That long, lovely spell of hot weather has switched over to incipient autumn, and music lovers know the start of the fall concert season can’t be far behind. It’s time to go behind the scenes of the region’s biggest purveyor of live classical music: the Seattle Symphony.
Starting off the season in what will likely be a spectacular fashion, music director Ludovic Morlot has signed up the Chinese-born virtuoso who is one of the current kings of the keyboard: Lang Lang, soloing in the splashy Prokofiev Third. Equal parts showman and poet, Lang Lang is featured in a Slavic-accented program that includes folk dances and other works by Brahms, Borodin, Dvorak, Bartok, and Pancho Vladigerov. (It’s OK, we’d barely heard of Mr. Vladigerov, too. He was a Bulgarian composer and pianist who lived from 1899 to 1976, and his energetic, colorful Toccata is on the program.)
Conductor Stilian Kirov will share the conducting responsibilities with Morlot (4 p.m. on Sunday, September 15).
Morlot turns to his countryman Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) for the next program, and another pianist – the French-born Jean-Yves Thibaudet—joins the orchestra in both the scintillating Piano Concerto in G Major and the Piano Concerto in D Major for the Left Hand. (The latter one was composed for pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in World War I.)
Thibaudet also is a bit of a fashion icon, famous for espousing designer Vivienne Westwood’s fashions … and his own red socks. The program will extend to several character pieces, from “Alborada del Gracioso” and “Pavane for a Dead Princess” to the ultra-famous “Bolero” (7:30 p.m. September 19, 8 p.m. September 21).
Or: check out a shorter version of the Ravel program (minus the soloist) in the “Symphony Untuxed” series, which offers shorter programs with no intermission, preceded by a happy hour (7 p.m. September 20).
In October, the Symphony starts off the month with two masterpieces: Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto” (with violinist Alina Pogostkina, cellist Andreas Brantelid, and pianist Christian Ihle Hadland as soloists), and Schubert’s tuneful Symphony No. 9, nicknamed “The Great.” On the podium will be Danish guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard, who has made an excellent impression in previous outings here. There’s a matinee concert, too, that might be just the thing for the family (7:30 p.m. October 3, 8 p.m. October 5, and 2 p.m. October 6).
For something completely different: the young pianist Simone Dinnerstein, who created a sensation out of nowhere with her distinctive recording of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations a few years back, pairs up with the dynamic early-music specialist Andrew Manze for two performances of an intriguing program stretching over three centuries. Manze’s own arrangement of a Purcell Suite shares this lineup with Mozart’s Piano concerto No. 23 in A Major, and a 20th-century composer who hasn’t been heard much at the Symphony: Ralph Vaughan Williams (his Symphony No. 5). 7:30 p.m. October 10, 8 p.m. October 12.
In the middle of those two programs comes a rare opportunity to hear – ironically enough – another pianist who specializes in Bach, playing the “Goldberg” Variations. It’s Andras Schiff, the Hungarian-born virtuoso who now is viewed as one of the greatest Bach interpreters since the late Glenn Gould. Music lovers who were around for Schiff’s last Bach performance in Benaroya Hall probably already have their tickets to this recital; if you love the exquisite purity of the Goldbergs, don’t miss it (8 p.m. October 11).
Some unusual solo instruments also get outings later this fall. It’s not every day that you get Dittersdorf’s Concerto for Viola and Double Bass (with soloists Susan Gulkis Assadi and Jordan Anderson, October 17, 18, 19), or Vivaldi’s C Major Piccolo Concerto (with Zartouhi Dombourian-Eby, November 1-2). Also on the unusual side: the U.S. premiere of a violin concerto by Pascal Dusapin (Renaud Capucon, soloist) in three concerts with Morlot also conducting Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony (November 14-16).
Morlot returns to the podium for two acknowledged masterpieces on the November calendar: Mahler’s mighty Symphony No. 6 (November 7 and 9), and the positively operatic Verdi Requiem (November 21-24).
Bearing in mind Morlot’s exhortation to “Listen boldly,” you might want to try some non-standard concert fare as well. A short, intermission-less “Beyond the Score” program called “The Tristan Effect” (November 10, 2 p.m.) will have Wagnerian excerpts along with three actors, vocal soloist Kathryn Weld, and narrator Steve Reeder (a Classical KING FM announcer for two decades). And the Symphony is very proud of its groundbreaking late-night “[untitled]” series, which has a jazz ensemble (the Steve Lehman Trio) performing with orchestra musicians and guests out in the lobby of Benaroya Hall; the program is called “Cat o’ Nine Tails” (10 p.m. on October 18).