The classical music season for 2015-16 will be its usual overstuffed self, especially if you’re keen to travel outside Palm Beach County. Inside the county, things incline to the tried and true, but further south, they’re edgier.
Nevertheless, it’s a rich and bountiful season, and the first three months of the new year will present concertgoers with a huge menu of possible choices.
Orchestras: Four symphonic ensembles give regular, well-attended concerts during the season, and two of them are in a period of transition. The Symphonia Boca Raton, which is now in its 10th season, continues its series of guest conductors with Alistair Willis, director of the Springfield-based Illinois Symphony, joined by violinist Charles Wetherbee for the Violin Concerto No. 5 of Mozart on a program featuring music by Kodaly and Beethoven (Dec. 6). Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim returns to lead the Symphonia in another seasonal concert, accompanied by oboist John Dee, in two of the Bach Brandenburg Concertos as well as his Concerto for Violin and Oboe, and Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (Jan. 2). Russian pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine performs the rarely heard Ballade for piano and orchestra of Gabriel Fauré on Feb. 7 in a concert led by Hartford Symphony conductor Carolyn Kuan, who also has programmed music by Copland, Poulenc and Mozart. The season closes March 20 with one of the world’s great pianists, Misha Dichter, in the First Piano Concerto of Beethoven, conducted by the eminent former Seattle Symphony conductor Gerard Schwarz, who also has scheduled Charles Ives’s Unanswered Question and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony.
The unexpected retirement of the Atlantic Classical Orchestra conductor Stewart Robertson due to Parkinson’s disease was a particularly painful blow for the area music scene because Robertson had just added a regular series of Palm Beach Gardens concerts to the Fort Pierce-based orchestra’s lineup, as well as engineered two world premieres a season through the generosity of Boston’s Rappaport Foundation. This season, four finalists for the permanent spot can be seen at the Eissey Campus Theatre as well as at concerts in Stuart and Vero Beach. First up is Delaware Symphony director David Amado (Jan. 13, Eissey), in music by Weber and Schubert (Symphony No. 9) and the Shostakovich First Piano Concerto, with Stuart’s own Lindsay Garritson as soloist. Former Memphis Symphony conductor David Loebel conducts violinist Leonid Sigal in the Tzigane of Ravel, on a program (Feb. 10, Eissey) that also includes the same composer’s Mother Goose Suite and pieces by Tchaikovsky, Respighi and Haydn (Symphony No. 82, The Bear). Rei Hotoda, most recently assistant conductor of the Dallas Symphony, leads the fine pianist Jon Nakamatsu in the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto; she also has scheduled the Symphony No. 32 of Mozart and the Shostakovich Ninth Symphony (March 9, Eissey). The season closes with David Handel, principal guest conductor of the Moscow City Symphony, leading the band in music by Beethoven (Symphony No. 8), the Andante for Strings of the Chilean composer Alfonso Leng, and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, with the excellent American violinist Giora Schmidt as soloist (April 6, Eissey).
Ramón Tebar, who also is the music director of the Florida Grand Opera, returns for another season as director of the Palm Beach Symphony, opening with the superb Israeli cellist Amit Peled on Dec. 7 at the Society of the Four Arts in a tribute to the Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, featuring Casals’s own Song of the Birds, the Haydn Cello Concerto, and pieces by Handel, Ernst Bloch, Max Bruch and David Popper. The Boston Brass quintet guests with orchestra members Jan. 11 at the Flagler Museum in music by Bernstein (Dances from West Side Story) and Prokofiev (excerpts from Romeo and Juliet). Around Two weeks later, at a new venue, Palm Beach Gardens’s Benjamin School, Tebar conducts two German Romantic warhorses, the First Symphony of Schumann and the Fourth of Brahms (Jan. 27). At an invitation-only concert at Mar-a-Lago on March 16, Tebar will present music by his Spanish countryman Joaquin Turina (Danzas Fantasticas) along with Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and the Der Rosenkavalier Suite of Richard Strauss. Russian-American pianist Lola Astanova makes a return appearance in music of Mozart (Concerto No. 20), plus recital pieces by Chopin and Rachmaninov, after which the orchestra returns for the epic Fifth Symphony of Gustav Mahler (April 10, Kravis Center).
