Make us your home page

Florida Orchestra opens pivotal season with Beethoven's 'Ninth Symphony'

By Jim Harper

Times Correspondent

Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony — with which the Florida Orchestra will open its season this weekend with the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay — might seem an odd pairing, except for one thing.

Both end with expressions of ecstasy.

The musical language may be different. So are the sources. The "Ode to Joy" that Beethoven develops in his final movement comes from an Enlightenment poem about the brotherhood of man. A century later, Stravinsky reaches back to the Bible.

"Praise ye the Lord," declares Psalm 150, from which Stravinsky draws part of his text. "Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet. Praise Him with timbrel and dance: Praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. ... Praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals."

With imagery like that, no wonder composers in every age and style have written about four dozen excellent choral versions of the psalter's words, says James Bass, artistic director of the Master Chorale.

Pairing a modernist work with the Mount Everest of symphonies is not unprecedented, Bass adds. Several seasons ago, the chorale performed Schoenberg's unaccompanied Friede auf Erden ("Peace on Earth") along with Beethoven's familiar masterpiece. Bass says the "internal educator" in every music director enjoys linking a piece everyone wants to hear with another less likely to draw a crowd, he says. "It's an opportunity to open a door or to open a mind."

But how does a choral director prepare singers who may have sung it many times for an audience that may have heard it many times, so that each new performance will be fresh?

It helps that Beethoven has never gotten old. "Every human generation has connected with this piece since it was first performed," Bass says. "That's quite telling."

And while people who love the piece "want to have that emotional experience again, others may well be hearing it for the first time."

This is a pivotal season for the Florida Orchestra as it searches for a new music director. Evan Rogister is the first guest conductor in a season that certainly will spotlight candidates for the job.

"Every season is pivotal," jokes orchestra CEO Michael Pastreich, who has helped guide the organization through recession, pay cuts for musicians and the departure of former music director Stefan Sanderling. (Sanderling, who bowed out of his contract two years early, will return once more for a weekend of performances in March.)

Still there is good news. Overall, the orchestra's attendance has grown 27 percent in five years, says Pastreich. The musicians are in the second year of a new contract which, while not gilded, begins to give back what was lost in the dark days. Pastreich credits the "creativity and collaboration" of musicians, board members and staff. The orchestra failed to balance its most recent annual budget for the second time in six years; now there's a renewed flurry of fundraising and attention to costs.

To keep its momentum, the orchestra is moving ahead with such audience-broadening formats as its rock music series, which this year will feature the music of the Beatles (coming up Oct. 18), Pink Floyd and the Eagles. There will be family-friendly matinees on Saturdays, more morning coffee concerts, performances with cirque artists (Oct. 25-27), pops concerts and more. See for a full schedule.

Classic and contemporary orchestral masterworks remain paramount, of course. Orchestra leaders are taking their time deciding on a new music director.

"What matters most is that you find the right person," says Pastreich. He considers it "highly unlikely" that the orchestra will announce an appointment by the end of this season.

Then again, with a parade of guest conductors coming to town, you never know which one it might be.

Florida Orchestra: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9

Performances are 8 p.m. Friday at Carol Morsani Hall at David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa; 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $15-$45. (727) 892-3337.

Florida Orchestra opens pivotal season with Beethoven's 'Ninth Symphony' 10/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 6:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Tuesday May 30


    Finding Neverland: The hit Broadway show follows the story behind playwright J.M. Barrie as he struggles to find inspiration to create Peter Pan, until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. 7:30 p.m., Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, …

    Mitchell Wray, Jordan Cole, Finn Faulconer and Ben Krieger as the Llewelyn Davies Boys in the National Tour of Finding Neverland. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  2. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  3. Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise

    Food & Dining

    Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the cinema is precisely what it was a generation …

    Soft pretzels are displayed with a beer at the Features Gastropub in the Riverview 14 GDX  theater in Gibsonton, Fla. on Thursday, May 25, 2017.   The 5,900-square-foot Features Gastropub open in the . This element of the project is the brainchild of Philadelphia chef Brian Duffy, who appears frequently on NBC's The Today Show and the Spike TV show Bar Rescue
  4. From the food editor: I love that food is a huge part of Master of None's transcendent second season


    Deep into a late-night binge of Master of None, Aziz Ansari's Netflix series that returned for its second season May 12, I realized I was laying as far back on my couch as possible, blanket clutched up to my chin, eyebrows permanently raised.

    Dev (Aziz Ansari) and Arnold (Eric Wareheim) eat lunch in Modena, Italy, in the second season of "Master of None."
  5. Three 'MasterChef' contestants from the Tampa Bay area talk cooking inspiration and more


    When Gordon Ramsay's MasterChef begins its eighth season tonight, the Tampa Bay area will have three contestants to root for. A marketing director from Tampa, a dentist and Palm Harbor native, and an employee for a steel supply company are all trying to impress a trio of judges with their home-cooking skills.

    Jeff Philbin, from Tampa, left, Palm Harbor native Paola Annoni Patel, and Danny Flores, of Land 'O Lakes, will be competing on the season premiere of "Masterchef."