The shade of Ludwig van Beethoven looms large over this season, as he will the next, because the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth falls in 2020. No fewer than five performances of the Ninth Symphony are coming our way this season, but there’s also plenty of the master’s chamber music to be had this time around, too (including several readings of his late string quartets).
That said, there are also important changes this year, with Gerard Schwarz taking over the Palm Beach Symphony, and Boca’s Symphonia offering shortened versions of its regular concerts at Delray Beach’s Crest Theatre. Look, too, for some major pianists making long-overdue visits, and cutting-edge string quartets redefining our sonic future.
Here’s a look at the stuffed-to-the-gills classical season, by the months:
Under its new director, Paul Cienniwa, the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church music series is in its 32nd year of Sunday afternoon events at the Delray Beach church. The Trillium Piano Trio of Jupiter, which always plays one of the first concerts, returns Oct. 20 with a new cellist (the veteran Susan Bergeron) and music of Turina, Smetana, David Lang and Beethoven (his Op. 1, No. 1).
The Lynn Philharmonia welcomes pianist Jon Nakamatsu on Oct. 26 and 27 at the Wold Performing Arts Center on the campus of the Boca Raton college for the Third Concerto of Rachmaninov; conductor Guillermo Figueroa also will lead the student orchestra in the Symphonie Fantastique of Berlioz. Local pianist Lindsay Garritson, on the brink of a New York debut, stops in at Abram Kreeger’s Piano Lovers series at the Boca Steinway Gallery on Oct. 27 for a concert of music by Haydn, Granados, Brahms and the Prokofiev Sonata No. 7. That same afternoon, the South Florida contemporary music series Zimmermann’s Café Chamber Music presents a concert of music by Clare Shore, Morgan Denney, Olivia Kieffer, Frederic Glesser and Marshall Turkin at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lake Worth Beach.
The Miami concert choir Seraphic Fire, which will have another Boca Raton series at St. Gregory’s Episcopal across the street from Mizner Park, opens its 18th season with a truly daring event: the Ordo Virtutum, a 12th-century morality play about a human soul’s fight to stay on a path of virtue, by the German abbess and mystic Hildegard of Bingen. You won’t be hearing this around here any time soon other than this, so make sure to be there (five performances, Nov. 7 at St. Gregory’s).
The Master Chorale of South Florida offers pieces by Bach, Vivaldi and Handel in a Baroque-themed concert Nov. 17 at the Roberts Theater in Boca Raton, and the Kravis Center’s Regional Arts series gets underway on the 19th with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, featuring the outstanding Russian pianist Olga Kern in the Second Concerto of Rachmaninov. Tchaikovsky (who was born in what is now Ukraine) is featured in his beautiful First Symphony, and the concert opens with a symphony by Ukraine’s Mozart, the 18th-century composer Maksym Berezovsky.
That same day, soprano Brandie Sutton joins the South Florida Symphony for Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, as well as the Mahler Fourth Symphony, where she appears in the finale (Broward Center, Fort Lauderdale). The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach launches its seventh season Nov. 21 with piano trio music featuring violinist Arnaud Sussmann, pianist Gloria Chien and clarinetist Anthony McGill. On Nov. 24, the excellent cellist Jason Calloway (Amernet String Quartet) drops by St. Paul’s for three of the Bach cello suites (Nos. 1, 3 and 5).
Beethoven is the man of the hour Dec. 8 when the eminent conductor Gerard Schwarz begins his tenure as leader of the Palm Beach Symphony; pianist Horacio Gutierrez plays the Fourth Piano Concerto, and Schwarz leads the orchestra, three choruses and four soloists in the Ninth Symphony, all at the Kravis Center. That same day the Roberts Theater in western Boca Raton, The Symphonia opens its season under Alastair Willis with soprano Robyn Marie Lamp singing Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 on a program that also includes music by Copland, Wagner and Respighi. The Symphonia repeats an abbreviated version of this concert (no Barber) at Delray Beach’s Crest Theatre two days later as part of its New Directions series.
The Kravis itself opens its Young Artists series Dec. 9 at the Rinker Playhouse with all-female Aizuri Quartet, based in New York; the foursome will play music by Haydn, Sibelius, the Armenian priest Komitas Vardapet, and Carrot Revolution, a quartet by the very young San Francisco-based composer Gabriella Smith.
