The coming 2018-19 season of the Spokane Symphony will be a bittersweet one for music director Eckart Preu.
But he’s not allowing himself to think about it – yet. “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” he said. “At this point, I’m just trying to do good work and put out a really good season.”
Preu, who is leaving the symphony in 2019 to concentrate on other professional opportunities, has instead focused on making his final season as entertaining, compelling and challenging as audiences expect from the Spokane Symphony.
To that end, he said, he continues his tradition of programming “blockbusters” of the classical repertoire along with pieces by contemporary composers or lesser-known works by the masters. He’s bringing back some popular guest artists, including Alon Goldstein and the Silver-Garburg Piano Duo, and bringing in violin virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn and her world-famous 1720 Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius, the violin that inspired the 1998 movie “The Red Violin.”
“Every program has something that is special, that sticks out, that is unusual,” Preu said, “because we are in the memory-creating business. … I think what I’m trying to do is provide an experience that is memorable for more than a day, one that maybe you remember a week, a month, even a year from now.”
Also, he said, he had an eye toward “revisiting a couple pieces that I wanted us to have another shot at, that I want to do again with this orchestra,” he said. “These are pieces that are meaningful to me, that I have a lot of connection. So this is where the Dvořák 7 came in, Beethoven’s ‘Eroica,’ or Sibelius 3.”
Another piece they’re revisiting? Richard Strauss’ “Alpine” Symphony, which the symphony performed to open the 2008-09 season. It’s on the program for his final concert in May 2019. “We’ve been doing Strauss pretty much every single season,” Preu said. “And I think it’s an important part for both the virtuosity, for the elegance of the orchestra, for the sound.”
Preu will conduct five of the classics concerts next season; the other five will be conducted by the five finalists in the running to replace him. He hopes to leave the symphony on good footing.
“I have still a lot of buy-in, emotional buy-in,” Preu said. “I want this orchestra to do well. I have a lot invested. I really want to make sure – without having any say in it, of course – I want them to do well.”
Sept. 8-9, “The Bohemian Spirit,” with guest pianist Charlie Albright, and Preu, conductor. Featuring Bedřich Smetana’s “Ma Vlast (The Moldau),” Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7. Albright, who was born at Fort Lewis in Tacoma and raised in Centralia, is a frequent collaborator of Yo-Yo Ma’s. He will perform the piano concerto.
Oct. 6-7, “The Red Violin,” with guest violinist Pitcairn, and featuring music director finalist Morihiko Nakahara. The program includes the “Symphonic Poem of 3 Notes” by Tan Dun, John Corigliano’s Chaconne for violin and orchestra, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Pitcairn, owner of the legendary 1720 Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius, or Red Violin, will perform a work from the 1998 film, “The Red Violin.”
Oct. 20-21, “The Heroic,” with guest pianist Goldstein and conducted by Preu. Goldstein returns to Spokane to perform W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. Also on the bill are “Out of the Mist” by Lilian Elkington and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”
Nov. 3-4, “Sibelius and Brahms,” with the Silver-Garburg Piano Duo and conducted by Preu. Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg will return to Spokane to perform an arrangement of Johannes Brahms’ famous Opus 25. The program also will feature two works by Jean Sibelius, “Finlandia” and Symphony No. 3
Jan. 19-20, 2019, “Dvořák and Rachmaninoff,” featuring violinist Mateusz Wolski and Spokane Symphony Chorale. Preu conducts as concertmaster Wolski tackles a key work from the violin repertoire, the Dvořák Violin Concerto. The chorale will chime in on Sergei Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony, “The Bells,” and the program also will feature Miguel del Aguila’s “Chautauquan Summer.”
Feb. 16-17, 2019, “Passion’s Pursuit,” with guest pianist Haochen Zhang, and conducted by music director finalist James Lowe. The concert will feature the West Coast premiere of “Rise,” by Zhou Tian, which the Spokane Symphony has co-commissioned with the Allentown Symphony and the Erie Philharmonic. Also on the agenda, Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and Concerto No. 2 in A Major, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4
March 9-10, 2019, “Korngold and Shostakovich,” with guest soloist Angelo Xiang Yu, violin, and conducted by music director finalist Rei Hotoda. Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Musica Celestis” opens the evening, to be followed by Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8.
March 23-24, 2019, “French Mystique,” with guest soloist Simone Porter, violin, and conducted by music director finalist Arthur Arnold. The program features Francis Poulenc’s “Les biches” Suite for Orchestra, Camille Saint-Saëns’s Violin Concerto No. 3 and Bela Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.
April 13-14, 2019, “Russian Virtuosity,” with guest cellist István Várdai, and conducted by music director finalist Jayce Ogren. Várdai takes on Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony Concerto, once considered “unplayable” and one of the most challenging works in the cello repertoire. The program also includes Samuel Barber’s “Second Essay” for Orchestra, and Maurice Ravel’s arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
May 4-5, 2019, Eckart’s Farewell Concert, with guest percussionist Nebojša Jovan Živković. Eckart Preu takes the stage for the last time as the Spokane Symphony’s music director for a performance of Joseph Boulogne’s Overture to “L’amant anonyme,” Richard Strauss’ “Alpine” Symphony, while Živković performs his own composition, “Concerto of the Mad Queen.”
Pops: Pink Martini returns
The Portland-based “little orchestra” will spend two nights at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. April 27, 2019, is featured as part of the Pops series. The other, the night before, is a special.
Other concerts in the pop series include: “Cirque de la Symphonie,” Oct. 13, conducted by Nakahara; “ABBA The Concert,” Nov. 10, conducted by Jorge Luis Uzcátegui; Holiday Pops, Dec. 22-23, conducted by Nakahara and featuring the Spokane Symphony Chorale and Spokane Area Youth Choirs; “The Music of Billy Joel,” Feb. 2, conducted by Nakahara and featuring Michael Cavanaugh, star of the Broadway musical “Movin’ Out”; Seamus Egan Project, March 2, conducted by Nakahara, and featuring Irish music star Seamus Egan; and Pink Martini, April 27, 2019, conducted by Uzcátegui.
In addition to the classics and pops concerts, the Spokane Symphony offers the Chamber Soirée series at the Historic Davenport Hotel (Sept. 25-26, Jan. 29-30 and March 26-27); Baroque Series in local churches (Dec. 8 and Feb. 23 at Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ, 411 S. Washington St., and Dec. 9 and Feb. 24 at Spokane Valley Church of the Nazarene, 15515 East 20th Ave.); the M Show, music, mystery and mayhem orchestrated by concertmaster Wolski, at the Washington Cracker Co., 304 W. Pacific Ave., on Nov. 16-17 and May 23-24; and Soirée on the Edge at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, Aug. 15 and 22.
The symphony adds specials throughout the year that are not included in packages. This includes the April 26, 2019, Pink Martini concert, which goes on sale to symphony subscribers on Aug. 10 and to the general public on Aug 17. Other specials include: “Haunted Hallows: The Music of Harry Potter,” Oct. 27; “The Nutcracker,” conducted by Jorge Luis Uzcátegui and featuring the State Street Ballet, Nov. 29-Dec. 2; and New Year’s Eve with Beethoven’s Ninth, conducted by Preu and featuring the chorale.
Fox Family Series
The family series features three touring shows designed to appeal to all ages: “Recycled Percussion,” music made with pots, power tools, car parts and more, Sept. 29; Cirque Zuma Zuma, known as the “ultimate African circus,” Feb. 1; and “That Physics Show,” with David Maiullo, April 6.
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