The South Florida Symphony, whose roots are in Key West, performs in the Conch Republic as well as Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Miami; its Boca shows are at FAU’s Kaye Auditorium. Director Sebrina Maria Alfonso opens the season in November with an all-Broadway vocal program featuring a quintet of singers and music by Rodgers, Kern, Loesser, Bernstein, Sondheim and Lloyd Webber (Nov. 15, Boca). Next, Alfonso welcomes Brett Karlin’s Master Chorale of South Florida to open the new year with Beethoven’s unstoppable Ninth Symphony, opening with a rarely heard Mozart masterwork, his Linz Symphony. (Jan. 24, Boca). The Basque-American violinist Elena Urioste is up next with the Mendlessohn Violin Concerto; Joan Tower’s Sequoia and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade round out the program (Feb. 28, Boca). Cellist Carter Brey is the soloist in the Schumann Cello Concerto on a concert that includes the Brahms Fourth and the Appalachian Spring Suite of Aaron Copland (April 3, Boca).
The Lynn Philharmonia, the student orchestra of Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music in Boca Raton, has improved measurably since violinist and conductor Guillermo Figueroa took over the group. This year, Figueroa has scaled back his menu of contemporary music, which is regrettable, but after all this is an orchestra that needs to train its members in the core repertoire. Each concert is presented twice, on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the Wold Performing Arts Center. Cellist David Cole is the soloist for Strauss’s Don Quixote on the first program, which includes the Suite No. 2 from Manuel de Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat; the sole contemporary work this season, Urugayan-American composer Miguel de Aguila’s Conga, rounds out the program (Oct. 3-4). Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony shares the bill with Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini and Puccini’s intermezzo from his opera Manon Lescaut on the Philharmonia’s second outing (Oct. 24-25), while for the third program, new Lynn bassoon professor Eric Van der Veer Varner is the soloist in the Bassoon Concerto of Carl Maria von Weber; Carl Nielsen’s magnificent Fourth Symphony will also be heard along with the Othello tone poem of Dvořák (Nov. 14-15). Winners of the conservatory’s concerto competition are heard Feb. 6 and 7, and in March, Figueroa offers two works by Berlioz (his favorite composer), the song cycle Les Nuits d’Été (soloist TBA) and the Hungarian March from La Damnation de Faust. Two other French works, the second Daphnis et Chlöe suite of Ravel, and Saint-Saëns’s spooky potboiler, Danse Macabre, round out the bill (March 19-20). The season closes in April with Handel’s Royal Fireworks music, the suite from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, and a symphonic tour de force, the Concerto for Orchestra of Béla Bartók.
In Fort Lauderdale, James Brooks-Bruzzese’s Symphony of the Americas enters its 28th season with a series of regular Tuesday evening concerts at the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Cuban pianist Jorge Luis Prats is the soloist in music by Tchaikovsky and Lecuona, while guest conductor Nino Lepore leads the group in music by Italian composer Nino Rota, best-known for his film scores (Oct. 13). The West Point Glee Club is the guest ensemble Nov. 10 in a selection of patriotic songs, while the orchestra offers music by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Sibelius and Smetana. An annual Christmas-themed program, “Sounds of the Season,” is next (Dec. 8 and 13), and the year opens with Romanian violinist Florin Ionescu-Galati in the Second Concerto of Henryk Wieniawski, sharing the concert with Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri overture and the Sixth Symphony of Dvořák (Jan. 12). Two Sunday matinees featuring vocal music from opera and Broadway (Feb. 14, with four soloists) and the Great White Way itself (March 6) come next, and the season closes with the Spanish pianist Joaquin Achúcarro in Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain; also on the program are two Russian works, Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia, and the Symphony No. 2 of Tchaikovsky, which features Ukrainian folksong (April 12).
The New World Symphony in Miami Beach begins its 28th season happily ensconced in its beautiful New World Center on 17th Street and has an excellent season laid out that began in mid-September but formally opens Oct. 10-11 with Russia’s Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble joining Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra in Stravinsky’s Le Renard and Les Noces, paired with Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony. Highlights of the season include an all-Schumann program on Oct. 30 with baritone Joshua Hopkins; a performance of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning climate change tone poem Become Ocean, by John Luther Adams (Dec. 5); pianist Jeffrey Kahane in the Mozart Concerto No. 22 with James Gaffigan (Jan. 30-31); pianist Emanuel Ax in the Fifth Piano Concerto of Beethoven under the celebrated young Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado; the U.S. premiere of Scottish composer Helen Grime’s Cold Spring on an all-English program including music by Adès and Tippett (March 26); the Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki, with cellist Anssi Karttunen in Henri Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain, along with music by Debussy and Rachmaninov (April 9-10); Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, with Simon O’Neill and Sasha Cooke, conducted by MTT (April 23-24); and the season closes with MTT and violist Roberto Diaz in Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, along with the last two symphonies (Nos. 6 and 7) of Jean Sibelius (May 7-8).
The Cleveland Orchestra opens the 10th year of its Miami residency Nov. 13 and 14 with two performances of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto, with soloist Johannes Moser; the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony, and the Second Symphony (Sinfonia India) of the Mexican master Carlos Chávez, all led by residency conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. The much-admired Norwegian pianist Lief Ove Adnsnes joins Franz Welser-Möst and the orchestra for Schumann’s Piano Concerto (2016 is the 150th anniversary year of the composer’s death) and two works by Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet and the First Symphony (Jan. 21-22). The following week, two orchestra principals, violinist William Preucil and cellist Mark Kosower, perform the Brahms Double Concerto on a program with two works by Prokofiev: the Divertissement and the Third Symphony (Jan. 29-30). Guerrero leads the final concert in the residency, which features French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Liszt’s Second Concerto, Mahler’s First Symphony, and a world premiere of an orchestral work by the Israeli composer Avner Dorman (March 17-19).
Guest orchestras: The Philadelphia Orchestra under Stéphane Denève, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, led by Dmitry Yablonsky, and the Toronto Symphony under Peter Oundjian make appearances at two of the big area venues this season. Pianist Jan Lisiecki joins the Toronto in the Beethoven Fourth (with John Estacio’s Wondrous Light and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade) and the Chopin First concerti (with Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony) in two concerts at the Kravis (Jan. 3-4), then repeat the Beethoven, Estacio and Rimsky at the Arsht Center on Jan. 7. Canadian violinist James Ehnes plays the Sibelius concerto with the Philadelphians on Feb. 23 at the Kravis, with Dvorak’s Eighth and an excerpt from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet; more of that score is heard on the 24th along with the Beatrice et Benedict overture of Berlioz and Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream music; that program is repeated Feb. 25 at the Arsht. That same day, the Jerusalem Symphony is joined by pianist Farhad Badalbeyli in the Prokofiev First Concerto at the Broward Center along with the Rachmaninov Second Symphony; on the 28th at the Kravis, 14-year-old cello prodigy Danielle Akta plays the Saint-Saëns First Concerto on a program with the Rachmaninov and The Khojaly Requiem of the contemporary Russian composer Alexander Tchaikovsky.
