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American anthems lead new orchestra season

By JOHN FLEMING, Times Performing Arts Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2003

The first notes played by the Florida Orchestra under Stefan Sanderling when he officially becomes music director will be those of Stravinsky, or at least Stravinsky's arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner.

The new music director's season opener in September will also include Stravinsky's Firebird, from the complete ballet score, Prokofiev's American Overture and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with soloist Vladimir Feltsman.

All these works have an American theme. The Prokofiev has its title, and Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff emigrated to the United States.

"In all my programs next season, there is at least one piece written by a composer for America or by a composer who came to live in America," said Sanderling, who was born in Germany and continues as music director of the Orchestre de Bretagne in France.

Some works are by contemporary American composers, such as Christopher Rouse's Infernal Machine and Michael Torke's Rapture, a percussion concerto. Sometimes the composer was an emigre, such as Bartok (Concerto for Orchestra), Korngold (Violin Concerto) and Schoenberg (Bach transcriptions for orchestra).

Sanderling also is conducting Dvorak's symphony From the New World, written by the Czech composer on an American sojourn in the 1890s. The work was played by the orchestra last weekend under former music director Jahja Ling.

The orchestra's 2003-04 masterworks season is being announced today. Ticket prices are up slightly. The early-bird subscription price for the Imperial Series for all 14 programs in top seats is $546, compared with $504 a year ago. Single tickets are $21-$45, increases over this season's $20-$42 price range.

Sanderling will be on the podium for nine masterworks programs. In another theme, he is embarking on what he hopes will be a cycle of conducting the 15 Shostakovich symphonies, starting with the Fifth Symphony.

His father, eminent conductor Kurt Sanderling, was closely associated with the great Russian composer.

"Shostakovich would visit my father when we lived in Berlin," Sanderling said. "I was 7 or 8 or 9 years old, and I remember this very nervous, high-voiced guy. He made quite an impression on me."

Nor will Mahler be neglected. The final masterworks program will feature his Fifth Symphony. "I wanted to start the season with a showpiece for the orchestra (Firebird), and I wanted to end the season with a showpiece for the orchestra, the Mahler," Sanderling said.

In the past few seasons, as the orchestra went through the winding down of Ling's 14-year tenure and the search for a successor, the programming has been tamely conventional, more the product of a management committee than an artistic vision.

For his first season, Sanderling is introducing a fair amount of music the orchestra has never played. Along with the Rouse and Torke, premieres by the orchestra will include Aritunian's Trumpet Concerto, Victor Herbert's Cello Concerto, Hindemith's Symphonia Serena, Shchedrin's Naughty Limericks and Stephen Stuckey's Dream Waltzes.

"I probably would have liked to do a little more unusual, uncommon music," Sanderling said. "It was probably good that (management) prevented me from doing it. I need to spend the next season seeing what's possible. I don't want to start a revolution before I'm there."

The newest piece will be an Octet by Mark Sforzini, the orchestra's principal bassoon, who will perform the work, which was premiered last month, with seven other first-chair colleagues. Another chamber music work featuring orchestra principals will be Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante.

"It's kind of an experiment to do some chamber music and see if people like it on the masterworks series," Sanderling said.

Under Sanderling, there likely will be more works by Haydn, Mozart and other classical composers from the 18th century. Haydn's Symphony No. 39, never played by the orchestra, is on tap next season.

English violinist Pip Clarke will perform Korngold's Violin Concerto and Beethoven's Konzertsatz, the first movement of an unfinished concerto.

Plenty of standards are on the schedule, too, from Beethoven's Violin Concerto, played by concertmaster Amy Schwartz Moretti, to Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony. German pianist Markus Groh will be the soloist in Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto.

Guest conductor Kenneth Montgomery will lead a program that includes Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra and Schumann's Piano Concerto, with French pianist Brigitte Engerer. Ling will return for two concerts, including Elgar's Symphony No. 2.

The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, directed by Richard Zielinski, will perform with the orchestra on two programs that include Mendelssohn's Elijah, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Mozart's Requiem. In a nonsubscription special, the orchestra will play for the Moscow Festival Ballet in Prokofiev's Cinderella.

Sanderling is conducting the orchestra next weekend in the Sibelius Second Symphony, Mozart's Symphony No. 25 and the Barber Violin Concerto, with Moretti as the soloist. He will also give preconcert talks one hour before each performance in which he will discuss his programming for next season.

"My intention is to make the season attractive to the audience, to make people want to come to concerts," he said. "I have to build some trust with the public so they trust me even if they don't know the music."

Florida Orchestra 2003-04 schedule

The Florida Orchestra masterworks series is available in four subscription packages. Each program is usually performed in three principal venues: the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa, the Mahaffey Theater at Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Because of renovations at Ruth Eckerd Hall, the first two programs of the 2003-04 season will be played only in Tampa and St. Petersburg, with Clearwater subscribers able to go to either. Subscriptions are on sale at an early bird rate through March 17. Single tickets go on sale Aug. 25. For a brochure, call (813) 286-2403 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286. Here is the schedule:

* * *

Sept. 26-27 Stravinsky (arr.): The Star-Spangled Banner; Prokofiev: American Overture; Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; Stravinsky: Firebird (from the complete ballet score). Stefan Sanderling, conductor; Vladimir Feltsman, piano.

Oct. 11-12 Rouse: The Infernal Machine; Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra. Stefan Sanderling, conductor; Amy Schwartz Moretti, violin.

Nov. 7-9 Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1; Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade. Jahja Ling, conductor; Orli Shaham, piano.

Nov. 14-16 Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms; Mozart: Requiem. Stefan Sanderling, conductor; Master Chorale of Tampa Bay; soloists to be announced.

Jan. 9-11 TBA; Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto; Elgar: Symphony No. 2. Jahja Ling, conductor; William Preucil, violin.

Jan. 30-Feb. 1 Mozart: Symphony TBA; Torke: Rapture; Bizet/Shchedrin: Carmen Suite. Conductor TBA; Colin Currie, percussion.

Feb. 13-15 Stravinsky: Scherzo a la Russe; Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3; Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4. Stefan Sanderling, conductor; Markus Groh, piano.

Feb. 27-29 Shchedrin: Naughty Limericks; TBA: Trumpet work; Aritunian: Trumpet Concerto; Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5. Stefan Sanderling, conductor; Sergei Nakariakov, trumpet.

March 18-21 Toch: Pinocchio; Beethoven: Konzertsatz for violin and chamber orchestra; Korngold: Violin Concerto; Beethoven: Symphony No. 4. Stefan Sanderling, conductor; Pip Clarke, violin.

March 27-29 Haydn: Symphony No. 39; Hindemith: Symphonia Serena; Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2. Stefan Sanderling, conductor; piano TBA.

April 16-18 Stuckey: Dream Waltzes; Herbert: Cello Concerto No. 2; Dvorak: From the New World. Stefan Sanderling, conductor; Mark Kosower, cello.

April 29-May 3 Sforzini: Octet; Schumann: Piano Concerto; R. Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra. Kenneth Montgomery, conductor; Brigitte Engerer, piano.

May 14-16 Mendelssohn: Elijah. Roberto Minczuk, conductor; Master Chorale of Tampa Bay; vocalists TBA.

May 27-29 Schoenberg: Bach transcriptions; Haydn: Sinfonia Concertante; Mahler: Symphony No. 5. Stefan Sanderling, conductor; Martin Hebert, oboe; Mark Sforzini, bassoon; Amy Schwartz Moretti, violin; James Connors, cello.

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