This week, we announced the Jacksonville Symphony’s 2017-18 season, and you may have read about the new five-year contract signed with our musicians earlier this month. We’re increasing musicians’ salaries to levels that match our peers, adding six full-time musicians to the orchestra, and increasing the orchestra’s season from 35 to 38 weeks. Last season, we increased our classical weekends from 10 to 12, and next season we’ll expand again to 13 with the addition of Fanfare, a single season-opening concert. It’s a thrill to be working with an orchestra, staff and board that are committed to building the best symphony for you, right here in Jacksonville.
At the heart of the season you’ll hear many beloved masterpieces. Something about writing a Fifth symphony inspired many composers to great heights, and we’re featuring several such pinnacles: you can look forward to Fifths by Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Sibelius and Shostakovich. I’m especially excited about an evening of Brahms’s Third Symphony followed by Bruckner’s breath-taking Seventh. We’ll perform Beethoven’s “Eroica,” Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, Barber’s Adagio for Strings and a host of other linchpins of the repertoire.
I’m a strong believer in performing the music of today. It’s how we stay relevant, and it’s how we understand ourselves in the present. I’m amazed by how many younger audience members tell me they love the range of new music we’re playing. Often it’s their favorite piece on the program. We’ve scheduled our first co-commission, a cello concerto by American composer Lowell Liebermann for May 2018, and I’m looking forward to works by the Englishman Jonathan Harvey and the Brooklyn-based Timo Andres. There’s a huge chunk of repertoire that is no longer new but that hasn’t been heard yet in Jacksonville, and you won’t want to miss our concerts with Janáček’s tone poem “Taras Bulba,” Schoenberg’s terrifying “Five Pieces for Orchestra” and Nielsen’s irrepressible “Inextinguishable Symphony.”
This season saw the return of opera with a semi-staged production of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel.” Next year, we’re presenting a fully-staged production of Mozart’s beautiful and terrifying tale of passion, lust and revenge, “Don Giovanni.” We’ll perform with the action taking place on a stage built behind the orchestra. You’ll be able to see the Jacksonville Symphony onstage while watching a world-class cast in a thrilling production designed especially for the glorious acoustics of Jacoby Hall.
We’re welcoming a trio of esteemed guest conductors. Fabio Mechetti will return to lead the Symphony and Chorus in Fauré’s beloved “Requiem” and Berlioz’s revolutionary “Symphonie Fantastique.” And two brilliant young conductors, Sergey Neller and Kazem Abdullah, will lead neo-classical and American programs.
The caliber of guest artists working with the Jacksonville Symphony continues to climb. Earlier this month, I was delighted to hear how astonished superstar pianist Lang Lang was by the level at which our orchestra plays. Word is getting out, and next season will feature world-famous artists including pianist Jonathan Biss, violinist Anthony Marwood and an impressive range of singers. Our season will end with what I think is the most artistically ambitious project we’ve undertaken so far: an hour of orchestral and operatic excerpts from the final opera from Wagner’s “Ring”: Götterdämmerung, or “The Twilight of the Gods.” For this we welcome two of the finest dramatic singers alive today: soprano Christine Brewer and tenor Jay Hunter Morris. I can’t tell you how inspiring it will be to work with such artists. Those concerts might just be topped by one even more special night, our Gala, which will feature soprano Reneé Fleming, the queen of American sopranos with a voice many of us have loved for decades. Her appearance in Jacksonville will be the icing on the cake.
So, a season jam-packed with treats for every kind of music lover. Just don’t forget there are still many wonderful concerts in our current season, which isn’t a whole lot less exciting. See you soon at Jacoby Symphony Hall.
Reprinted with kind permission of The Florida-Times Union.