The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will bring Paris back to Pittsburgh next season.
Following a European tour that takes it to the City of Light in September, the PSO will present a three-week Paris Festival beginning in April 2012, focusing on the wealth of musical achievement in the French capital in the first quarter of the 20th century. It's the centerpiece of the PSO's 2011-12 subscription season, the BNY Mellon Grand Classics.
"Paris took over as the music center from Vienna at this time," says music director Manfred Honeck. "There were so many works written in Paris around the same time by composers Gershwin, Stravinsky and Debussy, to name a few. [But we] will not just play the heroes of the time there; we will play others who are lesser-known. For instance, the obscure Honegger Cello Concerto (performed by PSO cellist Anne Martindale Williams) joins Stravinsky's well-known 'Petrouchka.' We want the people who go to the concerts to get more context for the music."
The Austrian maestro will conduct the season-opening gala, 10 subscription weekends and a concert with cellist Yo-Yo Ma in his fourth season with the orchestra. He will continue his Beethoven cycle, with Symphony No. 3, "Eroica." It will be paired with the iconic composer's Triple Concerto in collaboration with, of all things, the Eroica Trio.
"That is by accident," says Mr. Honeck, referring to the name, not the rationale for hiring of a trio instead of three soloists to play it. "You usually have stars who come together, rehearse, perform and go away. I was thinking, why not have an ensemble that regularly plays together and have secret connections [between] them?" Mr. Honeck will end the season with Mahler's driving Symphony No. 6.
Mr. Honeck will continue his tradition of an innovative concert in December, but instead of a requiem to follow his enhanced versions of those by Mozart and Verdi, he will offer an unusual version of Handel's oratorio, "Messiah," with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.
"I hope to do a semi-staged version," he says. "It is so good to tell its story with the context of it." The Mass for the dead this year, Brahms' "Ein Deutsches Requiem," will come without trappings, paired with Dvorak's lesser-known "Biblical Songs" in February. He also will continue his Thanksgiving tradition of waltzes and polkas by the Strauss Family.
Soloist highlights include the return of violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter headlining the gala and Yo-Yo Ma in concert on Dec. 6. Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder will perform a makeup date after canceling in 2009. But whereas the renowned Austrian was to play Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in that earlier appearance, he will now play Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F led by Mr. Honeck. "Two Austrians playing American music is a little bit strange," he says with a laugh. "But Bookbinder said that Gershwin is one of his favorites and [I think] Gershwin is a wonderful composer."
Other season stars include violinist Joshua Bell and Sarah Chang, pianists Leif Ove Andsnes, Lars Vogt and Emanuel Ax, flutist James Galway, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, baritone Thomas Hampson and Nikolaj Znaider. The latter comes both as a violin soloist in Sibelius' Violin Concerto and a conductor in a program of Wagner, Mozart and Elgar.
"I saw Znaider conduct last season and he did so well," says Mr. Honeck. "He has gotten invitations from very important European orchestras. I wanted to give him the possibility of the PSO being his first [leading of] an American orchestra."
But nearly just as many of the soloists next season -- eight in total -- will come from within the ranks of the orchestra. Three will work together to premiere former music director Andre Previn's Triple Concerto (trumpeter George Vosburgh, horn player William Caballero and tubist Craig Knox). Mr. Previn will conduct this work commissioned by the PSO.
Wrapping up the next season's penchant for triples is Goossens' Concert Piece for Oboe, Two Harps and Orchestra, performed by the uber-talented family of James Gorton (oboe) and Gretchen Van Hoesen (harp), of the PSO, and their harpist daughter Heidi.
"I want to celebrate this family and Heidi is one of the most successful young harpists in the industry," says Mr. Honeck. "But to find a piece for this group of instruments was not easy!" Violist Randolph Kelly and oboist Cynthia DeAlmeida also will each step out from the tutti next season.
The PSO composer-of-the-year is a decorated one in the American Steven Stucky. The orchestra will perform five of the Pulitzer Prize- winner's works, including the premiere of a PSO commissioned work "commemorating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring.' "
As might be expected, new music maven Leonard Slatkin, PSO principal guest conductor, conducts a Stucky piece. But he largely conducts recent works by other composers: Alan Hovhaness' Symphony No. 2, "Mysterious Mountain" and Jean Francaix's "L'Horloge de Flore." The PSO's other titled guest conductor, Gianandrea Noseda conducts Falla's "Three-Cornered Hat" and Casella's Symphony No. 2 among others. The latter is one of 16 PSO premieres next season.
The PSO welcomes back conductor Juraj Valcuha and presents the debut of Chinese conductor Xian Zhang. Not returning are the Thursday matinee concerts, replaced by a new Sunday series called "Fireworks" with details forthcoming.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra 2011-12 Season
Sept. 23-25: Manfred Honeck, conductor; Rudolf Buchbinder, piano. Steven Stucky's "Dreamwaltzes," Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F, and Mussorgsky/Ravel's "Pictures at an Exhibition.
