimagining Laura Nyro" concert; a program led by Herbie Hancock, the Phil's chair for jazz; a tribute to Argentine songstress Mercedes Sosa; and Natalie Cole singing early and late sets on New Year's Eve.