Houston Symphony Announces 101st Season of Concerts
While still in the midst of a record-breaking Centennial Season, the Houston Symphony announced its 101st season of concerts, the first under new music director Andrés Orozco-Estrada, in an unprecedented multi-media event tonight. A live television broadcast and streaming webcast were produced in conjunction with Houston Public Media on the University of Houston campus at the Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting. Hosted by KUHA Classical 91.7 FM's St.John Flynn, the 30-minute program aired on KUHT Channel 8 and featured interviews, video vignettes and questions from a studio audience comprised of local reporters and Symphony fans. Following the broadcast, the studio guests joined several hundred Symphony supporters for a celebratory champagne and dessert reception at the Hilton Hotel on the UH campus.
"This broadcast and webcast event was the perfect way to spread the word about Andrés' Inaugural Season to an even broader audience and build upon the momentum generated from our Centennial Season," said Houston Symphony Executive Director and CEO Mark C. Hanson. "It symbolizes our commitment to innovation, community partnerships, and becoming more relevant to even more Houstonians. We're grateful to Houston Public Media for collaborating on this important and exciting announcement."
2014-15: Andrés' Inaugural Season
With his infectious warmth, love of people, and electricity on the podium, the 36-year-old Colombian-born and Vienna-trained Orozco-Estrada is looking forward to creating ongoing, meaningful connections with patrons and engaging more Houstonians in orchestral music during his first season and beyond. These ambitions mirror the Symphony's goal of attracting even more people to concerts at Jones Hall and at locations throughout the Greater Houston community.
Prior to the start of the 18-concert Classical Season, the Houston Symphony presents a weekend-long celebration to welcome the debut of Andrés Orozco-Estrada as Music Director. Festivities begin on September 12 with "¡Bienvenido, Andrés!" - a free performance at Miller Outdoor Theatre. All of Houston is invited to this free evening under the stars for music of Mexico, France and Colombia, complete with folk dancers and other festive elements. This concert is made possible in part through the support of the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board. Then, on September 13, an Opening Night with Andrés concert at Jones Hall salutes the start of Orozco-Estrada's Inaugural Season, followed by a gala dinner at The Corinthian chaired by Barbara and Pat McCelvey and catered by Jackson and Company. The concert features highly-acclaimed British trumpeter Alison Balsom, recipient of the 2013 Gramophone Awards "Artist of the Year" title. The Opening Night concert is once again generously supported by ConocoPhillips. The "Bienvenido" weekend culminates with a free concert at Jones Hall, Fiesta Sinfonica Con Andrés, supported in part by Chevron, commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month, on September 14. Gabriela Montero, superstar Venezuelan pianist, also joins the weekend line-up.
Connecting Audiences More Deeply with the Music
"I am so proud to become part of this wonderful city and the 100-year tradition at the Houston Symphony," said Orozco-Estrada. "Every time I walk onto the Jones Hall stage to rehearse and perform with these musicians, I feel something extraordinary, and I look forward to sharing this excitement, connecting more closely to the music, with all of our patrons."
'Musically Speaking with Andrés'
The former ACCESS series gets reinvented with a new format and venue in the 2014-15 Season. Presented on three Thursdays at Rice University's Stude Concert Hall, Musically Speaking with Andrés is an intimate concert experience focused on single works with commentary from Orozco-Estrada. This year's series includes insights from Orozco-Estrada on composers Shostakovich, Dvo?ák and Bartók on January 15, March 12 and May 7.
As the Symphony's first Hispanic Music Director, Andrés is exploring numerous opportunities for Spanish speaking patrons to connect with the Houston Symphony in their native language. As an additional "Musically Speaking" performance outside of the three-concert series, Andrés will be offering Spanish-language commentary together with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on November 16, again at Rice University's Stude Concert Hall. Andrés plans to weave other bilingual presentations throughout the season in various ways, potentially including additional pre- and/or post-concert talks in Spanish.
