Monterey Symphony season opens with “Movies, Music and Memories."
Thursday, October 4, 2007
The first featured instruments of the new Monterey Symphony season will be the voices of musical theater singers Susan Egan and Michael Maguire. In “Movies, Music and Memories,” they, the orchestra, and conductor Arthur Post will provide a package of Broadway songs that discovered themselves included in blockbuster films. This gala carries a price tag of $50 per person or with a post-concert dinner, $185 per person. This fundraiser takes place at Sunset Center in Carmel this Saturday.
Post is back for his third time with the Monterey Symphony. His own orchestra is the San Juan Symphony in Durango, but he guest conducts all over and is known for introducing rare repertoire (like Britten’s opera Curlew River in a recent Besançon production) and themed programs that put new music together with familiar classics. “I do new music because I really believe it’s a conductor’s responsibility to make the connections between the past and the present,” he said during a recent phone conversation.
That thinking makes scant appearance in the season that follows. Music director Max Bragado has included Francis Poulenc’s charming Sinfonietta (1905) in the March program, and Joan Tower’s Clarinet Concerto (1988) in April. February’s guest conductor, Marko Letonja, opens his Italian opera program with Andrzej Panufnik’s Sinfonia Sacra (1963), which is built around the ancient Polish hymn Bogurodzica. Otherwise, the season offers no programming surprises.
That puts the burden on the orchestra in familiar works of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Copland, Rodrigo, Rachmaninoff, Debussy and Mahler. It also puts the spotlight on the conductor whose work will inevitably be compared to the daily fare on KBOQ and other packaged classical “format” services often more concerned about whether their stations are tuned in rather than whether anybody’s actually listening.
Meanwhile, the season’s solo artists will clearly impose individual personality into the mix. Barbara Nissman, soloist in Brahms’ mighty Piano Concerto No. 2 in October, has an excellent reputation – as anyone who has performed and recorded all of Prokofiev’s piano music to critical acclaim, including the concertos, must. Daniel del Pino, who performs a Chopin concerto in the January series, is a very busy young Spaniard (born in Lebanon) who has collaborated with Bragado and other Spanish conductors. His affiliations, like his education, are international, and include numerous competition prizes. The veteran guitarist Angel Romero returns for Rodrigo’s lyrical Concierto de Aranjuez in March. For the Tower concerto the soloist is Ginger Kroft Barnetson, who performs with the Carmel Bach Festival, the Fresno Philharmonic and many Bay Area ensembles. In February, Letonja’s program features coloratura soprano Tracy Dahl in popular arias by Bellini, Puccini and Verdi.
Leroy Kromm’s Symphony Chorus gets to do everybody’s favorite, Handel’s Messiah, at the start of December, under returning guest conductor Christoph Campestrini. Later that month, Kromm takes his singers to Gonzales and Carmel Mission for a holiday program.
Bragado seems comfortable programming works that he has, in most cases, performed many times before. Since we are living during a true renaissance of great new music, particularly the American composers like John Adams, John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse and Michael Torke, it’s a pity that he has chosen not to expose such fare to audiences here.
Monterey Symphony season opens with “Movies, Music and Memories” at 7pm Saturday, Oct. 6 at the Sunset Center, San Carlos and Ninth in Carmel. Individual tickets are $25-$50. 624-8511 or montereysymphony.org