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The Florida Orchestra offers a new season of firsts

BY KURT LOFT
Tribune correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: February 16, 2014 at 12:07 PM

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A thoroughly modern American orchestra should, by definition, play its share of modern music.

Otherwise, it only serves as a gatekeeper to the past. We all love our Mozart and Beethoven, but composers of more recent times, and the vibrant voices of today, serve as powerful reminders that orchestras must tell both old and new stories.

The Florida Orchestra places an accent on such diversity in the 14 masterworks programs that make up its 2014-15 season, which begins in October. The musicians will perform nearly a dozen pieces for the first time, including four by American composers.

“I can’t believe what a season we’ve put together,’’ orchestra CEO Michael Pastreich says. “The role of a symphony orchestra is more than to be a museum. We need to offer a more expansive view of what we are and what we can be. I think we’re doing that.’’

Adding suspense to the season will be a revolving door of guest conductors, one of whom could end up filling the shoes of Stefan Sanderling, who ended his 10-year tenure as music director in 2012.

Audiences will hear these young talents craft fresh interpretations of “Lollapalooza’’ by John Adams; “Three Studies from Couperin’’ by Thomas Ades; “Central Park in the Dark’’ by Charles Ives; “Finding Rothko’’ by Adam Schoenberg; and “Mutations from Bach for Brass and Timpani’’ by Samuel Barber.

Other premieres include Dutilleux’s “Métaboles”; Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Tsar’s Bride” Overture; and the complete ballet score to Ravel’s “Mother Goose.’’

The orchestra’s emphasis on exploring new or neglected repertoire continues from the current season, in which the musicians play 16 works for the first time. That makes 27 premieres over two seasons, an indication of the orchestra’s desire for program balance.

Traditionalists needn’t worry, as plenty of chestnuts flesh out the season. Selected highlights include Orff’s “Carmina Burana’’ with the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay; Holst’s “Planets’’; Dvorak’s “New World’’ Symphony; and the fourth symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Mahler.

A strong lineup of soloists includes violinists Midori and Karen Gomyo, and pianists Peter Serkin, Pascal Rogé, Jeremy Denk and William Wolfram. Soloists from within the orchestra are concertmaster Jeffrey Multer, hornist Robert Rearden and bassoonist Anthony Georgeson.

With nearly a dozen guest conductors handling the season’s menu of music, audiences can make up their own mind about a candidate for music director, which will be announced by the end of next season. New musical leadership will add depth and relevance to what strives to be a thoroughly modern American orchestra.

“I didn’t realize before this process started just how much extraordinary talent there is among today’s young conductors,’’ Pastreich says. “And I think this shows great promise for orchestras, because these musicians are the ones who are changing the industry before our eyes.’’

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