To enhance the concert experience, connect more directly with audiences and provide additional programming context, Orozco-Estrada will lead post-concert Q&A sessions following several concerts throughout the season. Patrons will have the opportunity to chat with Orozco-Estrada in an informal environment and ask about his thoughts on the music, composers, and his experience as a conductor.
Online discussions are also encouraged. The Symphony has created the hashtag #1415AndresHS for Twitter users to reference throughout the season for sharing comments and questions with Andrés. The Houston Symphony's official Twitter handle is @HouSymphony.
Orchestral Recordings, National Broadcast Series, TV Special
As one of his many initiatives as new Music Director, Orozco-Estrada will lead a variety of orchestral recordings to bring the Houston Symphony to even more music lovers. The first recording project is The Earth - An HD Odyssey, the second installment of the Symphony's hit HD Odyssey series. A DVD of the film and music will be available for sale in Fall 2014.
In addition to recordings, the Symphony will be expanding its reach through a series of national radio broadcasts in conjunction with American Public Media's "Symphony Cast" and "Performance Today." Building upon the 4 national broadcasts that were made possible in the Centennial, the Symphony will continue and expand upon this national presence in the 2014-15 Season.
The Houston Symphony's official television partner, KTRK-TV ABC Channel 13, is producing a 30-minute documentary special to air in August 2014, focused solely on the new music director. Camera crews are collecting footage of Orozco-Estrada abroad in his native Colombia along with interviews of his family and friends. The special will be another method of introducing and connecting Orozco-Estrada to the community.
Artistic Programming Under Andrés
"My goal is to build upon the foundation that has been set by our incredible orchestra and talented artistic leaders from the past," said Orozco-Estrada. "We have a tremendous opportunity to perform music of the greats, as well as music of today from various corners of the world."
Orozco-Estrada opens the subscription season in September by leading the orchestra in Richard Strauss' heroic symphonic tone poem Ein Heldenleben and closes in May 2015 with the colossal Mahler 3.
Opera is an important genre for Orozco-Estrada and will be featured during his tenure in Houston. The first such opera-in-concert will be Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio, featuring enhanced lighting on January 23 and 25, 2015. Together with international soloists, the program also features young singers in collaboration with Rice's Shepherd School of Music and UH's Moores School of Music.
Orozco-Estrada is beginning multi-year cycles focused on notable composers as a way to explore the music of these composers in a more in-depth manner. This season, the Symphony presents Part I of the Beethoven Cycle in November, billed as 3 Weeks of Beethoven. It includes Beethoven's Symphonies 1, 4 and 5. Throughout the next three seasons, the orchestra and Orozco-Estrada will perform all nine Beethoven symphonies.
Demonstrating his eclectic taste in music, Orozco-Estrada also introduces the music of composer Charles Ives. He will conduct an Ives symphony in each of the next four seasons, beginning with Symphony No. 1 in March 2015. Ives had a unique style and became widely known as an "American original."
The Symphony Chorus
Orozco-Estrada will collaborate with and feature the Houston Symphony Chorus in multiple programs this season in order to establish a strong working relationship with this all-volunteer ensemble of talented vocalists. Audiences can witness the budding partnership in performances of Mozart's and Verdi's Requiems as well as Mahler's Symphony No. 3.
2014-15 Classical Season Highlights
Classical season concerts will highlight the exemplary musicians of the Houston Symphony and other global stars of the orchestra world while exploring orchestral repertoire in its varied forms, from blockbusters to modern works.
Multi Grammy Award-winning American-Israeli violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman returns to Jones Hall on February 12, 14 and 15. In a unique concert format, Perlman will both play with and conduct the orchestra in a program of Bach's Violin Concerto and Schubert's Symphony No. 9, The Great.
Korean-American violinist Sarah Chang joins the orchestra on October 2, 4 and 5 for a performance of Pennsylvania-born Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto. The program continues with other Americana flavor, including Symphony No. 3 of Aaron Copland, who is often touted as "the Dean of American Composers."
