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Sarasota Orchestra announces 2020-21 season

Multiseries concert calendar offers usual variety of themes, styes, guest artists

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  • | 2:20 p.m. March 30, 2020
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
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Normally, this would be the time when everyone would be feeling the season getting near the end, as the streets and the entertainment calendars slowly start to thin out.

It is also when, normally, we could expect grand ceremonial announcements from various performing arts groups about what they have in store for next season.

Of course, we aren’t anywhere close to normal these days. But, being on the Gulf, we all know that when the waters gets choppy, the best thing is to look to the horizon.

Even though they had to forgo the fanfare, the Sarasota Orchestra gave its audience something in the future to fix its gaze on as it announced its 2020-21 season.

Fans have plenty to look forward to from a season filled with great works — both familiar compositions to look forward to and less familiar works to be intrigued by — as well as a parade of world-class guest soloists. And, as with this past season, a there will be guest conductors throughout the year to add an extra layer of variety.

Sarasota Orchestra Artistic Advisor Jeffrey Kahane will conduct the opening Masterworks concert,
Sarasota Orchestra Artistic Advisor Jeffrey Kahane will conduct the opening Masterworks concert, "Masters of Melody." (Courtesy photo)

“This is a season rich with historical resonances and musical adventure,” says Jeffrey Kahane, Sarasota Orchestra artistic advisor. “At this extraordinarily difficult moment in history, we hope you will take full advantage of the spiritual nourishment, consolation and challenge that great music played by great musicians can provide.”

The Sarasota Orchestra’s season is really five separate series. The first to get started will be Chamber Soirees, an eight-concert series that will explore both classics and rare works with unusual instrumentation. Leading off the series and the season overall will be “Strings Attached,” Sept. 24, followed by:

  • “Roots of Beethoven,” Oct. 11
  • “Serendipity,” Oct. 31
  • “String Quartet: All Beethoven Recital,” Dec. 20
  • “Latin Dances,” Jan. 24
  • “Americana,” Jan. 28 & 31
  • “Fairy Tale Romance,” Feb. 25 & 28
  • “Music for 7, 8, 9,” April 18

All Chamber Soiree concerts will be at Holley Hall, as will the six concerts in the Great Escapes series — thematic concerts consisting of pops and light classics, along with commentary from the conductor.

Michelle Merrill will conduct the
Michelle Merrill will conduct the "My Funny Valentine" concert in the Great Escapes series. (Courtesy photo)

The concerts include:

  • “Strike Up the Band,” is a salute to some of the great band leaders of the 20th century, with conductor Steven Jarvi, Oct. 14
  • “Jingle Bells Forever,” will present listeners with a collection of holiday favorites with an international flavor, with conductor William Waldrop, Dec. 9
  • “Beethoven at the Movies,” with conductor David Allen Miller, will look at Beethoven’s presence and influence of the soundtracks of popular films, Jan. 13
  • “My Funny Valentine,” will conductor Michelle Merrill, will include romantic interludes by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Tchaikovsky and others
  • “Journey on the Orient Express,” will take listeners on journey through London, Paris, Munich, Hungary and Turkey, with Steven Jarvi conducting
  • “Comedy Tonight,” with guest conductor Christopher Confessore, will present a program of selections with a humorous twist.

This past season focused heavily on the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. While Beethoven will continue to get a few belated birthday nods, much of the attention next season will switch to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in particular with a three-part Discover Mozart series, beginning, appropriately enough, with “Brilliant Beginnings,” Oct. 31, featuring early compositions by Mozart, Britten and Mendelssohn, with conductor Stephen Mulligan and piano soloist Dominic Celli.

Elena Schwarz will conduct
Elena Schwarz will conduct "Fables and Fantasy," the third concert in the Discover Mozart series. (Courtesy photo)

The series will continue with “European Holiday,” with guest conductor Sameer Patel, Dec. 22; and “Fables and Fantasy,” with conductor Elena Schwarz and guest celloist Ifetayo Ali-Landing, May 15.

The Orchestra’s hallmark Masterworks Series will include seven concerts at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Nov. 6-8, when Sarasota Orchestra Artist Advisor Jeffrey Kahane will do double duty as conductor and featured pianist in a concert called “Masters of Melody,” with works by Gershwin and Rachmaninoff.

Isata Kannaeh-Mason will be guest pianist for the
Isata Kannaeh-Mason will be guest pianist for the "Masterworks 3: Musical Heroines" concert. (Courtesy photo)

Other concerts in the series include:

  • “Beethoven Violin Concerto,” with guest conductor Yaniv Dinur and violin soloist Angelo Xiang Yu, Dec. 4-6
  • “Musical Heroines,” with guest conductor Kensho Watanabe and pianist Isata-Kannah-Mason, Jan. 8-10
  • “Symphonie Fantastique,” with guest conductor Carl St. Clair and violinist Augustin Hadelich, Feb. 5-7
  • “Pictures at an Exhibition,” with conductor Marcelo Lehninger and pianist Orion Weiss
  • “From the New World,” with guest conductor Thomas Wilkins and violinist Chee-Yun, March 19-21
  • “Russian Tales,” with Jeffrey Kahane again at the podium and guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson.

Finally, the Pops series in 2021 will bring an orchestral touch to music from other genres for concerts that tend to be lively and surprising.

Christopher Confessore will be at the podium in two  series:
Christopher Confessore will be at the podium in two series: "Comedy Tonight" in the Great Escapes series and "The Envelope Please" in the Pops series. (Courtesy photo)

This season’s concerts include:

  • “Unforgettable: The American Songbook,” including standards by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Etta James and more, with conductor Sean O’Loughlin and guest vocalists Nick Ziobro and Julia Goodwin
  • “The Envelope Please,” featuring songs from stage, screen and TV, with conductor Christopher Confessore and vocalists Susan Egan, Douglas LeBrecque and Lisa Vroman
  • “Revolution: Music of the Beatles,” an authorized symphonic tribute to the Fab Four, conducted by Stuart Malina.

Subscriptions for each series are available for purchase or renewal at


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