The Kravis hosts several other visitors, starting Nov. 21-22 with Philippe Entremont and the Munich Symphony joined by the Romero Guitar Quartet and soloist Pepe Romero in music of Rodrigo, plus works by Bizet, Massenet, Rossini and Mendelssohn. The Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili plays the Mozart Concerto No. 20 with the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on Jan. 25; music by Haydn, Arensky and Rachmaninov is also on the program. JoAnn Falletta returns on Feb. 7 with her Buffalo Philharmonic in the Brahms Second and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with British violinist Chloë Hanslip as soloist. And on March 7, American violinist Stefan Jackiw joins the Russian National Orchestra in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2; conductor Kirill Karabits also has scheduled Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia and the Firebird suite of Stravinsky.
Instrumentalists: As he has done for many years, violinist Itzhak Perlman performs recitals during the winter months; he’s at the Kravis on Dec. 16 and back on March 9 at the Arsht. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma comes to the Arsht on Nov. 15 with his Silk Road ensemble in a program of music from the BRIC countries, then returns Jan. 15 to the Kravis for a solo recital. Pianist Emanuel Ax, another frequent South Florida recitalist in the winter, offers a Beethoven program at the Broward Center on March 22, while the American pianist Jeremy Denk gives a recital at the Arsht on March 31. Another pianist, Haochen Zhang, returns to the Kravis on April 4 in a program of music by Schubert, Chopin and Prokofiev.
A special Kravis event is set for March 9, when the brilliant young American organist Cameron Carpenter will dedicate the venue’s new Marshall & Ogletree digital organ with a performance of the Organ Symphony of Saint-Saëns, accompanied by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
Meanwhile, the Palm Beach County fundraising arm of Germany’s Kronberg Academy plans concerts Jan. 10 at the Boca Steinway Gallery and Jan. 13 at the Benjamin School; the young Russian cellist Anastasia Kobekina will also appear later in the season.
Chamber: The Delray String Quartet, which comes off a season of world premieres, a Bargemusic appearance and recordings for Naxos, opens the new season with a different lineup: Second violinist Tomas Cotik is taking that role in Miami’s Amernet Quartet, and he’ll be replaced in the Delray by Valentin Mansurov, a familiar face in chamber concerts hereabouts for some time. The quartet offers two performances of each concert, Fridays at All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Lauderdale and Sundays at the Colony Hotel in downtown Delray Beach. Music of Turina and Piazzolla share the bill with quartets by Ginastera and Villa-Lobos (Oct. 30, Nov. 1) to open the season, while Ukrainian-born pianist Marina Radiushina joins the quartet for the Piano Quintet of Erich Wolfgang Korngold on a program with music by Dvořák and Hoffmeister (Dec. 11, 13). The quartet reprises its world premiere from last season, the Seventh Quartet of Richard Danielpour on Jan. 3 and 15, along with a quartet by Arensky and an arrangement of four fugues from J.S. Bach’s Art of the Fugue. Pianist Tao Lin is the guest Feb. 25 and 28 for quintets by Schumann and Boccherini, and the season ends with a quartet by Mozart (No. 16 in E-flat), and the Second Quartet of Leoš Janáček. (Tickets $30-$35; call 561-213-4138 or visit www.delraystringquartet.com)