Spring 2015 introduces French Romantic composers Berlioz and Saint-Saëns, with German-Japanese conductor Jun Märkl and young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor both making their Houston Symphony debuts. Grosvenor, a celebrated pianist, won the BBC's "Young Musician Competition" and will perform Beethoven's bold Piano Concerto No. 1.
Mozart appears in several programs this season. The orchestra and chorus perform Mozart's Requiem on November 20, 22 and 23; identical twin sisters and pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton capture his Concerto for Two Pianos on January 17 and 18; the aforementioned The Abduction from the Seraglio, an opera-in-concert, on January 23 and 25; and guest conductor Gilbert Varga's presentation of one of Mozart's great final symphonies, Symphony No. 39, in March 2015.
In addition to guest artists, Houston Symphony musicians will step into spotlight roles during the 2014-15 Season. During the Beethoven cycle in November, the Symphony's Concertmaster Frank Huang will perform lavish Spanish violin melodies in Édouard Lalo's Symphonie espagnole on November 14, 15 and 16. Two weeks later and in between Beethoven's Symphonies No. 1 and 4, Principal Cellist Brinton Averil Smith will perform as the featured soloist in Schumann's sublime Cello Concerto.
Distinguished Guest Artists & Conductors
The season welcomes a roster of additional distinguished guest artists and conductors from across North America and throughout Europe, including the return of Conductor Laureate Hans Graf for two programs.
Notable guest artists include American pianist André Watts performing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concert No 1; Russian pianist and winner of Belgium's Queen Elisabeth Competition Denis Kozhukhian performing Prokofiev's virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 2; Canadian pianist and Houston favorite Jon Kimura Parker performing Ravel's jazzy Piano Concerto; French pianist Lise de la Salle performing Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2; Swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst performing Copland's Clarinet Concerto; German violinist Augustin Hadelich performing Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2; San Francisco-based Garrick Ohlsson performing Chopin's Piano Concerto; and Florida-based James Ehnes performing one of the most profound works of the violin repertoire, Beethoven's Violin Concerto.
Joining these guest artists are new and returning conductors including the Romanian Associate Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra Cristian M?celaru; Czech-born Music Director of the Royal Danish Orchestra and Opera Jakub Hr?ša; American and current Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Robert Spano; and German-Japanese Jun Märkl.
Representation of Women Composers
In what is typically considered a male-dominated profession, this season showcases musical works written by living women composers. California-born Gabriela Lena Frank is featured in three programs next fall, with one in September premiering a brand new composition created in honor of Andrés' inaugural season. Frank will also take up a two-week residency with the Houston Symphony to go into the community and connect with Symphony audiences. Frank has strong ties to Houston, having received a master's degree from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Another American female composer, Jennifer Higdon, is showcased in the Robert Spano-conducted concert in April 2015. Two of her orchestra pieces will be featured: Concerto for Orchestra and Blue Cathedral, an emotionally-charged composition inspired by her younger brother who died of cancer.
'SoundPlusVision' Concert Series
In May 2004, the Houston Symphony received a grant from the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation that enabled the permanent installation of screens, projectors and video cameras in Jones Hall to allow additional concert enhancements. The organization was the first symphony in the country to do so. Every year since, video elements have been successfully used to support a variety of programs, including the student concert series. There are six classical subscription concerts in the SoundPlusVision Series that feature visual elements such as concert video, dialogue, text translations, visual images and/or special lighting, all in support of the live music.
Season highlights include using the screens to display text translations to support Brahms' Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) and Mozart's Requiem in November. Composer Jennifer Higdon will join guest conductor Robert Spano on stage in April 2015 to introduce her Concerto for Orchestra, and the screens will follow the sections of the orchestra as they perform this virtuoso work.
The SoundPlusVision concert series is supported in part by The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts Endowed Fund for Creative Initiatives and, since 2009, have been sponsored by Margaret Alkek Williams.
