A guide to the 2016-17 classical music season in Miami

arts / Article

September 19, 2016 by Sebastian Spreng

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Seraphic Fire, which commences its season in October with excerpts from “Einstein on the Beach" by Philip Glass.

An overview of the upcoming musical season in Miami suggests more cautious programming than in previous years–but still a robust schedule featuring artists that have already proven themselves worthy of and welcome to local stages. This time, the emphasis is, more than ever, on new music, curious combinations and experimental interactions. In addition to several premieres, the season also showcases the talents of a young and rising Cuban American generation of musicians.

The New World Symphony, the orchestral academy based in Miami Beach, continues setting trends in Miami’s music scene via broad-spectrum programming that features multiple series dedicated to a variety of musical threads.

Beyond the traditional orchestra program, this season includes a chamber music program and several concert cycles: Sounds of the Times, Side by Side, Encounters, Musical XChange (a cycle that is free to the public), the Musician’s Forum (put together by members of the orchestra), and the popular Pulse, an eclectic late night encounter. There is something for every taste.

<p>New World Symphony co-founder Michael Tilson Thomas. Photo by Spencer Lowell.</p>

New World Symphony co-founder Michael Tilson Thomas. Photo by Spencer Lowell.

The main cycle opens and closes with concerts conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, New World Symphony’s co-founder and artistic director. The first, in October, features pianist Emanuel Ax, and will consist of Wolfgang Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14, Arnold Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto, plus works by Richard Strauss and Johannes Brahms. Tilson Thomas and cellist Alisa Weilerstein will close the season in May with a program featuring Benjamin Britten’s Symphony for Cello and Orchestra.

Also in October, Tilson Thomas will conduct an evening called “The Rite of Spring” with works by Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky, as well as a concert featuring soprano Renée Fleming performing works including Maurice Ravel’s “Sheherazade.” He will also conduct Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (with the excellent Christian Tetzlaff on violin) in January; Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, music by Anton Webern and three excerpts from Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” in February, and a concert exclusively dedicated to new contemporary music in April.

<p>Osmo V&auml;nsk&auml; will conduct the New World Symphony orchestra on March 10, 2017.&nbsp;</p>

Osmo Vänskä will conduct the New World Symphony orchestra on March 10, 2017. 

The other performances of the season feature several conductors well known by New World Symphony’s audiences: Roberto Abbado (with Jean Yves Thibaudet in George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F), Osmo Vänskä (with Garrick Ohlsson in Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, as well as compositions by Jean Sibelius), James Conlon (Ludwig van Beethoven, Dmitri Shostakovich), Bernard Labadie (a concert of classical and baroque music with soprano Lydia Teuscher), Peter Oundjian (with James Ehnes in Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1) and the New World Symphony debut of Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena (with Ingrid Fliter in Camille Saint-Saëns's Piano Concerto No. 2). 

Also watch out for the pre-season concerts, which began on Sept. 16 and run through Oct. 9. Featured artists include Edwin Outwater, Michel Linville and Kelley O'Connor. There is also a Concerts for Kids program that aims to build new audiences.

<p>Maria Jos&eacute; Montiel will play the titular role in the Florida Grand Opera&apos;s production of &quot;Carmen.&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Maria José Montiel will play the titular role in the Florida Grand Opera's production of "Carmen." 

The Florida Grand Opera presents one of its most interesting and balanced seasons in recent memory. It includes a great Verdian title, a French favorite, a jewel of the Russian repertoire and a much awaited local premiere of a contemporary opera. Also, the program will offer a chance to take in new singers and witness some important debuts that will bring a breath of fresh air to the company. 

First, the notable mezzo-soprano Maria José Montiel, from Madrid, opens the season as a luxury Carmen under the direction of her fellow countryman Ramón Tebar, principal director of the Florida Grand Opera. The cast includes Rafael Dávila (Don José), Ryan Kuster (Escamillo) and Hailey Clark (Micaela) directed by Bernard Uzan. 

Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” returns in January, highlighted by the debuts of Dina Kuznetsova and Lyubov Petrova alternating in the role of Tatyana. Both Russian sopranos promise to dispute the crown as the best Tatyana, accompanied by Franco Pomponi as Onegin and Chad Johnson, alternating with Uruguayan tenor Martin Nusspaumer, as Lensky. In this staging directed by Jeffrey Marc Buchmann with musical direction by Alexander Polianichko, veteran mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves returns in the role of Filipyevna. 

