Dallas Symphony Orchestra 2018-2019 Season Features Rachmaninoff and ‘Hamilton' star Leslie Odom, Jr.

As Jaap van Zweden, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director, wraps up his tenth and final season with the orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra announced a diverse line-up for 2018-2019.

The classical season series’ highlights include the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s The Bells (Kolokola) April 11-13, 2019. Van Zweden will return to direct Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 March 14-15, 2019.  American music will be represented by John Adams conducting his own work January 31 – February 2, 2019. Soloists Carolyn Sampson, James Gilchrist, Joshua Hopkins and the Dallas Symphony Chorus will join the orchestra to take on Haydn’s The Creation May 24-26, 2019.

The music of Broadway adds some dramatic flair to several of the orchestra’s pops series concerts with A Bernstein Tribute November 9-11, 2018, a concert featuring Hamilton star Leslie Odom, Jr. March 29-31, 2019, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway May 3-5, 2019. The orchestra’s 2018 gala will also feature Tony Award-winning actress Kristen Chenowith on September 15. The season also includes Remix, a series of informal concerts at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District, Soluna, a music and arts festival in April 2019, Opus 100: Organ Recital Series, a variety of Christmas offerings and a family concert series.

As the orchestra prepares for an artistic transition, Peter Czornyj, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Vice President of Artistic Operations, discusses the planning the 2018-2019 season.

Kimberly Richard (KR): "The 2018-2019 season represents a season of transition as the DSO experiences some leadership changes. With that in mind, what were your top priorities as you planned this season?"

Peter Czornyj (PC): "Our top priority is acquiring the best performers and selecting the best music to create a positive concert experience for everyone. Programming concerts for a transition season, with the new music director not yet announced, places the musicians of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the music they perform absolutely front and center of the season."

KR: "There's a wonderful variety of music on this season lineup. How did you select these particular works, conductors and soloists?"

PC: "There is so much great music to get to know. We want to be playing music that is familiar and recognizable – but always adding new music to expand our audiences’ knowledge and awareness!

The process of deciding the programs is a rewarding collective discussion that involves all parties – the conductor, the soloists, the chorus director, if it includes a choral work, the President and CEO, the marketing and communications directors. Then someone gets to make the final decision, and that role falls to the artistic team, that is the Music Director and the Vice President of Artistic Operations. What’s really exciting is then finally speaking with the conductors and soloists and agreeing on a program that everyone is happy with! I also actively seek feedback from our musicians, especially about their experiences with the music they have performed, and the guest conductors and soloists they perform with. They always have interesting ideas for repertoire or possible soloist or conductor ideas to explore. My staff colleagues also have great ideas for programming – and then I really appreciate the thoughts, comments and ideas of our donors and patrons. Everyone should feel included."

KR: "What do you take into consideration as you plan as specific concerts? For example, why did you decide to pair Debussy and Respighi with John Adams on John Adams Conducts John Adams?"

PC: "The conversations with John Adams on programming his weekend of concerts were very active and very creative, as you would imagine the conversations would be with a composer-conductor. But I’m often pleasantly surprised about where these lead us. We naturally wanted to feature John Adams conducting some of his own key works. I particularly love his first violin concerto and, although I was involved in the co-commission of his new violin concerto (“Scheherazade.2”), I wanted our Dallas audiences to experience that iconic first concerto with the composer himself conducting. We considered other American works on the program but then quickly focused on a big, bold, colorful closing work by Respighi (“Roman Festivals”) and, still missing about ten minutes of music on the program, decided it should be something French, and something very different and contrasting, and so we went for Debussy’s very beautiful and contemplative “Sacred and Profane Dances” for harp and string orchestra."

KR: "Artistically, which concert will challenge the orchestra the most? And in what way?"

PC: "That is a very interesting question. I think possibly the concert including Mahler’s powerfully depictive Song of the Earth, a 65-minute song cycle for mezzo-soprano and tenor soloists and orchestra, which the orchestra has not performed for quite a number of years, will be a terrific positive challenge for the musicians. The music is dramatic and then also very delicate and chamber-like, and you need to be supporting and accompanying two vocal soloists. But this is such a great Mahler orchestra, I think the musicians will get into the style and sound of it very quickly and really enjoy performing this with our guest conductor Donald Runnicles and the soloists Kelley O’Connor and Russell Thomas.

KR: "I know you love all of your concerts, but do you have a favorite concert you are especially looking forward to in your 2018-2019 season?"

PC: "Do I really have to pick just one? I am really looking forward to hearing the orchestra and chorus perform Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, a rarely-heard great work by a great composer, with conductor James Gaffigan and some fabulous soloists. And I always enjoy hearing Stravinsky’s complete Firebird ballet score - to be conducted by David Robertson, one of the greatest Stravinsky conductors. And Haydn’s The Creation to close the season, with Matthew Halls conducting and again some superb vocal soloists, will be a real treat. But I didn’t pick one of our organ recitals – and it would be unfair to single out just one of the excellent visiting organists – or one of our great Pops programs, and my favorite there has to be the Bernstein Tribute, but I should probably stop there…I have the 19/20 season to plan and program!" 

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