MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Seattle Symphony Announces 2023-24 Season

UPDATE: See Michael Schell’s insightful comments on the new season announcement here.

The Seattle Symphony’s (SSO) 2023-24 season announcement was released today. The orchestra will celebrate two anniversaries: 120 years since its founding and 25 years since the opening of Benaroya Hall, which became home base in 1998. Main areas of focus: broader programming across all SSO series to connect with new audiences, an increase in the presence of living composers, a greater concentration of works new to SSO’s repertoire, and the launch of a new curated series (“Playlist”).

Opening night will replicate part of the SSO’s first-ever concert from December 29, 1903 (Schubert’s “Unfinished” and Massenet’s Overture to Phèdre) and the first concert the musicians played at Benaroya Hall on September 12, 1998 (selections from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung — which featured Jessye Norman back then); Arthur Honegger’s Pastorale d’Été will also be introduced to the SSO’s repertoire; Ludovic Morlot conducts.

SSO’s distinguished emeritus will return for another program in June (versus three separate programs led by Morlot in the current season). Aside from appearances by Sunny Xia, SSO’s Douglas F. King Assistant Conductor, the rest of the season will be led by a wide range of visiting conductors — many of whom have already guested here. Alpesh Chauhan and David Robertson led especially impressive performances earlier this season, so it’s nice to see that they will return. Making their debuts on the podium are Kevin John Edusei, Christian Reif, Bernard Labadie, Sarah Hicks, and Andy Einhorn. I’m also looking forward to hearing the much-touted Dalia Stasevska (I wasn’t able to make her SSO debut a year ago). She will be joined by her composer/electric bassist husband, Lauri Porra, in a program of the Sibelius Fifth complemented by Porra’s concerto for electric bass, Entropia, andNautilus by Anna Meredith. Note that this is not a continuation of the halfway-completed Sibelius cycle paired with new commissions that Thomas Dausgaard had launched before the pandemic. That endeavor has been discontinued.

The SSO has been keeping quiet about the ongoing search for a music director. The Press Office states that “the search is well underway and many performances from seasons past, current, and future are all carefully being considered by the Search Committee.”

I also asked about this press release statement: “The 2023/2024 season brings a continuation of creative partnerships that welcome not only the next generation of composers and performers, but new members of our community as well.” The response was that this refers to less traditional programs like the Metropolis evening and the weeklong residency in January of film composer, conductor, and pianist Joe Hisaishi, as well as popular programming with artists like Audra Macdonald. It also refers to programs and series featuring newer voices among the young generation of classical musicians and SSO’s educational programming.

On the new music front: the press release calls out the following among the “more than 35 living composers” who are part of the programming: “Salina Fisher, Nina C. Young, Aaron Jay Kernis, Reena Esmail, Lauri Porra, David Robertson, Steven Mackey, Linda Catlin Smith, Gretchen Yanover, Donghoon Shin, Dorothy Chang, Han Lash, Sarah Gibson, Alexandra Gardner, Angélica Negrón, Fazil Say, Jake Heggie, Jennifer Higdon, Edgar Meyer, Jessie Montgomery, Kevin Puts and more.” The last five named are co-collaborators for the Elements Concerto featuring Joshua Bell, which Marin Alsop will conduct on the closing program of the season. It should also be noted that several of these are part of the Octave 9 season performed in the SSO’s adjacent experimental space. The SSO began expanding this sold-out series during the current season.

A focus on “firsts” is also on the agenda. Remarkably, Bach’s St. John Passion will receive its first-ever SSO performance. Other firsts for the orchestra: Julia Perry’s Short Piece for Orchestra, John Adams’s Harmonium, Salina Fisher’s Rainphase, Lutoslawski’s Cello Concerto, Dorothy Chang’s Northern Star, Donghoon Shin’s Of Rats and Men, Fagerlund’s Stonework, Aaron Jay Kernis’s Elegy (For Those We Lost),  the previously mentioned Elements Concerto and Meredith and Porra pieces. A program that looks especially intriguing will be the SSO’s first-ever performance of Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 7 (Antarctic) led by Gemma New and featuring soprano Jennifer Bromagen. This event promises “an immersive multimedia experience of the doomed Terra Nova Expedition” — Robert Falcon Scott’s journey to the Antarctic in 1910-13 — with original visuals from 1912.

Among debuting soloists, I’m delighted to see that the pianist Mahani Teave will be making her SSO debut in Mozart’s K. 466 piano concerto in October. A native of Easter Island and has an amazing story I wrote about for the New York Times here. Teave will also inaugurate the new no-intermission Playlist Series, which will be curated by Conrad Tao and Noah Geller.

As far as new commissions, however, I see only one by SSO on the program (versus five commissions this season, four of them orchestral): a not-yet-titled work for solo cello an video design by Gretchen Yanover, which will be premiered on the Octave 9 series. Reena Esmail’s wonderful Concerto for Hindustani Violin, co-created with soloist Kala Ramnath, will make a welcome return after its premiere here last year.

Complete chronological listing of the 2023-24 season:

–Thomas May

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: