Fall Arts Preview: In a new season, Florida Orchestra expands reach, new top soloists

Benjamin Grosvenor will play Brahms\u2019 Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Florida Orchestra March 29-31, 2019. (Florida Orchestra)
Benjamin Grosvenor will play Brahms\u2019 Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Florida Orchestra March 29-31, 2019. (Florida Orchestra)
Published Sept. 6, 2018

The Florida Orchestra has prepared a 51st season with a wide range of grand masters and newer work, an increased visibility for minorities and women and more collaborations with museums and other artistic institutions.

Masterworks highlights include the opening, Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 (the first time since 2010), Ottorino Respighi's Pines of Rome and Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, with pianist Valentina Lisitsa, who played Rachmaninoff in music director Michael Francis' debut in 2015. The array of concerts includes Joseph Hayden's The Creation and Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time, both with the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, and Gustav Holst's The Planets, with the Master Chorale's Women's Choir. The Florida Holocaust Museum has partnered with the orchestra for A Child of Our Time, in memory of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

On the heels of composer Michael Ippolito's commission of Triptych, the orchestra with personal backing from Francis and his wife Cindy are commissioning a new work by University of South Florida composer and electronic music professor Baljinder Sekhon. Soloists this season include 26-year-old British sensation Benjamin Grosvenor playing Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1, violinist Esther Yoo in Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and Joshua Roman playing Mason Bates' Cello Concerto, a piece Bates composed specifically for him.

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue brings former resident conductor Thomas Wilkins back to, along with Cuban pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, a concert that includes William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 in A-flat, also known as "Afro-American," the first symphony by an African-American composer performed for a major orchestra in the United States.

Some of the orchestra's own will have a turn in the spotlight. Principal second violinist Sarah Shellman performs under guest conductor Gemma New in Anna Clyne's The Seamstress; a month later, concertmaster Jeffrey Multer closes the season with Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante features associate concertmaster Nancy Chang and principal viola Derek Mosloff.

Fireworks in store for the next to last concert unload with Gustav Mahler's "Titan" Symphony No. 1. The concert includes two modern pieces: Music for Pieces of Wood, by Steve Reich, which features percussion sensation Colin Currie (who is "outstanding ... audiences will love it," Francis said); and Switch, by Andrew Norman.

And that just scratches the surface. The orchestra continues with pops, coffee and happy hour concerts, not to mention free public concerts and popups at restaurants and the airport.

About that pops series. The opener, Bernstein's Broadway (Oct. 5-6), celebrates the centennial of the composer's birth. Disney in Concert (Nov. 2-4) combines the scores of Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and more with film clips and four singers.Trumpeter and vocalist Byron Stripling returns in Ragtime, Blues and All That Jazz(April 5-7) to take on blues legends B.B. King, Muddy Waters and more, joined by Ray Charles keyboardist Bobby Floyd.

Here is the masterworks lineup.

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Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 Sept. 28-30

Includes Resphighi's Pines of Rome and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, with Valentina Lisitsa. Michael Francis conducts.

Evening at Bach's Coffeehouse Oct. 26-28

Includes Johann Sebastian Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 1 and Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, works by Georg Philipp Telemann and Antonio Vivaldi. Jeannette Sorrell plays harpsichord and conducts.

A Child of Our Time Nov. 9-11

Includes Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. Michael Francis conducts.

Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 2, "A London Symphony" Nov. 16-18

Includes Edward Elgar's In the South and Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. Michael Francis conducts.

Mozart and Sibelius Dec. 7-9

Includes Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Night on Bald Mountain, Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante and Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 1. Stuart Malina conducts.

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue Jan. 4-6

Includes William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1, "Afro American," Dvorak's Symphony No. 7. Thomas Wilkins conducts.e_SClBSchubert's Symphony No. 9 Jan. 18-20

Includes Still's Poem for Orchestra, Bates' Cello Concerto. Joshua Weilerstein conducts.

The Planets Feb. 15-17

Includes Claude Debussy's Nocturnes, Sekhon's (as yet untitled) new work. Michael Francis conducts.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Feb. 22-24

Includes Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott.

Haydn's the Creation March 23-23

Michael Francis conducts.

Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 March 29-31

Includes Brahms' Tragic Overture, Arnold Schoenberg's Transfigured Night, a string sextet in one movement.

Brahms' Symphony No. 1 April 12-14

Includes Robert Schumann's Manfred Overture, Anna Clyne's The Seamstress. Gemma New conducts.

Mahler's Symphony No. 1 May 3-4

Includes Reich's Music for Pieces of Wood, Norman's Switch. Michael Francis conducts.

Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto May 24-26

Includes Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5. Michael Francis conducts.