The Society of the Four Arts always has a robust chamber music season, and this year continues that tradition, with Sunday afternoon concerts for $20 at the Gubelmann Auditorium at the Society’s Palm Beach campus. The much-admired Escher String Quartet arrives just after the new year (Jan. 10), followed by American Chamber Players of Washington, D.C., who have played the Four Arts every season for years (Jan. 17). The Danish piano trio, Trio Con Brio Copenhagen (Jan. 24) is next, with Germany’s Minguett Quartet in town on Jan. 31. Another regular Four Arts guest, pianist Jeffrey Siegel, presents the first of his commentary-recitals, on Schumann (Feb. 7), with France’s Modigliani Quartet after that (Feb. 14). The great American pianist Joseph Kalichstein guests with the Amernet Quartet on Feb. 21, and the Romeros guitar family arrives Feb. 28. Siegel returns March 20 with a recital of visually inspired music, including Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Also not to miss on its Wednesday concert series (tickets: $40-$45) is the great all-male choral group Chanticleer on Jan. 27 and soprano Deborah Voigt in a one-woman show in which she discusses her illustrious career (Feb. 3). (Call 561-655-7226 or visit fourarts.org)
Also on Palm Beach, the Flagler Museum has offered years of Tuesday night concerts followed by high-end nosh for years; this season, museum chief and concert organizer John Blades has found five younger groups with rising reputations. Canada’s New Orford Quartet opens the series Jan. 12 with two of the late quartets of Beethoven (Nos. 13 and 16), and the Emory University-based Vega Quartet offers Beethoven (No. 11), Haydn (No. 31 in B minor), and Mendelssohn (No. 4) on Jan. 26. The San Diego-based Naeve Trio presents piano trios by Dvořák (No. 3) and Korngold on Feb. 9, while the Bennewitz Quartet of the Czech Republic, at its Feb. 26 appearance, performs music by Dussek, Schulhoff and Schubert. The season closes with the Meccore Quartet of Poland on March 8 with pieces by Beethoven (No. 4), Haydn (No. 37 in C) and Sibelius’s Voces Intimae. (All concerts at 7:30 pm Tuesdays; tickets are $70, with complimentary champagne reception. Call 655-2833 or visit www.flaglermuseum.us.)
The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach, based at Mar-a-Lago (no word on whether the presidential campaign of its owner, Donald Trump, will affect it in any way), is exclusively priced for members (last season, it was $125 per concert), but features some wonderful performers. This third season, the society is hosting three concerts of young artists at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens to reach a wider audience. The regular concerts open Nov. 24 with violinist Arnaud Sussman and pianist Orion Weiss in music of Bach, Mozart, Grieg, Brahms and Sarasate. The spectacular piano duo of Anderson and Roe return Dec. 16 with music of Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms (Haydn Variations) and Piazzolla, and on Jan. 21, members of the New York Philharmonic present music by Schubert, Brahms and Dohnanyi. The fine Montenegrin guitarist Miloš Karadaglič returns Feb. 16 with music by Sor, Bach and Ginastera, and on March 10, baritone John Brancy is accompanied by violinist Sean Lee and pianist Peter Dugan in a recital of vocal music. The season closes April 14 with the Orpheus Artists in oboe and flute quartets by Mozart. The Young Artists program features the young Hermès Quartet of Paris (Jan. 16), Taiwanese-American violinist Paul Huang (Feb. 24), and cellist Cicely Parnas, granddaughter of the great cellist Leslie Parnas, on March 24. (Call 379-6773 or visit www.cmspb.org for membership information; tickets for the Eissey performances range from $30-$40).
Mark Alexander’s Classical Café series at the Duncan Theatre on the campus of Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth offers interesting programs in the intimate Stage West black-box annex to the Duncan. The Wednesday afternoons series opens Jan. 6 with the Calidore String Quartet of Los Angeles in music of Haydn (No. 43 in G), Webern and late Beethoven (No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132). Pianist David Kaplan presents an hommage to Schumann in the 150th anniversary year of his death with a modern version of the composer’s Davidsbundlertänze, here mixed with short pieces by contemporary American composers such as Augusta Read Thomas and Gabriel Kahane (Jan. 20). The piano and violin duo of the Irrera Brothers appears Feb. 23 with music by Suk, Pärt, Grieg, Vitali and Gershwin, and the series ends March 30 with a recital by pianist Navah Perlman (daughter of Itzhak). (Tickets: $29; call 868-3309 or visit duncantheatre.org.
The Chameleon Musicians series organized by cellist Iris van Eck enters its 14th season with five concerts at the Leiser Center in Fort Lauderdale. These concerts, often with unusual repertoire, are followed by an expansive spread of sandwiches and desserts. Piano trios by Breton, Ravel, Arbos, Granados and Schchedrin are on the Oct. 25 first program featuring van Eck, violinist Dmitri Pogorelov and pianist Silvije Vidovic. Amernet Quartet violinist Misha Vitenson and violist Michael Klotz join van Eck Nov. 29 for trios by Reger, Bach and Muczynski. Pianist Kemal Gekic and van Eck offer French music for cello and piano by Lalo, Couperin and Onslow on Jan. 24, and the Amernet Quartet is joined by special guests March 20 for pieces by Rimsky-Korsakov and others. The season ends with piano quartets on April 17 by Mozart, Dora Pejačevič and Zygmunt Noskovski. (Tickets are $40; concerts are at 3 pm Sundays; call 954-761-3435.)
Choral: The Master Chorale of South Florida, like its defunct parent the Florida Phiharmonic, gives each of its programs in three counties. Brett Karlin’s chorus opens the season with Mozart’s Requiem (K. 626), joined by The Symphonia Boca Raton (Oct. 23, Coral Ridge Presbyterian, Fort Lauderdale; Oct. 24, First United Methodist Church, Coral Gables; Oct. 25, Roberts Theater, Boca Raton). A holiday concert, Cocoa and Carols, is scheduled for Dec. 4-6, and there’s a Messiah sing-in at First Presbyterian in Pompano Beach on Dec. 11. Music of the Great White Way is featured on Broadway Legends: Sondheim, Gershwin and Friends (Feb. 19-21), and the season closes with the Lord Nelson Mass of Haydn (April 29-May 1). (Call 954-641-2653 or visit www.masterchoraleofsouthflorida.com)
One of the great success stories in South Florida classical music has been the concert choir Seraphic Fire, founded 13 years ago by Patrick Dupré Quigley. It’s been nominated for two Grammys, and this year it will add a series in Naples and a three-concert series in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. Sadly, it has stopped trying to found a series in Palm Beach County, since it could never raise the donor support there it needed. The closest concerts are at All Saints Episcopal in Fort Lauderdale. First up is a world premiere, Jake Runestad’s The Hope of Loving, on a program with Schubert’s Mass in G (Oct. 14-18; Oct. 17 at All Saints), followed by the Coronation Anthems of Handel (Nov. 6, All Saints). The annual Christmas carol program (Dec. 13, All Saints) is followed by Handel’s Messiah from Dec. 18-20 (Dec. 18, All Saints). A program of American spirituals (Jan. 16, All Saints) opens the year, and in February, the Seraphic Fire-commissioned completion of Mozart’s Requiem by American composer Gregory Spears returns after a two-year break and some revisions (Feb. 12, All Saints). The Chansons de Roses of American choral legend Morten Lauridsen is the centerpiece of a concert of American modernists (March 12, All Saints), while the two-piano “London” version of Brahms’s German Requiem, the recording of which won the group a Grammy nod, comes back into the repertory April 8-1 and April 19-21 in the Northeast (April 8, All Saints). Quigley leads the group and the New World Symphony at the New World Center in Miami Beach on April 16 in a reading of Steve Reich’s The Desert Music, and the season closes May 11-15 with music by the English Renaissance master William Byrd (May 14, All Saints). (Tickets range from $40-$55; call 305-285-9060 or visit www.seraphicfire.org.)
Festivals: The Festival of the Arts Boca, which takes up a week or so in early March at Mizner Park with its program of music and letters, will announce its new season, set for March 4-16, on Nov. 13. Festival Miami, which opens in October for a month at the University of Miami, features the splendid American pianist Simone Dinnerstein in the Florida premiere of a piano concerto by the Juilliard professor Philip Lasser (Oct. 16). Violinist Charles Castleman plays a solo recital Oct. 18, and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet performs Oct. 25. Hornist Richard Todd, violinist Joel Smirnoff and pianist Christopher O’Riley team for chamber works Oct. 28, and on Oct. 30, rock songwriter Ben Folds plays his piano concerto with UM’s Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra. (Call 305-284-4940 or visit festivalmiami.com; visit festivaloftheartsboca.org or call 561-368-8445 for more information).