The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra unveils 2017-18 season programming

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra announced the 2017-18 season programming for the BNY Mellon Grand Classics and PNC Pops series.

The upcoming season of the BNY Mellon Grand Classics marks its 10th season under the musical leadership of Music Director Manfred Honeck and the orchestra’s 122nd year since its founding.

In honor of his 10th anniversary season, three of Honeck’s programs will include a special commission in honor of the anniversary and nearly every program led by Honeck will feature one piece he will conduct with the Pittsburgh Symphony for the first time.

The season includes an array of pieces for large-scale forces and monumental choral works, reflecting Honeck’s special affinity for that part of the repertoire.

Items of note in Honeck’s programs include the season opening weekend with violinist Christian Tetzlaff; an original theatrical realization of Haydn’s The Creation; a one-night-only performance of Handel’s Messiah; and the season finale featuring pianist Emanuel Ax. The season is bookended with two concerts led by Honeck that include works with organ — Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3, “Organ,” and Berlioz’s “Te Deum,” which will be performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony for the first time.

This season features 15 debut guest artists, including three conductors — Venezuelan Rafael Payare, chief conductor of the Ulster Orchestra in Northern Ireland; Sir Mark Elder , music director of the Halle, principal artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and artistic director of the Opera Rara; and Cristian Macelaru, recently appointed music director and conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

New soloists in the 2017-18 season include Ray Chen, winner of the Queen Elizabeth and Yehudi Menuhin Competitions; Noa Wildschut, a 16-year-old member of the Mutter Virtusoi ho was first discovered at 4 years old; Rachele Gilmore, one of America’s most sought after coloratura soprano, and award-winning German tenor Werner Gura who will be featured in Haydn’s Creation; multi-faceted pianist Kirill Gerstein whose interpretive style is influenced by jazz; Vilde Frang, a young Norwegian violinist who was awarded the Credit Suisse Young Artist Award in 2012; Benjamin Grosvenor; a leading British classical pianist who won the Keyboard Final of the 2004 BBC Young Musician Competition at the age of 11 and recently won the inaugural Ackman Classical Piano Prize from the New York Philharmonic; Jan Lisiecki, a 20-year-old Canadian pianist who made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 2016; Igor Levit, a Russian pianist who won Gramophone’s Recording of the Year in 2016; and three of the four singers who will be featured as part of Verdi’s Requiem will make their Pittsburgh Symphony debuts.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra continues to highlight the exceptional principal musicians within its own ranks with solo performances by Lorna McGhee, principal flute, in Ibert’s Flute Concerto; Craig Knox, principal tuba, in a world premiere of a PSO co-commissioned tuba concerto by American composer Jennifer Higdon; and Anne Martindale Williams, principal cello, who will perform Tchaikovsky Variations on a Rococo Theme.

Some of the finest names in the orchestra world will return to Pittsburgh this season to lead the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. One of the greatest living conductors, Christoph von Dohnanyi, music director of the Cleveland Orchestra for nearly two decades, first appeared as a guest conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1983. He returns to lead a program featuring Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, “The Great.” Also returning this year are Christoph Konig; Krzysztof Urbanski; Juanjo Mena; Osmo Vanska; Robert Spano; and Jiri Belohlavek.

The 2017-18 BNY Mellon Grand Classics season features masters and rising stars of classical piano, including Lang Lang playing Rhapsody in Blue at the Pittsburgh Symphony Gala; Yulianna Avdeeva in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2; Kirill Gerstein’s debut with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2; Yefim Bronfman performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3; Brit Benjamin Grosvenor in his debut with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2; Jan Lisiecki also making his debut with Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1; Igor Levit making his debut in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4; and Emanuel Ax, who closes the season with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor.”

The 2017-18 season marks the 16th anniversary season of the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Composer of the Year program. In honor of this milestone, the Pittsburgh Symphony will present a retrospective year of works written by former composers of the year, including Jennifer Higdon, Steven Stucky and John Adams, and present three pieces that have been commissioned in honor of Honeck’s 10th anniversary season by Pittsburgh-based composer Reza Vali, 2016-17 Composer of the Year Sir James MacMillan and Israeli composer Boris Pigovat, whose work will appear in a BNY Mellon Grand Classics subscription concert for the first time.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma returns to the Heinz Hall stage for one night only June 9. A special friend and collaborator with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Ma joins Music Director Manfred Honeck for a night of music.

The weekly Pittsburgh Symphony Radio Series produced and broadcast by WQED-FM and WQEJ-FM features performances of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra each week. Host Jim Cunningham and Honeck explore symphonic works of Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Mahler with help from world-class soloists. The program is broadcast at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays. Listen to archival concerts anywhere in the world 24 hours a day with a smartphone or computer on the WQED-FM Pittsburgh Concert Channel at wqed.org/fm or with HD radio WQED 89.3 HD2. This series builds on a tradition of Pittsburgh Symphony radio broadcasts that have connected the orchestra in the United States and abroad since the 1930s.

Season tickets are available in packages of six, seven, 14 and 20 concerts and range in price from $103.50 to $1,410. Students and seniors receive discounts. Tickets for individual concerts will go on sale in August. Concert times are Fridays and select Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Season ticket packages can be purchased in person at the Heinz Hall Box Office at 600 Penn Ave., by phone at (412) 392-4900 or online at pittsburghsymphony.org/classics.

COMMENTS