2014-15 Sugar Land Series
The Houston Symphony's three-concert series at Sugar Land Baptist Church has a growing subscription base. The Symphony is proud to present the fourth season in 2014-15, reaching patrons in the vibrant community of Fort Bend County and expanding the geographic horizons of the orchestra. For the first time in the series' history, a POPS concert, Blockbuster Film Scores, is part of the lineup that includes: Beethoven's Fifth on November 13; the always popular Handel's Messiah on December 18; and Blockbuster Film Scores on March 5, 2015.
2014-15 Season Cynthia Woods Mitchell POPS at Jones Hall
Principal POPS Conductor Michael Krajewski leads the orchestra in another season filled with the "Music You Know and Love." The season attracts performers and artists from the Broadway stage, television and motion pictures. POPS concerts are also generously supported by presenting sponsor BBVA Compass.
Jason Alexander, who makes his Texas symphonic debut, opens the POPS season with An Evening of Comedy & Song. The Tony Award-winning actor, best known for his iconic role as George on TV's Seinfeld, reminisces about his versatile career on the stage and screen.
Steven Reineke, the current Music Director of The New York Pops and Principal Pops Conductor of the National and Toronto Symphonies, returns this season to guest conduct TV's Greatest Hits, joined by actress-singer Nicole Parker of Broadway and MADtv. The two collaborated with the Houston Symphony in this newly-produced program, exploring themes from favorite TV shows like M*A*S*H, Downton Abbey, Hawaii Five-O and The Flintstones, among others. The program also includes an audience participation component, music from variety shows, and songs made famous by Carol Burnett, Judy Garland and Ethel Merman.
Returning trumpeter and vocalist Byron Stripling is front and center for Ragtime, Blues and All that Jazz, a concert showcasing ragtime masters Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton and blues legends B.B. King and Muddy Waters.
Krajewski presents the Houston holiday fixture Very Merry Pops in December. The program features holiday favorites like "Winter Wonderland," "Sleigh Ride" and "Little Drummer Boy." Always popular is the audience sing-a-long and visit from Santa Claus!
The New Year begins with Tony Award-winning actress, singer and dancer Sutton Foster in Sutton Foster: Broadway's Leading Lady. Foster, a "triple threat," gives a powerhouse song and dance performance. She sings songs from Broadway shows in which she starred, including Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes and Shrek: The Musical.
Blockbuster Film Scores captures the last 30 years of the big screen, including Forrest Gump, The Lord of the Rings, Titanic and Avatar, and features composers such as James Horner, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman and, of course, John Williams.
U.K. Rocks: From The Beatles to Adele takes concertgoers across the Atlantic for a celebratory evening of Britain's best pop music. The program features chanteuse Storm Large of Pink Martini and Midtown Men's J. Robert Spencer, who starred in the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys.
A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch explores the music of the legendary composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch who won virtually every major award: three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes. On Broadway, he wrote the music for one of the longest-running shows, A Chorus Line. On the big screen, he had more than forty motion picture scores from The Way We Were and Sophie's Choice, to his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for The Sting. Songs like "What I Did for Love" and "Nobody Does it Better" prove that Marvin Hamlisch truly was "One" singular sensation.
Dan Dunn, the internationally-acclaimed and Houston-based speed painter, has teamed up with the Houston Symphony to present the world premiere of The Paintjam Concert Experience, an unconventional concept where art is brought to life and inspired by the sounds of the full orchestra. Improvising on a grand scale, Dunn uses paint, sand, canvas, multi-media, and 30 years of life as an artist to choreograph his live performance art to classical, movie, pop and patriotic music.
Lang Lang Joins Andrés
Described as the "hottest artist on the classical music planet" by The New York Times, superstar Chinese pianist Lang Lang will return to the Jones Hall stage in a one-night-only concert on May 12, 2015. This will be a reunion for Lang Lang and Orozco-Estrada, having performed together with Vienna's Tonkünstler Orchestra for the summer gala concert at the 2009 Grafenegg Festival. Lang Lang was last in Houston in October 2012 when he performed three different Beethoven piano concertos with the Houston Symphony during a subscription weekend.