Jorge Martín’s “Before Night Falls,” based on the memoirs of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, will undoubtedly be one of the events of the year. The production, directed by David Gately, had its acclaimed premiere in Fort Worth, Texas and will be staged locally exclusively at the Arsht Center. Elliot Madore will debut in the role of the writer, with Dinyar Vania, Calvin Griffin, Javier Abreu and Elizabeth Caballero in supporting roles.

<p>Tamara Wilson will make her Florida Grand Opera debut in Verdi&apos;s &quot;A Masked Ball.&quot;</p>

Tamara Wilson will make her Florida Grand Opera debut in Verdi's "A Masked Ball."

The season ends with “A Masked Ball,” one of Giuseppe Verdi’s great works. It will feature the Florida Grand Opera debut of sensational American soprano Tamara Wilson–the 2016 winner of the Richard Tucker Award. The cast also includes Brazilian tenor Martin Muehle, baritone Todd Thomas and mezzo-soprano Dana Beth Miller under the direction of Marco Pelle. Maestro Tebar will again lead the orchestra to conclude the season.

The Knight Masterworks Classical Music series at Knight Concert Hall offers four concerts, beginning with the Minnesota Orchestra led by legendary conductor Osmo Vänskä in a program of Sibelius and Beethoven that also includes the premiere of “Geija” by Finnish composer Kalevi Aho. This will be followed by the Bamberg Symphony, in a concert directed by Christoph Eschenbach and featuring soloist Ray Chen performing Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto. On Feb. 25, pianist Lang Lang returns, and on March 18 the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields will offer an evening of Mozart with Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan.

Also at the Arsht Center, the Cleveland Orchestra opens its Miami winter residency with violinist Gil Shaham performing Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, one of Shaham’s specialties, and also Giancarlo Guerrero conducting works by Hector Berlioz and Shostakovich. Next is a performance conducted by Franz Welser-Möst of the monumental Symphony No. 7 by Anton Bruckner. This will follow a first half with music by Bach featuring vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano. In February, the Cleveland Orchestra will present a Nordic program featuring Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 and Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto with virtuoso Nikolaj Znaider as soloist. The next concert will be an Italian program, "Pines of Rome," comprising music by Verdi, Ottorino Respighi and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 (also known as the German composer's "Italian" symphony). Welser-Möst will also conduct the gala on Feb. 3 featuring Yo-Yo Ma performing Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto.

<p>Yo-Yo Ma, who will perform at a Cleveland Orchestra gala in February 2017. Photo &copy; Todd Rosenberg.</p>

Yo-Yo Ma, who will perform at a Cleveland Orchestra gala in February 2017. Photo © Todd Rosenberg.

Also at the Arsht Center, the Cleveland Orchestra opens its Miami winter residency with violinist Gil Shaham performing Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, one of Shaham’s specialties, and also Giancarlo Guerrero conducting works by Hector Berlioz and Shostakovich. Next is a performance conducted by Franz Welser-Möst of the monumental Symphony No. 7 by Anton Bruckner. This will follow a first half with music by Bach featuring vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano. In February, the Cleveland Orchestra will present a Nordic program featuring Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 and Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto with virtuoso Nikolaj Znaider as soloist. The next concert will be an Italian program, "Pines of Rome," comprising music by Verdi, Ottorino Respighi and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 (also known as the German composer's "Italian" symphony). Welser-Möst will also conduct the gala on Feb. 3 featuring Yo-Yo Ma performing Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto.

With renewed verve, Seraphic Fire starts its season in October with excerpts from Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach,” as well as premieres by Christopher Theofanidis and Patrick Dupré Quigley, the group’s founder and artistic director. The program includes two sublime Requiems by Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Duruflé in November, and then, in January, after the traditional Christmas concerts, the premiere of new works by Álvaro Bermúdez and Shawn Crouch. Bach's “Six Motets” will follow in February, along with a collaboration with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Arsht Center, and in March the ensemble will present a program of Russian choral music by Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff directed by Elena Sharkova. This will be followed by Bach's “Easter Oratorio,” and the season will close with Gregorio Allegri's “Miserere,” led by associate conductor James Bass, in May. It's a dynamic season in which early and contemporary music are astutely combined.

