If the 2010-2011 season was the best classical programming Rochester has seen in 20 years -- anchored by the grand finale season of Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor and Music Director Christopher Seaman -- the 2011-2012 season will be the year of the GPS. Classical music fans: start your engines, because we are going to be going out and about downtown and beyond to get to all of the wonderful offerings large and small, professional, student, and community.
The season starts on a high note Friday, September 23, at Kodak Hall with works by Fauré, Albert, and Berlioz as conductor Neil Varon leads the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra and the Eastman Philharmonia in a season that will have you going back for more. Of all the programming I've seen thus far, Varon has made blue-chip selections from Mozart to Bartok, Ravel to Shostakovich in each one of several free concerts at the Eastman Theater (October 21 & 24, November 14 & 18, December 2 & 12; esm.rochester.edu).
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra opens its season at Eastman Theatre with its annual Red Carpet Walk on Friday, September 30, with works of Beach, Halvorsen, Svendsen, and J. Strauss, Jr., followed by a rooftop party with champagne and hors d'oeuvres at the East End Garage (rpo.org). The inaugural concert under the baton of the RPO's new Conductor and Music Director ArildRemmereit begins with lesser-known works and stays on that track for the season. And, this season's concerts include works by female composers like Fanny Mendelssohn, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Peggy Stuart Coolidge. Why not go an hour early for the pre-concert chat, beginning with the second RPO concert, to get to know Remmereit and learn more about these composers? Of special note, Itzhak Perlman will perform with the RPO on Sunday, January 22. Tickets are already on sale for this special event. Perlman will perform the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35.
Chamber music will be a recurring theme this season, from the anticipated release this fall of the new CD from the Ying Quartet to the ESM-based ensemble's concerts (February 26, April 22; ying4.com), along with performances by another Grammy Award-winning quartet, The Parker Quartet (October 16), and other visiting groups like The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (October 18), Trio Solisti (November 8), St. Lawrence String Quartet (November 13), and Imani Winds (January 31). For information on all of the above concerts visit esm.rochester.edu.
Of course, there is also the homegrown Society for Chamber Music in Rochester (October 9, November 21; chambermusicrochester.org) with performances on January 22 and March 4 of selected Debussy works for strings. Or, as per the Pegasus Early Musicwebsite, to "blur the lines between chamber and orchestral music," get to a performance on February 26 by Fioritura with works by Vivaldi, Telemann, Zelenka, and more (pegasusearlymusic.org).
Not to be overlooked under the heading of chamber music are two chamber orchestras, CordanciaSinfonietta (November 18, February 17; cordancia.org) and the University of Rochester Chamber Orchestra (December 6, February 18, April 21; rochester.edu). And, the Empire State Lyric Theater will host a Chamber Opera Festival (March 2-4, empirestatelyrictheatre.org), including a fully staged performance of "Medium."
On October 21, the University of Rochester's Women's Chorus will host its 100th anniversary concert, which will feature the voices of alums (rochester.edu). And I'm told we'll see Concentus Women's Chorus as part of the annual Early Music Festival (October 28, musicaspei.org) at St. Anne's Church. While we're on the subject of women, don't miss out on the Eastman Repertory Singers and Women's Chorus performing Haydn's "Theresienmesse" at Reformation Lutheran Church (October 23, esm.rochester.edu). And note that the Women in Music Festival is already on the calendar (March 26-30, esm.rochester.edu/wmf/).
No less than three, exciting Eastman Opera Theatre productions will be staged this season: Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins" (November 3-6), "The Clandestine Marriage" (February 2-5), and "The Bartered Bride" (March 29-April 1; esm.rochester.edu).
This fall, our busy, busy November will also include the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative's EROI Festival (November 10-13, esm.rochester.edu/eroi), packed with organ concerts at several churches. This year's conference theme is improvisation. If you're not familiar with our local organ treasures, attend this weekend full of concerts, and also don't miss out on the American Guild of Organists "Celebrity Organ Recital Series" (September 23, November 13, and February 17; agorochester.org).
Although it sounds far off, the holiday season will feature some particularly festive concerts this year. The RPO's "Nutcracker" production will include the Bach Children's Chorus and Rochester City Ballet (November 25-27, rpo.org). The next holiday stop would be the Eastman Rochester Chorus with Eastman Philharmonia performing the Schubert Mass in A-flat Major (December 2, esm.rochester.edu). The Penfield Symphony Orchestra has a holiday music concert of favorites (December 5, penfieldsymphony.org), and CordanciaSinfonietta will perform "Amahl and the Night Visitors (December 9-16, cordancia.org). After the New Year, Third Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir will present the ninth annual Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival with more than 150 people in the cast and choir (January 7-8, thirdpresbyterian.org).
Although most groups are still formalizing their spring concerts, Eastman's World Music Series (esm.rochester.edu) includes a production by Jeng Yi, a Korean drum and dance ensemble, on April 4. This series also includes ambira concert (September 14), fiddle tunes (March 7), and the gamelan lila muni (April 30).
And, this year I want you to mark your calendars early for the biennial Eastman Young Artists International Piano Competition (July 28-August 4, 2012). You can attend rounds through to finals and cheer on your favorite young pianists as a star-filled panel of judges makes their selections. The 2010 competition was such a high level of talent from around the world that I'm already looking forward to next summer.
While we're on next summer... For now, I'll leave off with the teaser that the line-up for next summer's classical music festivals will be enough to keep you in town. Forget Europe, camping, or putting up with your relatives. Think no further than Canandaigua, Skaneateles, and Cooperstown. (Oh, and don't forget: we'll kick it off with jazz.)
For a full listing of the 2011-2012 classical-music season visit the 2011 Fall Guide at rochestercitynewspaper.com.