Jaap van Zweden has been impressive in his few performances so far with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The 2008-2009 season, just announced, will give the orchestra’s audiences a much broader opportunity to assess his musical impact. It will be his first season as the DSO’s music director; he will conduct 11 weeks out of 21.
The DSO has given the season a title: “Unleashed.” That sounds a little aggressive, and nervous patrons might find that impression confirmed upon learning that Van Zweden will conduct two world premieres (by Steven Stucky and Alexander Raskatov), a work by Schoenberg’s colleague Anton Webern and the Symphony No. 1 by Felix Alexandre Guilmant.
But listener alarm is unjustified. Though three of those names will be unfamiliar to many, their music is not threatening. And even if it were, Van Zweden’s concert performances of Madame Butterfly should be ample penance. Puccini’s opera will end the season on May 23, 2009.
The remainder of the season’s repertoire (there are 10 guest conductors) is more conventional. There’s a slight emphasis on Brahms, a somewhat reduced emphasis on Mahler (only the Symphony No. 5 and the Rückert Lieder) and enough emphasis on Russian repertoire to keep Andrew Litton’s legacy alive. A highlight for me will be Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7. A gorgeous work, it is, for unfathomable reasons, almost never performed. This may be its first Dallas appearance.
The season’s first premiere is titled August 4, 1964 (it will occur on Sept. 18, 2008). Stucky’s “secular oratorio” is a commission by the DSO in commemoration of the 100th anniversary year of President Lyndon Johnson’s birth. Not that LBJ would necessarily be pleased: Among its themes are the murder of civil rights workers and the expansion of the war in Vietnam.
The text is by Gene Scheer, who is also working on the libretto of Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick, which will be premiered by the Dallas Opera in its first season in the new Winspear Opera House. In addition to the DSO, the performers of Stucky’s and Scheer’s work will include the Dallas Symphony Chorus and soloists Kelly O’Connor, mezzo-soprano, and Robert Orth, baritone.
The second premiere also marks an anniversary, but a highly unusual one: the 400th birthday of DSO concertmaster Emanuel Borok’s violin. Borok and his violin will play Raskatov’s Violin Concerto on April 30, 2009. Actually, the violin will be 401 years old then, but let’s not be pedantic about that.
The complete list of conductors in 2008-2009, in addition to Van Zweden, includes Vasily Petrenko, Carlos Kalmar, Leonard Slatkin, Litton, Gilbert Varga, Arild Remmereit, Pinchas Zukerman, Jeffrey Kahane, Asher Fisch and Louis Langrée. Missing is longtime audience favorite Claus Peter Flor.
Soloists include pianists Emanuel Ax, Horacio Gutiérrez, Natashia Peremski, Yuja Wang, Kahane and Fisch (the last two also conducting); violinists Karen Gomyo, Midori, Cho-Liang Lin and Borok; cellists Amanda Forsyth and Alisa Weilerstein; harpist Yolanda Kondanasis; saxophonist Branford Marsalis; organist Mary Preston; oboist Erin Hannigan; clarinetist Gregory Raden; bassoonist Wilfred Roberts; and horn player Gregory Hustis.
The complete repertoire of the classical season:
Sept. 11-14: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, with Ax as pianist and Van Zweden conducting.
Sept. 18-21: Stucky’s August 4, 1964, with Van Zweden.
Sept. 25-27: Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, with Gutiérrez as pianist and Van Zweden conducting.
Oct. 9-12: Stravinsky’s Scherzo à la Russe, Sibelius’ Violin Concerto and Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben, with Gomyo as violinist and Petrenko conducting.
Oct. 23-25: Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, Rouse’s Symphony No. 2 and Brahms’ Violin Concerto, with Midori violinist and Kalmar conducting.
Nov. 6-9: Webern’s Im Sommerwind, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat, K 297b, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, with DSO soloists and Van Zweden conducting.
Nov. 13-16: Mahler’s Rückert Lieder and Elgar’s The Music Makers, with mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn, the DSO Chorus and Van Zweden conducting.
Jan. 8-11, 2009: Leopold Stokowski’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and seven brief orchestral favorites, with Van Zweden conducting.
Jan. 15-17, 2009: Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, with Lin as violinist and Van Zweden conducting.
Jan. 22-25, 2009: Rossini’s Overture to La Gazza Ladra, Bright Sheng’s Harp Concerto and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9, with Kondanasis as harpist and Slatkin conducting.
Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 2009: Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite, with Peremski as pianist and Varga conducting.
Feb. 19-22, 2009: Glazunov’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone, Williams’ Escapades and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3, with Marsalis as saxophonist and Litton conducting.
Feb. 26-March 1, 2009: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7 and Khachaturian’s Spartacus Ballet Suite, with Wang as pianist and Remmereit conducting.
March 5-7, 2009: Stravinsky’s Concerto for Strings, Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 and Brahms’ Double Concerto, with Zukerman as violinist, Forsyth as cellist and Zukerman conducting.
March 26-29, 2009: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Elgar’s Symphony No. 1, with Kahane as pianist and conductor.
April 2-5, 2009: Britten’s Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge, a Bach Clavier Concerto and Haydn’s Symphony No. 99, with Fisch as pianist and conductor.
April 16-19, 2009: Guilmant’s Symphony No. 1, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite and Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, with Preston as organist and Van Zweden conducting.
April 23-26, 2009: Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for Strings and Mozart’s Requiem, with soloists TBA, the Dallas Symphony Chorus and Van Zweden conducting.
April 30-May 2, 2009: Raskatov’s Violin Concerto and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, with Borok as violinist and Van Zweden conducting.
May 7-10, 2009: Golijov’s Azul for cello and orchestra and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, with Weilerstein as cellist and Langrée conducting.
May 21-23, 2009: Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, with soloists TBA and the Dallas Symphony Chorus, Van Zweden conducting.