Seraphic Fire brings its annual Christmas concert to St. Gregory’s in Boca on Dec. 12, while Russian-born pianist Asiya Korepanova performs an all-Beethoven recital Dec. 14 at Piano Lovers, and on the 15th, the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach welcomes pianist Orion Weiss, violinist Yura Lee and the veteran cellist Clive Greensmith for an all-Beethoven concert featuring the Archduke Trio. On the 16th, Austria’s Vienna Academy Orchestra is heard at the Kravis in organ and orchestra music by Haydn, Handel, Mozart and Michel Corrette, with soprano Robin Johannsen joining director/organist Martin Haselböck for motets including Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate.
Palm Beach’s Society of the Four Arts opens its 2020 season with young musicians from the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia on Jan. 5; on the program are string quartets by Beethoven and David Hertzberg, plus the Piano Quintet of Cesar Franck. That same afternoon, conductor Carolyn Kuan returns to the Symphonia, joined by the fine Miami-based violinist Daniel Andai for a violin concerto by Haydn, a suite for strings by Brazil’s Clarice Assad, and the Fourth Symphony of Mendelssohn. Or you could head over to the Kravis for an all-Beethoven sonata recital by the much-admired violinist Midori, here accompanied by the stylish French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
On the 8th, Fort Pierce’s Atlantic Classical Orchestra launches its regular series at the Eissey Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens with pianist Gabriela Martinez in the Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and conductor David Amado leads the band in Beethoven’s First Symphony and the first set of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances (the Op. 46 collection). Also on Jan. 8, violinist Bomsori Kim and pianist Juho Pohjonen play sonatas by Schumann and Prokofiev at the Four Arts.
The Jupiter String Quartet brings quartets by Schubert (Death and the Maiden) and Beethoven (No. 15) to the Four Arts on Jan. 12, while the splendid violinist Chee-Yun joins Gerard Schwarz and the Palm Beach Symphony on Jan. 13 at the Four Arts for the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto; Schwarz has also planned Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Copland’s Applachian Spring and the Plea for Peace of the contemporary American composer Augusta Read Thomas. Over at the Kravis that same day, Poland’s Wroclaw Philharmonic arrives with violinist Janusz Wawrowski to play the First Concerto of Karol Szymanowski. Nicaraguan-American conductor Giancarlo Guerrero also leads the orchestra in the Symphonic Variations of Witold Lutoslawski and the Brahms First Symphony. It plays a second performance on the afternoon of the 14th with French pianist David Fray in the Second Piano Concerto of Chopin; Guerrero has also scheduled Szymanowski’s Concert Overture and the Dvořák New World Symphony.
On the night of Jan. 14, the Flagler Museum opens its Tuesday night series of chamber music concerts at Whitehall on Palm Beach with the Ying Quartet, and on Jan. 16, violinist Irmina Trynkos plays the contemporary French-Israeli composer Nimrod Borenstein’s Violin Concerto with the South Florida Symphony at the Broward Center; conductor Sebrina Maria Alfonso has also scheduled the Sixth Symphony of Anton Bruckner.
A special event is scheduled Jan. 14-26 at Lynn University, with the second Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition, won by the American violinist Sirena Huang in 2017. This year’s competition features a specially composed work by the eminent American composer Christopher Theofanidis; the finalists perform with orchestra Jan. 25 and 26.
London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra visits the Kravis on the 19th with the Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, who plays the Liszt Second Concerto; conductor Mark Wigglesworth will also offer the Rachmaninov Second Symphony and Walton’s Portsmouth Point Overture.
Pianist Wu Han, who directs the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York, joins three of its players Jan. 22 at the Four Arts for music by Fauré, Ravel and Saint-Saëns; also that day, the young Spanish violinist Francisco Fullana, an alum of the Lincoln Center group, offers a solo recital of music by Bach, Paganini, Ysaÿe, Kreisler and Isang Yun at the Rinker Playhouse. The Delray String Quartet, now in residence at St. Paul’s, presents a concert of music by women composers Jan. 24, including pieces by Amy Beach, Fanny Mendelssohn, Rebecca Clarke and the Swedish Romantic Elfrida Andrée.
