It's hard to believe, but scan the books and you'll see the biggest soloists in the Florida's Orchestra's 2014-15 season have never performed with the orchestra before, or at least not for a very long time.
For an organization with a mission to keep things exciting, Midori and Peter Serkin are major gets. They both join the orchestra's new schedule, released today.
Midori, the violin virtuoso famous since she was a prodigy, plays with staggering urgency. I'm listening to her Tchaikovsky concerto as I type, and it's making the words come faster, faster, until they BUILD TO WHOA, capped by glorious applause! Her January show should be stunning.
American pianist Peter Serkin, son of the late Rudolf Serkin, opens the season in October. He's played with the world's great symphony orchestras, but not with the Florida Orchestra since 1987.
So what's drawing these names now? Orchestra president Michael Pastreich says it's the impressive guest conductors on the podium while the search for a new music director continues.
Serkin will perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 with New York Philharmonic assistant conductor Joshua Weilerstein. Midori will roll out Schumann's Violin Concerto with Tito Muñoz, who has served as music director of the National Opera of Lorraine and the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy in France.
Many guest conductors, including Weilerstein and Muñoz, will be on their third stints with the orchestra. A job candidate could be in the mix (though Pastreich says they're still just building relationships). The masterworks roster is full of young forces including Perry So, Michael Francis, Cristian Macelaru and Mei-Ann Chen.
"One thing I hadn't appreciated sufficiently, even three years ago, is the extraordinary amount of talent in young conductors," Pastreich said. "That's one of the greatest promises for our entire field, the 20s, 30s, 40-year-old conductors who look at the world differently than their predecessors."
The conductors lead a masterworks lineup that includes Romeo and Juliet (Jan. 23-25, 2015), Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances (Oct. 10-12), Brahms' Symphony No. 4 (Feb. 27-March 1, 2015), Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 (Feb. 20-22, 2015) and Sibelius' Symphony No. 5 (May 29-30, 2015). Pianist Jeremy Denk makes his orchestra debut with Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3 (April 17-19, 2015).
We all have stories: If you're intimidated by classical music or just want to know more, show up to masterworks concerts an hour before curtain time to learn about the lives behind the music. For instance, did you know Beethoven was stressed about his worsening deafness and his brother's, ahem, extracurricular dalliances, when he composed Symphony No. 8? You wouldn't from the sprightly sounds.
Sing, sing, sing: Cuban-American soprano Elizabeth Caballero, whose credits include Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and Musetta in La Boheme, joins the orchestra. She, baritone Cameron McPhail, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Children's Chorus will perform Orff's Carmina Burana (Nov. 14-16), with Eugene Symphony conductor Danail Rachev.
In with the new: Eleven premieres are slated for the new season, including four from American composers: John Adams' Lollapalooza; Charles Ives' Central Park in the Dark; Adam Schoenberg's Finding Rothko; and Barber's Mutations from Bach for Brass and Timpani.
Pops, ready to pop: Demand for pops has been so high, the orchestra expanded the series from eight concerts to nine. Expect an evening with the Mambo Kings (Oct. 31 and Nov. 1-2), John Williams' Star Wars (March 6-7, 2015), Porgy and Bess (April 10-12, 2015), a Judy Garland tribute (April 24-26, 2015) and some Las Vegas Rat Pack action (Nov. 21-23).
Karma Police Symphony No. 1?: In ongoing attempts to lure the youth, the orchestra will unleash a mashup of Radiohead and Brahms on Jan. 30, 2015, created and arranged by Steve Hackman. Airbag, Paranoid Android, Karma Police and more from Radiohead's monumental album OK Computer will be layered with Brahms' dramatic Symphony No. 1. It makes sense when you think about it. Radiohead is pretty epic.
Shake up your wake up: The orchestra's morning Coffee Concert series continues under the leadership of Stuart Malina. Expect seasonal tunes for Valentine's Day and Halloween, plus excerpts from The Marriage of Figaro to West Side Story to — yep — Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone. It's all laid back, with coffee and doughnuts to boot.
Major range: A single singer will tackle both the Rolling Stones and the Who as a part of the orchestra's rock series. Brody Dolyniuk of Las Vegas rock band Yellow Brick Road will sing Mick Jagger for the music of the Rolling Stones on Oct. 17, and Roger Daltrey for the music of the Who, May 8, 2015. He should have no trouble stretching, though. A few years back, he joined the orchestra to sing Queen.
Silver screen sensations: Can't decide between a movie and an orchestra concert? Do both. As part of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival, the orchestra will lend sounds Nov. 8 to Ocean Voyagers, which tells the tale of a newborn humpback whale and his 40-ton mother. On Nov. 28 and 29, the orchestra will play tunes from Pixar movies including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Cars, to a backdrop of scenes. And May 15 and 16, 2015, the orchestra gives musical treatment to Singin' in the Rain, just in time to kick off our incessant Florida summer showers.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8716. Follow her on Twitter at @stephhayes.