For its part, the Miami Symphony Orchestra will present 11 concerts at various venues, including the Arsht Center, the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, and the Palm Court in the Design District. The program combines a highbrow selection, crossover fare, film scores and world premieres such as that of Florencia Di Concilio’s “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra,” with Ciro Fodere as soloist and the orchestra's director, Eduardo Marturet, as conductor, during the season-opening concert. On Nov. 20, Marturet will premiere his own new work, “Pictures of an Exhibition,” and also Karen LeFrak's “Variations on Work by Sandra Muss.”  The season will close with an evening of Beethoven at the Arsht Center featuring the winner of the Miami Symphony Orchestra/Steinway Miami 2017 Young Pianist International Competition.

<p>Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is scheduled to perform this season with Miami Chamber Music.&nbsp;</p>

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is scheduled to perform this season with Miami Chamber Music. 

The season at Miami Chamber Music brings the high level of guest artists to which its audiences have become accustomed. It opens with pianist Stephen Hough (performing Schubert, Cesar Franck, Franz Liszt and his own “Sonata III Trinitas”) on Sept. 27. This concert will be followed by pianist Denis Kozhukhin on Oct. 17, then singer Michelle Bradley with Ken Noda on Nov. 5. The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio will offer Brahms, Mendelssohn and Ellen Zwilich's “Pas de Trois" on Jan. 5. For the latter part of the season, Liszt’s “Transcendental Etudes” and Brahms’s Sonata No. 2 with pianist Kirill Gerstein will precede a concert of the Beethoven cycle by the Ehnes Quartet on Feb. 7, and the prodigious Benjamin Grosvenor on Feb. 16. This will be followed by two late-February concerts with the notable Borodin Quartet with Joseph Kalichstein performing Robert Schumann and Dvorak’s quintets. Violinist Esther Yoo, who won the Sibelius Competition in 2010 at age 16, closes the series accompanied by Robert Koenig on piano and Alex Fiterstein on clarinet.

<p>The Miami Bach Society brings famed Cuban ensemble Conjunto de Musica Antigua Ars Longa to the Magic City as part of its first American tour.</p>

The Miami Bach Society brings famed Cuban ensemble Conjunto de Musica Antigua Ars Longa to the Magic City as part of its first American tour.

The season at the Miami Bach Society, which spans its Tropical Baroque Music Festival, consists of eight concerts, beginning with Apollo’s Fire and Profeti della Quinta–an Israeli vocal ensemble based in Basel, Switzerland, where its members were students of the prestigious Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Additional highlights include Cuba's famous Conjunto de Música Antigua Ars Longa, which will be stateside as part of its first American tour, performing works of the European, Latin American and Caribbean baroque tradition. To close out the season, the string ensemble Acronym will present works by Giovanni Valentini, along with two cantatas by Johanna Rosenmüller sung by rising young baritone Jesse Blumberg, culminating in the Venice Baroque Orchestra's return to Miami in March.

<p>A performance by cellist Anna Litvinenko will conclude the St.Hugh-Steinway Concert Series.</p>

A performance by cellist Anna Litvinenko will conclude the St.Hugh-Steinway Concert Series.

Now in its fifth season, the successful St.Hugh-Steinway Concert Series opens on Sept. 23rd with its first orchestral concert featuring Roberto Berrocal, its artistic director, performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, conducted by Pierre Vallet. The season continues with two vocal recitals in December and March, both with Berrocal at the piano. The first concert features soprano Elizabeth Caballero, the second Eglise Gutierrez and Arturo Chacón-Cruz. The cycle closes with a performance by cellist Anna Litvinenko, alongside Berrocal, on April 18.

Self-proclaimed "21st-century orchestra" Nu Deco Ensemble continues at full steam with its second season, which includes performances at the New World Center and Arsht Center, as well as at the ensemble’s home base, The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Wynwood. Running from October through April, its season will feature electro-acoustic orchestral music by William Brittelle, works by minimal music pioneer and drummer Steve Reich, and songs by Radiohead in its eclectic mix. The season also brings the world premiere of composer Ricardo Romaneiro’s “Trans,” as well as tributes to Frank Zappa and Prince. There will be collaborations with hip hop dance group Decadancetheatre and Banda Magda's Magda Giannikou

The opening concert will feature the premiere of “Massive Attack Symphonic Suite” by Nu Deco’s director Sam Hyken on Oct. 27. A highlight in March is the ensemble's Global Cuba Fest, with concerts featuring music by Cuba’s old masters and young composers.

<p>Nu Deco Ensemble&apos;s eclectic second season will span everything from Radiohead to Cuban music.&nbsp;</p>

Nu Deco Ensemble's eclectic second season will span everything from Radiohead to Cuban music. 

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