Pin It

RPO planning more diverse programming in '22-'23 season 

click to enlarge Tai Murray will perform Wynton Marsalis's Violin Concerto with the RPO on Nov. 3 and 5. - PHOTO BY GABY MERZ
  • Tai Murray will perform Wynton Marsalis's Violin Concerto with the RPO on Nov. 3 and 5.
Classical music has long been a white man’s game. But the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s upcoming season attempts to chip away at the homogeneity with programming that highlights composers and performers of color.

Here are several concerts to watch for this season, in chronological order. Many celebrate inclusion while enhancing the connection between orchestra and modern listener.

Any time an orchestra steps outside its stylistic comfort zone is healthy. On Sept. 16 and 17, Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik leads the RPO in a tribute to country music’s greatest songwriters with “Country Legends: The Nashville Songbook.” Tyzik arranges classics by the likes of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Willie Nelson, as well as hits from such contemporary stars as Garth Brooks, Kacey Musgraves, and Tim McGraw. Country musician Rick Brantley lends his welcoming, subtle southern drawl to the show.

The RPO celebrates a major milestone in Rochester music history with the Kodak Hall Centennial Concert on Sept. 24. Presented in conjunction with Eastman Presents, the evening has RPO Music Director Andreas Delfs sharing the podium with Eastman School of Music’s Professor of Conducting Neil Varon. Eastman alum and celebrated film and TV composer Jeff Beal — known for his work on such shows as “House of Cards” and “Monk” — conducts a new original composition commissioned for the centennial.

On Oct. 6 and 8, the RPO presents one of the most intriguing programs of the season when it welcomes conductor Mei-Ann Chen, music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011. Chen’s expressive and incisive style will be a good fit with composer Jennifer Higdon’s lush, but at times pointed “Blue Cathedral.” Pianist Inon Barnatan brings his crystalline articulation on the keys to Chopin’s sensuous Piano Concerto No. 1. The program also features the relatively obscure 19th century composer Louise Farrenc, whose Symphony No. 3 from 1847 combines the charisma and harmonic vocabulary reminiscent of Beethoven with an urgency unique to Farrenc. This is not a concert to be missed.

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is best known as an indispensable figure in American jazz. But Rochester audiences will get to hear Marsalis shine as a classical composer on Nov. 3 and 5, when his virtuosic but enigmatic violin concerto makes its RPO debut. Violinist Tai Murray is tasked with realizing the frantic beauty of Marsalis’s violin writing. The concerto is paired with the equally intense Symphony No. 5 by Jean Sibelius. The Cleveland Orchestra’s Associate Conductor Vinay Parameswaran leads the ensemble.

On Nov. 17 and 19, Andreas Delfs and the RPO present a world premiere by composer Derrick Skye alongside Johannes Brahms’s “A German Requiem,” one of the crowning achievements in choral-orchestral works. Brahms’s choral writing is densely chordal and lyrical. Subtlety abounds in this deeply personal work, which he composed after his mother’s death.

Black composers with Rochester ties get a rare, much-deserved chance in the spotlight on Feb. 9 and 11, when Tyzik leads Rochester vocalists Thomas Warfield and Kearstin Piper Brown and the RPO in works by essential composers William Grant Still, Duke Ellington, Adolphus Hailstork, Nkeiru Okoye, and James Lee III. Here’s hoping that RPO fans will get to experience concerts like this more frequently, and without relegation to Black History Month.

click to enlarge Conductor Anthony Parnther leads the RPO in a performance of "Black Panther" on March 11. - PHOTO BY HART GETZEN
  • Conductor Anthony Parnther leads the RPO in a performance of "Black Panther" on March 11.
The RPO continues to present popular movies in concert with a performance of “Black Panther” on March 11. Composer Ludwig Göransson’s Grammy-winning, Oscar-winning score combines traditional African instrumentation with a classical sensibility for a compelling sound that helped drive the emotional poignancy of this 2018 Marvel Studios hit film. Conductor Anthony Parnther, who led the 2022 Gateways Festival Orchestra, returns to the podium at Kodak Hall.

Pop music from the ’80s and orchestras don’t commonly go together, but that hasn’t stopped Tyzik from writing new arrangements of such hits as “Material Girl” by Madonna, “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News, Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. Relive an era with “Decades: Back to the 80s” on Apr. 7 and 8.

The RPO’s annual opera-in-concert event, performed May 18 and 20, features a true masterwork of the operatic canon: Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” The enduring tragedy of the hunchbacked court jester Rigoletto and his ill-fated daughter Gilda plays out in some of the most iconic bel canto songs ever written — most notably, “La donna è mobile” and “Caro nome che il mio cor.” Delfs conducts baritone Lester Lynch as Rigoletto, soprano Raven McMillon as Gilda, and tenor Matthew White as the Duke of Mantua.

For more information, go to

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY's arts editor. He can be reached at
click image champion-story-banner.gif

Browse Listings

Submit an event
The Be Kind Festival @ Three Heads Brewing

The Be Kind Festival @ Three Heads Brewing

The Night Owls @ Lovin' Cup

The Night Owls @ Lovin' Cup

Cafe Veritas: Crys Matthews, Alan Whitney @ Cafe Veritas at First Unitarian Church

Cafe Veritas: Crys Matthews, Alan Whitney @ Cafe Veritas at First Unitarian Church

Winner of International Folk Music Awards Song of the Year, Crys performs...

View all of today's events »

Tweets @RocCityNews

Website powered by Foundation     |     © 2022 CITY News