The Parker Quartet plays late Beethoven (Quartet No. 15) at the Four Arts on the 26th along with Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Homonculus, and the Master Chorale of South Florida presents the Beethoven Ninth Symphony on Feb. 26 at Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort Lauderdale. The Flagler welcomes the Aureole Trio (flute, viola and harp) on Jan. 28; the group first appeared there back in 2005. The Ehnes Quartet is in town Jan. 29 for the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach, and two Beethoven quartets are on the program.
The Four Arts opens the month Feb. 2 with violinist Isabelle Faust, cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and pianist Alexander Melnikov in a program of Beethoven piano trios, including the Ghost; the German “piano windtet” Ensemble 4.1 plays music by Beethoven, Heinrich von Herzogenberg (a friend of Brahms) and Avner Dorman on Feb. 6 at the Four Arts. Guest conductor José-Luis Novo takes the reins of the Palm Beach Symphony on Feb. 7 at Benjamin Hall in Palm Beach Gardens, presenting Mozart’s Haffner Symphony and his Flute and Harp Concerto, with soloists Nadine Asin (flute) and Kay Kemper (harp); in addition to Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, Novo also offers music from his native Spain in the Los esclavos felices overture of the tragically short-lived Juan Arriaga.
The Symphonia offers its birthday tribute to Beethoven on Feb. 9 with conductor James Judd, who will direct the King Stephen Overture and the Fifth Symphony; violinist Elissa Lee Koljonen and cellist Yumi Kendall play the Double Concerto of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. The South Florida Symphony celebrates Beethoven with a performance of the Ninth Symphony on the 9th at the Broward Center; Schumann’s Piano Concerto, with soloist Svetlana Smolina, fills out the program.
The Euclid Quartet plays the Flagler on Feb. 11, with quartets by Beethoven and Debussy, and at the Rinker Playhouse that same evening, the young American pianist Eric Lu can be heard in recital. Violinist Benjamin Beilman and pianist Andrew Tyson play works for violin and piano Feb. 13 for the Chamber Music Society, and on Feb. 16 at St. Gregory’s in Boca, Seraphic Fire performs the Coffee and Wedding cantatas of J.S. Bach.
Harpist Bridget Kibbey and mandolinist Avi Avital team Feb. 16 at the Four Arts for music by Bach, Tchaikovsky, Falla and Rodrigo, among others. Pianist Polina Osetinskaya joins the Russian State Symphony Orchestra on the afternoon of Feb. 17 at the Kravis for the Schumann Piano Concerto; conductor Valery Polyansky also offers two works by Tchaikovsky, including the Fifth Symphony. The next day in that same hall, the wonderful American violinist Joshua Bell leads Britain’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in the First Concerto of Paganini, with Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and Brahms’s Fourth Symphony.
The American violinist (and yoga specialist) Elena Urioste solos in the Beethoven Violin Concerto on the 19th with David Amado and the Atlantic Classical Orchestra at the Eissey Campus Theatre; Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite and the American composer Jennifer Higdon’s Dance Card round out the program. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is scheduled for Feb. 22 and 23 at Lynn Philharmonia, which is joined by the Master Chorale of South Florida; music by Adams and Copland also is on the program.
The expert violinist Gil Shaham is joined by the New York chamber orchestra The Knights on Feb. 23 at the Four Arts for the Beethoven Violin Concerto; that same day at the Kravis, violinist Michael Barenboim (Daniel’s son) presents the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble’s chamber group in music of Schubert, Brahms, Tartini and Mendelssohn.
The American String Quartet presents an all-Beethoven program at the Flagler Museum on the 25th, including the monumental Quartet No. 13 in B-flat, with the perilous Grosse Fuge, and in a mashup of two excellent young foursomes, the Escher Quartet and the Dover Quartet come together Feb. 26 for the Chamber Society in octets by Mendelssohn and Georges Enescu. At the end of the month, the Festival of the Arts Boca opens, featuring the Eroica Trio on Feb. 29 in the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Symphonia.
