Because arts organizations around the world usually plan their seasons spanning the fall and spring, a new year means part two of the 2013-2014 arts season in Sarasota. If anyone asks why you’ve chosen to live here, just show them this article. If they love the arts and music, they’ll get it.
The Sarasota Orchestra, which officially signed Anu Tali as the new music director Aug. 1, has a lot to look forward to in the next several months. First of all, the orchestra is celebrating its 65th season and, along with a smashing series of Great Escapes and Pops concerts, the Masterworks series continues with some spectacular music performed by several masterful soloists, special guest conductors and, of course, Tali. For example, in just a few days, Carl St. Clair — a conductor who’s been on the Sarasota Orchestra’s podium before to great acclaim — is offering a program that includes Saint-Saëns’ rollicking Piano Concerto No. 2, played by the world-renowned pianist Jon Nakamatsu, followed by the heroic Richard Strauss work, “Ein Heldenleben.”
At the end of January, conductor Tito Muñoz will delve into some extraordinarily romantic music by Rachmaninov (the gorgeous Symphony No. 2), Barber’s witty and fun overture to “The School for Scandal” and a tango-like look at “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” by the Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, in an arrangement by the Russian composer, Leonid Desyatnikov, with the award-winning American-Israeli violinist, Giora Schmidt.
On Feb. 20, Tali returns with a classically classic concert of exciting works by Prokofiev (his famous “Classical Symphony”), Mozart and Sibelius. If you haven’t seen Tali yet, this will be a great introduction to the skyrocketing conductor who’s quickly becoming a household name around the world. You’ll see why we feel we’re lucky to have her here.
March brings the return of the esteemed conductor Mei-Ann Chen with the celebrated pianist Jean-Philippe Collard in Ravel’s G major piano concerto and Rimsky-Korsakov’s legendary “Scheherazade” with the orchestra’s concertmaster, Daniel Jordan. And April will bring the young and distinguished conductor Philip Mann in a basically Beethoven concert, which includes the Fifth Symphony and Sarasota Orchestra’s much-admired harpist, Cheryl Losey, in music by Ginastera.
Of course, the orchestra has many chamber ensembles that are performing this season. And, while the orchestra is celebrating its 65th anniversary, the Sarasota Music Festival, one of the nation’s best-regarded teaching and performing festivals, is commemorating its 50th birthday with a bountiful season of chamber works this June.
But Sarasota doesn’t quit with just one internationally renowned chamber festival. We have several in residence that draw great performers from around the globe, including La Musica International Chamber Music Festival, which will be playing five concerts this April and opening its rehearsals to subscribers, faculty and students. Some of the works scheduled for this year include the venerated “Trout Quintet,” by Schubert; the Mozart A Major Clarinet Quintet (aka the “M*A*S*H quintet because it became associated with the final episode of that television series); and a Greenfield Prize Commission by jazz-classical composer Vijay Iyer played by the young African-American Imani Winds Quintet with improvisatory pianist Corey Smythe.
Sarasota Opera is in the homestretch of Artistic Director Victor deRenzi’s great adventure of bringing us every note that Giuseppe Verdi ever wrote, and, for the 2014 season, the company will present Verdi’s beloved opera, “Il Trovatore” and his less well-known work, “Jerusalem,” along with Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” and Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman.” These are all blockbuster, brilliant works and, when you attend a Sarasota Opera performance, you know you’re seeing and hearing a production that’s as close to what the composer intended as possible, without Verdi, Rossini and Wagner actually showing up to do the work themselves. Remember, Sarasota Opera is one of only a handful of companies in this country that owns its own opera house. It also presents these operas in repertory, so you have a chance to attend all the productions over the course of, say, a weekend. Not many cities can claim this from a company that’s admired and respected as one of the greats in the world.
There are several groups getting together for collaborative concerts this season, including Belle Canto, Gloria Musicae, Sarasota Young Voices, Key Chorale and several other respected ensembles. Belle Canto, for example, will be celebrating women composers in March, while Gloria Musicae collaborates with the Sarasota Jewish Chorale, Sarasota Young Voices, Booker High, the Sarasota-Manatee Dance Alliance and the Chroma Quartet in “Voices of the Holocaust” April 28, at the Van Wezel.
One other important notice: Bharat Chandra, principal clarinetist with the Sarasota Orchestra, has received a Grammy nomination with soprano Arianna Zukerman, the Westminster Williamson Voices and the Lincoln Trio, under the direction of James Jordan, for their Naxos recording of James Whitborne’s “Annelies.”
That’s just scratching the surface. Sarasota’s music scene is no jive operation. Most of us moved here for the arts this town provides. It’s like no other. And, then, there’s also the country’s No. 1 beach. But that’s another story.
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