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Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Superconductor Fall Preview: The New York Philharmonic 2013-2014

New directions for New York's oldest orchestra.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Photo (by the author) of this year's New York Philharmonic 2013-2014 season announcement press packet. 
Original photograph by Chris Lee © 2013 The New York Philharmonic.
The New York Philharmonic's 2013-2014 season looks to continue on the path forged by Alan Gilbert in his first four years as music director. However, America's oldest orchestra will also strike out in bold directions, exploring new music, film music, and (once more) the Beethoven piano concertos.

That last will be the concern of new Artist-in-Residence Yefim Bronfman, who takes the torch from New York's own Emanuel Ax. Mr. Bronfman will present a complete cycle of Beethoven concertos at the very end of the season (June 11-28) contrasting these five heroic works with new compositions from Anthony Cheung and Sean Shepherd, co-recipients of this year's Kravis Prize.

Another highlight: the Philharmonic Biennial, a ten-day festival (May 29-June 7) held in cooperation with The Juilliard School, the 92nd St. Y and the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Details are still sketchy (and the program is mostly unannounced) but these concerts will focus unflinchingly on cutting-edge new music in a manner guaranteed to make conservative concert-goers wince.

What's interesting next year is a trend toward younger composers and conductors and a move toward the orchestra's future. Absent: Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, any operas and the work of puppeteer Doug Fitch. At the very least, this next season will be different.

Here's ten notable programs from next year's Philharmonic schedule. Mark your Google calendars.

Sept. 20-21, 2013: 
To Infinity...and Beyond. 
Film music? The New York Philharmonic revives the idea of combining an orchestra with the moving image with a performance of the complete score to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 sci-fi extravaganza. That means the musicians will play works from both Richard and Johann Strauss, along with the experimental compositions by György Ligeti that accompany the film's most brain-melting moments.

Oct. 3-9:
Meet Mr. Frieze
The Beethoven Ninth is an important work for any music director. Here, Alan Gilbert offers his first take on the marathon symphony with its famous choral conclusion celebrating Joy in all its aspects. It's paired with Frieze, a new work by British Marc-Anthony Turnage.

Oct. 17-19:
Revolution Calling
Semyon Bychkov's Oct. 2012 appearance with the Met Orchestra was one of last year's best concerts. Here, the Russian maestro pairs Rachmanininoff's beloved Paganini Rhapsody with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11: The Year 1905, a blow-by-blow account of the Russian people's first attempt to overthrow Tsar Nicholas II.

Oct. 30-Nov. 5:
Finnish What You Started
At last! Esa-Pekka Salonen's epic Violin Concerto gets a New York hearing, framed by Ravel's Ma Mere L'Oye and the soul-stirring Fifth Symphony by Mr. Salonen's countryman Jean Sibelius.

Nov. 21-23:
A Spring in your Step
In the middle of all the hoopla over Wagner and Verdi's 200th birthdays, the New York Philharmonic remembers that 2013 is also the centennial of one Benjamin Britten. This composer focuses on the composer's work and features his lush Spring Symphony and an appearance by tenor Paul Appleby.

Dec. 12-14:
A Hero's Exit
Glenn Dicterow is marking his last year as Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic with a series of concerts showcasing his solo violin. The one to hear is the difficult Ein Heldenleben, paired here with the Beethoven Symphony No. 8.

Jan. 2-7, 2014
Meet the Residents
New music rules as artist-in-residence Yefim Bronfman has a second bout with Magnus Lindberg's thorny Second Piano Concerto. The concerts also feature Rapture by current composer-in-residence Christopher Rouse, which has nothing in common with a certain hit single by Blondie.

March 27-29:
The Dude Abides
Gustavo Dudamel returns for three subscription concerts with the Philharmonic, featuring the three completed movements of Anton Bruckner's heaven-reaching (but unfinished) Symphony No. 9. Also on the bill: Orion, an otherworldly tone poem by the late French Canadian composer Claude Vivier.

May 5 (at Carnegie Hall):
A Matter of Death...
This is big. Massively big. Christopher Rouse's Requiem is the composer's self-described magnum opus, requiring huge orchestral and choral forces to set the Mass for the Dead. This performance opens the 2014 Spring For Music Festival at Carnegie Hall, and is one night only.

May 15-17:
...and a Matter of Life
This is bigger. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. In fact, the six-movement Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler holds the Guinness record as the longest symphony in the standard orchestral repertoire. It's six movements. Mahler describes the creation of Earth, the rising of the mountains, and the arrival of Spring. (And that's just the first movement.) Bernard Haitink conducts. He'll be 85 when these concerts roll around.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.