The Montenegrin classical guitarist Miloš returns to the Festival of the Arts Boca on March 1 for chamber works, joined by a quartet from Lynn University, while Lidia Kaminska brings her bandoneon to the Atlantic Classical Orchestra on March 4, where she’ll play Piazzolla’s concerto for that instrument on a program that also features Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 and the Third Symphony of Schumann. At the Broward Center on the 5th, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Cello Concerto has its world premiere with soloist Zuill Bailey and the South Florida Symphony; music by Mendelssohn and Beethoven also is on the program.
Miami’s “21st-century orchestra,” the Nu Deco Ensemble, returns March 7 to the Festival of the Arts Boca, an an unusual program of music for cartoons, accompanied by the original films, is planned March 9 at the Rinker Playhouse in a concert by The Queen’s Cartoonists. Wrapping up the Flagler season on March 10 is the Claremont Trio, making a return appearance to Whitehall, and at the Chamber Society that same day is the Miro Quartet, joined by cellist Clive Greensmith for the Schubert “Cello” Quintet.
On the 11th at the Four Arts, Wu Han is joined by cellist David Finckel (her husband) and violinist Arnaud Sussmann for an all-Beethoven program featuring the Archduke Piano Trio. Trumpeter Brandon Ridenour is in recital on the 12th at the Rinker, the Israeli Chamber Project debuts at the Four Arts on March 15 with early works by Beethoven and Bartok, and pianist Emanuel Ax joins the Rotterdam Philharmonic on the 17th at the Kravis for the Concerto No. 1 of Brahms; also on the program, led by Lahav Shani, is the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra.
On the 18th, the great American pianist Garrick Ohlsson comes to the Four Arts for the first time with a program of music by Chopin (Third Sonata) and Brahms, and on the 19th at the Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, accordion soloist Hanzhi Wang is featured in the Accordion Concerto of Paul Creston with the Palm Beach Symphony under Gerard Schwarz, who also has programmed David Diamond’s Rounds and the Mendelssohn Fourth Symphony.
The New World Symphony leaves its comfortable Frank Gehry confines in Miami Beach on March 22 for a concert at the Kravis featuring Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, led by Joshua Gersen, while on that same day the German violist Tabea Zimmermann teams with Spanish pianist Javier Perianes at the Four Arts for pieces by Schubert, Brahms, Falla, Albeniz and others.
Closing out the classical season at the Four Arts on March 29 is the quartet Brooklyn Rider, whose program’s first half will consist of five pieces by contemporary women composers including Caroline Shaw and Reena Esmail; the second half is devoted to Beethoven’s Quartet No. 15; also that day, the Canadian pianist Marika Bournaki solos in the Beethoven Third Concerto; conductor Laura Jackson also has programmed Julia Adolphe’s Shiver and Bloom and Britten’s Frank Bridge Variations.
The brilliant American organist Cameron Carpenter makes a return visit to the Kravis on April 6, and soprano Susanna Phillips collaborates with pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and violist Paul Neubauer for the ending of the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach season. The Atlantic Classical Orchestra closes its season April 8 with harpist Bridget Kibbey in a concerto by the Brazilian composer Joao Luiz; the concert opens with the Siegfried Idyll of Wagner and ends with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
Handel’s complete Messiah is scheduled for April 15 at St. Gregory’s in a performance by Seraphic Fire; the oratorio is an Easter piece, not a Christmas one. A true rarity can be heard April 16 at the Broward Center when pianist Mark Bebbington joins the South Florida Symphony for the Piano Concerto of the British composer Frederick Delius; Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite also is planned. The Lynn Philharmonia closes its season April 18 and 19 with the Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante, with the brilliant cellist Jonah Kim as soloist; the concert also features Strauss’ tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra.
Pianist Misha Dichter closes out the Palm Beach Symphony on April 19 with Gershwin’s Concerto in F; guest conductor David Zinman also will lead the band in the contemporary South Korean composer HyeKyung Lee’s Climbing Tomorrow and the Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony.
For at least two performing arts organizations, the season stretches past Easter into May. The Master Chorale of South Florida presents Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah on May 3 at the Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University, and Seraphic Fire exits its 18th season on May 5 at St. Gregory’s with a program of music for men’s chorus, including that latter-day hit, Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria.