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DSO has "fun," sentimental season on tape for 2016-17

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016

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Detroit Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin says "there's a lot of fun" in the upcoming season.

But there's some sentiment, too.

With Slatkin leaving the DSO in 2018, the 2016-17 campaign -- which begins Sept. 29-30 -- marks the last season he's been "fully responsible for programming." He has curated some programs for 2017-18, but many others will be vehicles for auditioning conductors. "So this is the last season where whatever my imprint and input has been falls over the entire season," Slatkin notes.

He's certainly created an ambitious theme for his final statement. Using George Gershwin's 1924 piece "Rhaposdy in Blue" as its foundation, much of the DSO season will feature "groundbreaking pieces that took the mainstream of the popular culture and changed the wall all of us perceive classical music" -- particularly those that incorporated jazz into the classical repertoire. The season will include three world premieres, 14 pieces being played for the first time by the DSO, the return of DSO Music Director Emeritus Neeme Jarvi and an annual Winter Festival dedicated to the works of Mozart.

"It's a season with a lot of variety, a good amount of new and unusual music combined wtih a lot of traditional music," Slatkin says by phone from Lyon, France, where he also conducts the Orchestre National d Lyon. "All these things together really have an interesting way of giving the audience that comes to more than one concert a view of different parts of the musical culture to express the theme.

"It tries to expand the repertoire and the scope of what the orchestra does, a lot of interesting programs and challenges for the orchestra, but (a season) that I think is also very well-geared towards a general audience."

Asking the maestro to pick among his "children," Slatkin -- who will be conducting 14 of the 25 classical concerts this season -- offered the following eight programs as key events in the DSO season...

The world premiere of the avant garde "Big Data" (Sept. 29-30) opens the season by bringing Spanish composer Ferran Cruixent back to the DSO after the orchestra debuted his "Cyborg" during November of 2013. "With 'Cyborg' people got rather intrigued by the orchestra using a pre-recorded ringtone the musicians actually played back on their phones while they were doing the piece," Slatkin says. "This time the same thing happens, twice in the piece, but there are certain effects you're going to hear done by the members of the orchestra -- the sound of a dial tone, the sound of a busy signal." As with "Cyborg" the musicians will also be singing, but this time, Slatkin says, so will the audience. "It's very interactive," he says. "It's a serious piece, although it uses these elements of popular culture."

"Rhapsody in Blue" will get its airing, with guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson, Oct. 7-9, along with Aaron Copland's rarely performed Concerto for PIano and Orchestra and the DSO premiere of Christopher Rouse's "Bump." "It's Copland's only foray into the world of jazz and was very shocking at the time," Slatkin says. "'Rhapsody in Blue' came out two years earlier, so it's appropriate we've got those two pieces being played together. 'Bump' is more contemporary dance, and we've got (Milhaud's) 'Creation due Monde' which is for a small orchestra but in a jazz style. This piece was written before 'Rhapsody in Blue,' showing that was not the first piece to take these elements and bring them into the concert hall."

Former DSO Composer in Residence Michael Daughtery returns Oct. 20-22 with "Tales of Hemingway," a piece co-commissioned by the DSO and several other orchestras that will be conducted by Jarvi, along with the DSO premiere of Rachmaninoff's "Russian Song." "It's based on Hemingway so there are going to be elements of music from the 1920s in there, Slatkin says. "That'll be quite nice."

Lalo Schifrin's "Tangos Concertantes" will be performed by the DSO on Jan. 14, with guest violinist Cho-Liang LIn. "(Schifrin) is best know to people for having written the them to 'Mission Impossible,' but he was always a classical musician first," Slatkin says. "This will be a real feature for the season, I think." The DSO will also perform Stravinsky's "Ragtime" for the first time ever on the same program.

The DSO's Mozart Fest begins Jan. 19 and runs through three weeks. But while previous immersions into Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky allowed the orchestra to take on the composers' entire cannons, the enormity of Mozart's repertoire required Slatkin to be more selective. "We're doing all the concertos he wrote for wind instruments and orchestra, plus the last six symphonies," he says. "It's great music, and also because I think so much of what we're playing in the regular season are quite large in terms of pieces and the sheer volume of sound that will be produced by the orchestra, it seems like a good idea ot have music that's of certainly as serious a quality but with a little bit of a lighter touch to it rather than the sort of huge behemoths like Tchaikovsky and Brahms wrote."

Though he's not conducting it, Slatkin is looking forward to the world premiere of DSO Jazz Creative Director Terence Blanchard's new composition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots, which will be presented March 3-4 during the 39th Annual Classical Roots concert. "This will combine elements of his quintet with the orchestra, telling a real story as all of his music does," Slatkin says. "Everyone loves Terence; He's quite a serious composer, and this will be his second big concert piece. That becomes very, very important in terms of how the relationship of the popular culture coming into our classical world occurs."

The DSO will also present the world premiere of pianist and composer Michel Camilo's Concerto for Jazz Trio & Orchestra from April 21-22, bringing back the first guest who played with the orchestra after the 2010-11 musicians strike. "This came as an idea after I heard him play a solo recital in the Canary Islands," Slatkin says. "Talking to him, I said, 'Why don't we combine you with two of your colleagues and make it a concerto for jazz trio and orchestra, which is exactly what he's doing here."

American composer John Corigliano's "Mr. Tambourine Man," created from seven Bob Dylan poems, gets its DSO premiere May 18-20. "It's not based on the music of Bob Dylan but rather the text," Slatkin explains. "It's really a contemporary piece of music just working from the words of Bob Dylan. It's not trying to emulate the Dylan style or sound but is really creating something around his words, which has its own language."

Detroit Symphony Orchestra 2016-17 Season

Sept 29-June 3

Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

For schedules and ticket information, call 3130576-5111 or visit dso.org.

Web Site: www.dso.org

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