St. Louis Symphony Orchestra announces 2016-17 season

David Robertson, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 By Sarah Bryan Miller

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra announced its 2016-17 season on Tuesday, with programming that starts with a salute to the 90th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic in the "Spirit of St. Louis," and closes with another tale involving oceans, a concert performance of Richard Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman."

In between, music director David Robertson and the orchestra will offer homage for composer John Adams' 70th birthday (including the SLSO's return to Carnegie Hall), a complete survey of Beethoven's five piano concertos, assorted choral masterworks and a lot more.

"It's a very exciting season," said SLSO president and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard, who noted that planning was already underway when she joined the orchestra last July. The music reflects, she said, the fact that "This is an orchestra that has the ability to play a wide range of repertoire very well."

Next season at the country's second-oldest professional orchestra will provide 25 weeks of classical subscription concerts again sponsored by Wells Fargo Advisors, with 12 of those weeks led by Robertson; there are also assorted pops performances. The orchestra will take Adams' "The Gospel According to the Other Mary" to Carnegie Hall on March 31, 2017 - and there are rumors of a spring European tour.

The season opens on Sept. 16 with a work new to the SLSO, Kurt Weill's "The Flight of Lindbergh," conducted by Robertson and narrated by Charlie Brennan of KMOX, in a program that includes Boulez's "Dialogue de l'ombre double" and Debussy's "La Mer."

For Mozarteans, "there will be more Mozart than usual," promised Bernard, including performances of the Requiem (paired with Adams' "On the Transmigration of Souls," Nov. 18-20, near All Saints' Day), "Eine kleine Nachtmusik," the Bassoon Concerto (with SLSO principal bassoon Andrew Cuneo as soloist), the Symphony No. 31, "Paris," the Piano Concerto No. 1 and more.

It's a better-than-usual season for lovers of choral music, too. Sir Andrew Davis will conduct Walton's "Belshazzar's Feast" next February, and there will be two performances of Wagner's "Flying Dutchman" in May 2017, with a cast that includes soprano Orla Boylan as Senta, baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Daland and bass-baritone Alan Held as the Dutchman, along with Amy Kaiser's St. Louis Symphony Chorus.

"A patron had written to me asking if we would do 'Flying Dutchman,'" said Bernard. "David was excited by the idea. It was a perfect meeting of the minds."

The Beethoven piano concert cycle is another highlight of the season. Robertson will conduct the first concerts in September, with soloist Yefim Bronfman performing No. 3. In October, guest conductor Cristian Macelaru will lead pianist Orli Shaham in No. 4; guest conductor Robert Spano and soloist Stephen Hough will take on No. 5, the "Emperor," in November. In January, guest conductor Andrey Boreyko leads pianist Rafal Belchacz in his SLSO debut in No. 2. The first concerto comes last, as Stéphane Denève and pianist Steven Osborne take on No. 1 in March.

Other orchestral favorites including Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, the "Eroica" and Symphony No. 7; the Dvorak Cello Concerto (with soloist Alban Gerhardt) and Symphony No. 9, "From the New World," Stravinsky's "Petrushka;" Copland's "Appalachian Spring" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue;" and the Brahms Violin Concerto, with 2016 Grammy-winner Augustin Hadelich as soloist.

There are premieres: SLSO bass trombone Gerard Pagano solos in the world premiere of the orchestral version of James Stephenson's trombone concerto, "The Arch," with Robertson conducting, in April. Rolf Wallin's concerto for trumpet, "Fisher King," will receive its U.S. premiere with Swedish trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger in January; Georges Lentz's "Jerusalem (After Blake)," for orchestra and electronics will get its U.S. premiere in April.

Other works getting their SLSO premieres include the John Adams Violin Concerto and "The Gospel According to the Other Mary," Lutoslawski's "Chain 3," Liszt's "Prometheus," "Pohjola's Daughter," by Sibelius and Leonard Slatkin's "Kinah."

Guest conductors include favorites like Nicholas McGegan, Slatkin, Bernard Labadie, Hannu Lintu and former SLSO resident conductor Ward Stare. South Korean conductor Han-Na Chang will make her debut with the orchestra. In addition to the pianists performing in the Beethoven concerto survey, we'll hear Jeremy Denk, Olga Kern and Kirill Gerstein.

Along with the cast of "Dutchman," singers include mezzo-sopranos Kelley O'Connor and Michaela Martens, tenors Paul Appleby and Jay Hunter Morris, and a trio of countertenors: Nathan Medley, Daniel Brubeck and Brian Cummings. Violinists coming to St. Louis include Leila Josefowicz, Jennifer Koh, Gil Shaham and Hadelich.

Several soloists will be drawn from the ranks of the orchestra, led by concertmaster David Halen, and including a host of other principal players, including viola Beth Guterman Chu and her husband, Jonathan Chu; flute Mark Sparks; clarinet Scott Andrews; bassoon Andrew Cuneo; trumpet Karin Bliznik; and bass trombone Gerard Pagano.

As always, there will be special holiday programming. On Dec. 4-6, Ward Stare will conduct Act II of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," with visuals designed by Webster University students. "We challenge ourselves to make our holiday concerts new and exciting," said Bernard.

There's more yet to be announced, including the Live at Powell Hall pops series, the education and family concerts, and the new-music Pulitzer Series. The SLSO's partnerships with 90.7-KWMU FM, St. Louis Public Radio, and the Nine Network will continue in 2016-17.

There are also rumors of a European tour to fill out the promised two to three weeks of touring in 2017; Carnegie Hall accounts for only one of those. Stay tuned.