Ben Folds, pianist, singer-songwriter, judge on NBC's The Sing Off, leader of Ben Folds Five and music therapy advocate, joins the orchestra to perform fan favorites from his solo repertoire and rock career. Lucas Waldin joins Folds on stage as guest conductor.
The Houston Symphony collaborates for the third time with Italian tenor and global superstar Andrea Bocelli. He joins the orchestra at the Toyota Center to perform new songs from his latest release, Love in Portofino, along with soaring arias, famed loved songs and hits like "Time to Say Goodbye."
Christopher Warren Green returns to guest conduct Handel's masterpiece Messiah, the Houston holiday tradition. The program features the Houston Symphony, Chorus and guest soloists, and songs like "Ev'ry Valley Shall Be Exalted," "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion" and the timeless "Hallelujah Chorus."
Returning to Jones Hall in time for Valentine's Day is the seven-time Tony Award-winning Bernadette Peters. She has been headlining the Broadway stage for decades and joins the orchestra to perform songs from her illustrious career.
Annual Programs & Concerts
39th Annual Ima Hogg Competition
Introduced by the Houston Symphony League in 1976, the Ima Hogg Competition has earned a reputation of being a launch pad for young musicians' careers as performing artists. Past winners have earned numerous national and international awards, won orchestral positions all over the world, and appeared with the Houston Symphony as guest artists and full-time members. This year's finals concert on May 31 is the culminating step for this season's musical competitors vying for prizes valued at more than $40,000, including the top award of $25,000.
2nd Annual Free Day of Music
The Houston Symphony opens its doors for the 2nd Annual Free Day of Music after generating huge crowds at the inaugural event during the Centennial Season last summer. This day-long free summer event features dozens of performances representing Houston's diverse music community. Fans experience symphonic works, an eclectic mix of jazz groups, rock bands, blues artists, ethnic ensembles, choral music and more. Attendees can enjoy a quick and casual lunch from the city's food truck scene just outside of Jones Hall.
2014-15 Family Season
Dressed head-to-toe in character-inspired attire, Associate Conductor Robert Franz leads the four-concert Family Season with his jovial spirit and passion for music education. Young audiences and their families can learn about and enjoy some of their favorite music in addition to participating in crafts and an instrument petting zoo in the lobby of Jones Hall.
African Safari: With Music from The Lion King begins the season on November 1, featuring the Houston-based Dance Company Intuitive African Dance and Drum Culture. The concert includes music from Disney's The Lion King as well as traditional African folk tunes and dance music.
The timeless story 'Twas the Night Before Christmas is set to beautiful music performed by the Houston Symphony and narrated by Mirron Willis of Houston's esteemed Ensemble Theatre on December 13. This family holiday favorite is complete with festive carols and Jones Hall decorations to get audiences in the spirit of the season.
Star Wars and More! is an intergalactic Saturday morning on March 7 when the music from Star Wars invades Jones Hall. The epic adventure also includes Tchaikovsky's beloved 1812 Overture and "Pines of the Appian Way" from Respighi's Pines of Rome.
The season concludes with the world premiere orchestral concert School House Rock! on April 25 featuring music from the iconic TV series including "Conjunction Junction," "Mother Necessity" and "I'm Just a Bill." The program will present scholastic themes as well as classical music from composers such as Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. The Houston Symphony has a special, personal tie to School House Rock! as well. Principal Flute Aralee Dorough's father, jazz artist Bob Dorough, was the original composer for ABC TV's School House Rock!, and Aralee had a speaking part on "My Hero Zero" at age nine!
During the current 2013-14 Season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its 100th year as one of America's leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. In the upcoming 2014-15 Season, the orchestra begins its next century under the direction of Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada, the organization's first Hispanic music director and 15th overall. The Houston Symphony is one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas whose inaugural performance was held at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston on June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $30.7 million, the full-time ensemble of 87 professional musicians is the largest performing arts organization in Houston, presenting more than 286 performances for 300,000 people, including 82,000 children, annually. For tickets and more information, please visit www.houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575.