Every year about this time, Florida Orchestra music director Stefan Sanderling offers his version of a balanced budget — a musical budget, that is, as he announces the programming for next season.
"There are programs to enjoy, and there are programs that can be a life-changing experience,'' Sanderling said. "I don't think a Tchaikovsky program is a life-changing experience; it's not meant to be. But I think the Shostakovich 15th Symphony is a life-changing experience. And it's all about finding a balance between those two things.''
For 2010-11, the results of Sanderling's balancing act include both Shostakovich's final, death-haunted symphony and an all-Tchaikovsky program. There are also a healthy batch of contemporary works such as John Adams' Doctor Atomic Symphony and plenty of traditional favorites such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, plus the return of Thomas Wilkins, the popular former resident conductor of the orchestra.
Today the orchestra releases its programming for next season's masterworks and coffee concert series, which is being expanded beyond its longtime home at Mahaffey Theater to include several concerts at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Programming for the pops series will be released later.
The season opens Oct. 8-10 with Wilkins as guest conductor. Since his tenure with the orchestra from 1994 through 2002, he has gone on to fashion a fine career and is now music director of the Omaha Symphony and principal guest conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Wilkins' program includes James Beckel's Toccata, Respighi's Pines of Rome and Liszt's Les Preludes, which he conducted the last time he was in front of the orchestra in 2003.
Sanderling, artistic administrator David Rogers and other staff members work on the programming and booking of soloists and guest conductors in a process that is complicated by the orchestra's unusual arrangement of playing in four venues: Mahaffey in St. Petersburg, Ruth Eckerd in Clearwater and Morsani and Ferguson halls in the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Because these venues have their own programming to book, the orchestra must do a daunting juggling act to match guest artists and repertoire with dates. A major problem is that uncertainty over dates forces the orchestra to engage guest artists later than most U.S. orchestras.
Soloists next season include four who have previously performed with the orchestra: pianists Peter Rosel in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, Lilya Zilberstein in Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto and Stewart Goodyear in Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F, and cellist Mark Kosower in the Dvorak Cello Concerto.
Three members of the orchestra will be featured: concertmaster Jeffrey Multer in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, principal second violin Sarah Shellman in British composer Thomas Ades' Violin Concerto (Concentric Paths) and principal bassoon Anthony Georgeson in the Mozart Bassoon Concerto.
Sanderling labored on the program the orchestra will play in January to celebrate the opening of the Salvador Dali Museum, across the lawn from the Mahaffey. "It was probably the program that took the longest to put together,'' he said. "The problem with Dali is that his relationship to music was very limited. To find something that reflects and describes Dali's art was not easy. It took us about three months to come up with that.''
Suitably surreal works on the program include HK Gruber's Frankenstein!! A Pandemonium for Chansonnier & Ensemble, Milhaud's Le Boeuf Sur le Toit (The Ox on the Roof) and Debussy's orchestrations of Satie's Gymnopedie Nos. 1 and 2. There are also less madcap works such as Beethoven's Consecration of the House and a suite from Spanish composer de Falla's ballet score The Three-Cornered Hat.
In a significant move for the orchestra, the coffee series will have three concerts next season at Ruth Eckerd, in addition to the seven at Mahaffey. All the programs will be conducted by Alastair Willis, with three of them played at both halls. Concerts at Ruth Eckerd will start an hour earlier, at 10 a.m.
"We know that Ruth Eckerd Hall has a strong adults at leisure series'' of daytime performances, said Michael Pastreich, the orchestra president. "The population base up there would overlap well with our coffee concert series. We expect that it ought to take off fairly strongly from the very first year.''
The expansion of the coffee series is part of a trend. "Across the board, subscribership is going down for all live activities — sports, symphony, opera,'' Pastreich said. "An exception to that rule is weekday matinees. Weekday matinees are increasing across the country. So it is clearly part of our agenda to move concerts into weekday time slots.''
Pastreich thinks baby boomers are driving the trend. "The largest generation in history is reaching an age where weekday matinees are looking better,'' he said.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-9716. He blogs on Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.