Sept. 30-Oct. 2: Mr. Honeck, conductor; Eroica Trio. Beethoven's Triple Concerto and Symphony No. 3, "Eroica."
Oct. 21-23: Xian Zhang, conductor; Xiang Yu, violin. Mr. Stucky's "Radical Light," Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, and Schumann's Symphony No. 4.
Oct. 28-30: Leonard Slatkin, conductor; James Galway, flute. Haydn's Symphony No. 67; Hovhaness' Symphony No. 2, "Mysterious Mountain"; Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 2; and Bizet's "Carmen Fantasy."
Nov. 4, 6: Mr. Slatkin, conductor; Randolph Kelly, viola; Cynthia DeAlmeida, oboe. McTee's "Double Play," Piston's Viola Concerto, Vaughan Williams' "Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus,' " Francaix's "Flower Clock" and Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra."
Nov. 18-20: Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, conductor; Gabriela Montero, piano. Prokofiev's Symphony No.1, "Classical" and Piano Concerto No. 3, and Brahms' Symphony No. 2.
Nov. 25-27: Mr. Honeck, conductor; Leif Ove Andsnes, piano. Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Strauss Jr.'s Waltzes and Polkas.
Dec. 2-4: Mr. Honeck, conductor; Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. Handel's "Messiah."
Jan. 13-15: Juraj Valcuha, conductor; Evelyn Glennie, percussion. Ravel's Suite from "Mother Goose," Mr. Stucky's "Spirit Voices," and Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances."
Feb. 3-5: Mr. Honeck, conductor; Chen Reiss, soprano; Thomas Hampson, baritone; Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. Dvorak's "Biblical Songs" and Brahms' "A German Requiem."
Feb. 10, 12: Mr. Honeck, conductor; Lars Vogt, piano. Beethoven's Symphony No. 1, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 16, and Respighi's "Fountains of Rome" and "Pines of Rome."
Feb. 17-19: Mr. Honeck, conductor; Nikolaj Znaider, violin. Mr. Stucky's PSO commission, Sibelius' Violin Concerto, and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, "Pathétique."
March 2, 4: Znaider, conductor; Emanuel Ax, piano. Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod from "Tristan und Isolde," Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22, and Elgar's "Enigma Variations."
March 9-11: Andre Previn, conductor; George Vosburgh, trumpet; William Caballero, horn; Craig Knox, tuba. Haydn's Symphony No. 102, Previn's Triple Concerto, and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4, "Italian."
March 23, 25: Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor; Sarah Chang, violin. Gould's "Spirituals," Newman's Violin Concerto, and Sibelius' Symphony No. 1.
March 30, 31-April 1: Slatkin, conductor; Stephen Hough, piano. Mr. Stucky's "Son et Lumiere," Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 5, "Egyptian," and Prokofiev's "Cinderella Suite."
April 20-22: Gianandrea Noseda, conductor; Nicholas Angelich, piano. Berlioz's Excerpts from "Romeo & Juliet" and Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2.
April 27-29: Paris Festival. Gianandrea Noseda, conductor. Casella's Symphony No. 2, Debussy's "Iberia," Falla's "Three-Cornered Hat" Suite Nos. 1 & 2.
May 11-12: Paris Festival. Mr. Honeck, conductor; Anne Martindale Williams, cello. Stravinsky's "Petrouchka," Honegger's Cello Concerto, and Gershwin's "An American in Paris."
June 8-10: Mr. Honeck, conductor; Joshua Bell, violin. Richard Strauss' "Don Juan" and "Death and Transfiguration," Brahms' Violin Concerto, and Strauss' "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks."
June 15-17: Manfred Honeck, conductor; James Gorton, oboe; Gretchen Van Hoesen, harp; Heidi Van Hoesen Gorton, harp. Goossens' "Concert Piece" for Oboe, Two Harps, and Orchestra, and Mahler's Symphony No. 6.
Sept. 17: Opening Night Gala, "Musique du Monde." Mr. Honeck, conductor; Ms. Mutter, violin.
Dec. 6: Mr. Honeck, conductor; Yo-Yo Ma, cello.
Feb. 26: PSO at Lincoln Center, New York City. Mr. Honeck, conductor; Hilary Hahn, violin. Mr. Stucky's New Work, Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1, and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5.
March 3: Recital. Pinchas Zukerman, violin; Angela Cheng, piano.
May 4-5: Paris Festival. Mr. Honeck, conductor; Lise de la Salle, piano; Mendelssohn Choir. Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," Boulanger's "Psalm 130," and Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major and "Bolero."
May 6: Recital. Paul Jacobs, organ, at Heinz Chapel, Oakland.