Against recent practice, there will be no guest conductors for the eight programs of the Madison Symphony Orchestra's 2010-2011 season. Music director John DeMain will take the podium for all of them himself.
Running through the season will be a theme of commemoration for three composers. The birthday anniversary of Robert Schumann (1810) will be noted by his Piano Concerto (April), and his Third Symphony, the "Rhenish" (January); and that of Samuel Barber (1910) by his Violin Concerto (March), as well as his "Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance" (January). The centennial of Gustav Mahler's death (also 1910) will be honored with his massive Second Symphony ("The Resurrection"), in the season's grand finale (May).
A second theme is suggested by the season's subtitle, The Young Lions, which stresses the appearance of guest soloists who dazzle us while still early in their careers. These guests will include some welcome returners. Olga Kern will play Rachmaninoff's beloved Second Piano Concerto (October), and Henning Kraggerud will present Tchaikovsky's dazzling Violin Concerto (January). The Barber Concerto will be offered by violinist Robert McDuffie, while Madison's own Christopher Taylor plays Schumann's romantic Piano Concerto (April).
Two young soloists making their MSO, but not their Madison, debuts are Alisa Weilerstein, in Dvorák's magnificent Cello Concerto (November), and Simone Dinnerstein, in Beethoven's poetic Fourth Piano Concerto (February). And the powerful dramatic soprano Angela Brown will appear in the Christmas concert in December.
Some home-team familiars will also be involved. The Madison Symphony Chorus will again be among the local groups in the Christmas concert, and it will raise the roof with the Mahler Second. It will also join in Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms" (April). Local singers Julia Falkner and Jamie Van Eyck will be featured in the Mahler Second, but for the curtain-raiser in that May program, Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp will draw upon two of the MSO's own members, Stephanie Jutt and Karen Beth Atz.
The orchestra will have a lot to do on its own. The standout is perhaps to be the new orchestral suite that John Harbison has specially created from his opera "The Great Gatsby" (November). Besides the aforementioned Schumann Third and Mahler Second, there will be two major symphonies, the powerful Fifth of Prokofiev (February), and the mighty Third ("Eroica") by Beethoven (March).
The wonderful individual and group players of the MSO will have a chance to shine in Bartók's rousing "Concerto for Orchestra" (October). DeMain has also planned some choice shorter pieces, besides Barber's "Medea" episode. These will include Brahms's "Academic Festival Overture" (October), Strauss's "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" (November), Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" March No. 1 (February), Dvorák's "Carnival" Overture (March), and a combination of the hypnotic "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" by Vaughan Williams with Tchaikovsky's blazing "Francesca da Rimini" (April).
Here are the programs of the Madison Symphony Orchestra's 2010-2011 season:
October 15-17, with Kern (Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Bartók)
November 12-14, with Weilerstein (Harbison, Strauss, Dvorák)
December 3-5, with Angela Brown, et al. (Christmas Spectacular)
January 14-16, with Kraggerud (Barber, Tchaikovsky, Schumann)
February 18-20, with Dinnerstein (Elgar, Beethoven, Prokofiev)
March 25-27, with Robert McDuffie (Dvorák, Barber, Beethoven)
April 15-17, with Christopher Taylor (Stravinsky, Schumann, Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky)
May 6-8 (Mozart, Mahler)