Making it through 75 years is quite an accomplishment for any organization, much less one engaged in the arts. Yet the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra finds itself celebrating just that milestone in 2010. At key moments in its existence, the orchestra has crossed over thresholds of artistic achievement that have meant not only financial survival in the often unforgiving world of the arts, but has also meant the attainment of respected status for the KSO in the ranks of American orchestras.
KSO has just announced its list of events, premieres, and guest artists scheduled for the 75th anniversary season in 2010-11. Right out of the box in September, KSO will join in a collaboration with the University of Tennessee's Clarence Brown Theatre in a production of Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus. Scheduled for Sept. 8-19, the production will be directed by CBT's producing artistic director, Calvin MacLean, and will feature Mozart's music performed on stage with the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Lucas Richman. Tickets for this joint production will be available as an add-on to KSO and CBT subscriptions.
Save room for champagne and cake at the official 75th anniversary celebration, which will take place at the November Masterworks concert. In a look back at the KSO's first concert on Nov. 24, 1935, the orchestra will perform Mozart's Symphony No. 39. Of special note on the program will be Knoxville composer James Carlson's Off Trail in the Smokies, commissioned by KSO for the celebration of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's 75th anniversary in 2009. There will also be works by Dukas, composer and former KSO conductor David Van Vactor, Sartor, Janacek, and Shostakovich.
A week after Amadeus closes in September, the orchestra's Masterworks series opens with an all-Tchaikovsky program. Violinist Dylana Jensen will join KSO for Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, a work she first performed in 1972 as an 11-year-old prodigy with the Cincinnati Symphony. Among the other Tchaikovsky works on that program will be music from the ballet Swan Lake and the Coronation March.
Unquestionably, no composer is more identified with American music than George Gershwin, and no Gershwin work is more identifiable than Rhapsody in Blue. Guest pianist Norman Kreiger will be the soloist in an all-Gershwin concert that will also include the fabulous Cuban Overture, Catfish Row: Symphonic Suite, and selections from Porgy and Bess with Michael Rodgers and the Carson-Newman Chorus.
Violinist Midori will make a return visit to Knoxville in January 2011 for Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. Also on the bill for that concert will be Richard Strauss' tone poem Ein Heldenleben and Richman's A Time for Heroes.
We'll be a little late in celebrating the bicentennial birth year of Frederick Chopin (1810-1849) in February, but better late than never. Pianist Orli Shaham (sister of violinist Gil Shaham) makes a Knoxville appearance to perform Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 on a concert that will also include Mozart's Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony and Liszt's Les Preludes.
In March, former KSO conductor Kirk Trevor returns to Knoxville as a guest conductor, accompanied by his daughter, violinist Chloe Trevor, for a violin work yet to be decided. Definitely decided on is Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5.
Beethoven's mighty and majestic Symphony No. 9, featuring the Knoxville Choral Society, will complete KSO's cycle of Beethoven's symphonies in April. Pianist Jeffrey Biegel will be on hand for the Tennessee premiere of William Bolcom's Choral Fantasy, a work commissioned by a consortium of 10 orchestras, including KSO.
Pianist Joel Fan joins the orchestra to conclude the Masterworks season with Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Also on that May 2011 concert is Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and Stravinsky's Suite from The Firebird.
The KSO's chamber series concerts, on Sunday afternoons in November, January, March, April, and May, feature the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra, as well as smaller ensembles and soloists, in the intimate acoustics of the Bijou Theatre. The opening concert will be a re-creation of the very first concert performed by the KSO on Nov. 24, 1935: Glazunov's Trois Morceaux, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20, with local pianist Slade Trammell, Sibelius' Valse Triste, and Mozart's Symphony No. 39. Other concerts in the series will offer the works of Beethoven, opera overtures and arias, intriguing string quartets and woodwind quintets, and an all-Baroque program.
Sales of season tickets for both series, as well as the special production of Amadeus, are on sale now through the KSO ticket desk or at the KSO website.