The N.C. Symphony’s just-announced 2013-14 season of classical, pops and young people’s concerts offers a balanced mix of styles and artists, from Broadway superstar Patti Lupone to popular cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In nearly 80 performances from September to May throughout Eastern North Carolina, the orchestra has scheduled selections to entice audiences into the ever-rarer world of unamplified live music.
The centerpiece of the season, as usual, is the Raleigh-based classical series, 14 two-night concerts filled with the familiar (Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”) and the less often played (Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7; Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 6).
Music director Grant Llewellyn, who begins his 10th full season this fall, ends the season in May with another in his ongoing Mahler cycle, the intense Symphony No. 3, complete with chorus and alto soloist. He also leads the N.C. Master Chorale in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio during the holidays. Llewellyn will narrate a special program in February illuminating Mexico’s influence on classical composition that includes works by Aaron Copland and Silvestre Revueltas.
The classical series boasts a trio of established young pianists making their first appearances with the orchestra: Joyce Yang in Franck’s “Symphonic Variations” (October), Olli Mustonen in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 (November), and Irina Zahharenkov in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 (January 2014). Returning favorites include violinist Augustin Hadelich in September (Brahms’ Violin Concerto) and pianist Yefim Bronfman in April 2014 (Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2).
A quartet of guest conductors put their own stamp on the programming. In freelance conductor Christian Knapp’s first appearance with the orchestra, he’ll helm Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7 and lead concertmaster Brian Reagin in Barber’s Violin Concerto in January. Returning guests include Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s Jeffrey Kahane in October (Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22, with himself as soloist); and in March 2014, freelancer Andrew Grams (Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with soloist Karen Gomyo) and Fort Worth Symphony’s Miguel Harth-Bedoya (Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”).
There’s even collaboration with Grammy-winning Rhiannon Giddens Laffan of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a crossover classical project that’s still in the works. And for the more adventurous listener, there are recent works by Thomas Adès, Kenneth Frazelle and Jimmy López.
Starting in November, the orchestra continues its popular Raleigh lunchtime series, Friday Favorites, hosted by Llewellyn and Resident Conductor William Henry Curry, who begins his 18th season here. In addition to the Raleigh classical series, the orchestra again has separate series in Chapel Hill, Southern Pines, Fayetteville, New Bern and Wilmington.
Besides Patti Lupone’s guest appearance in April 2014, the orchestra’s Pops series hosts the Duke Ellington Orchestra (September), the acrobats-and-music holiday concert “Cirque de la Symphonie” (December), a George Gershwin tribute (January), the film “Singin’ in the Rain” (February) for which the orchestra plays the soundtrack, and a concert based on Walt Disney’s animated film, “Fantasia” (May).
The Young People’s Saturday concert series in Raleigh features The Enchantment Theatre Company in the “Halloween Spooktacular” Nov. 2, the Triangle Youth Ballet joining in for the “Carnival of the Animals” Jan. 4, and the Magic Circle Mime Co. participating in the March 7, 2014, program, “Music, Noise and Silence.”
With most music now being listened to on a computer or through earphones from a portable digital player, fewer people have experienced the power of a live symphony orchestra. The N.C. Symphony continues its mission to make sure that possibility still exists.