Utah Symphony Delivers Exquisite Musical Storytelling in 2023-24 Season
Season Features Internationally Renowned Artists Including Violinist Itzhak Perlman, Vocalist Audra McDonald, Percussionist Colin Currie, and Pianist Sir Stephen Hough with the World Premiere of His Own Concerto; the Vision of Creative Partner David Robertson in Three Programs, Including Beethoven’s Ninth and a Genre-Crossing Guitar Festival; Conducting Debuts by Sir Donald Runnicles and Lidiya Yankovskaya, Plus Two Returns by David Danzmayr; and New “Masterworks Magnified” Programs
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (March 22, 2023) – The Utah Symphony’s 2023-24 season will deliver powerful musical narratives, as each program brings its own aspect of storytelling to the stage. Following the conclusion of Thierry’s Fischer’s 14-year tenure as Music Director (Fischer becomes Music Director Emeritus at the end of the 2022-23 season), the symphony continues his legacy of innovation—expanding the symphonic repertoire with world or U.S. premieres of co-commissioned works; creating new avenues for understanding of, and engagement with, traditional repertoire; and inviting 15 renowned conductors to bring their unique vision to Masterworks programs, including Creative Partner David Robertson.
“Every work we present has a story to share, and we continually strive to connect our audiences to these powerful musical narratives—whether it is the idealism of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony contrasted with the darkness of Berg’s Wozzeck, the humor in Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, or the nostalgia of a past era that inspired pianist Stephen Hough’s first concerto,” says President & CEO Steve Brosvik. “As we turn the page to a new chapter at the Utah Symphony, we continue our long-held story of dedication to our entire state and look forward to sharing with Utahns all that the upcoming season expresses.”
An undeniable highlight of the season and confirmation of the symphony’s promise to bring the world’s best artists to Utah, reigning violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman joins the orchestra for a special celebratory evening to showcase a new suite of film music composed or arranged by John Williams from movies including Schindler’s List, Far and Away, and Sabrina. Perlman enjoys superstar status rarely afforded to classical musicians—and he is treasured by audiences worldwide who respond not only to his remarkable artistry, but also to his irrepressible joy for music-making.
While the symphony’s music director search continues, David Robertson begins his three-year term as inaugural Creative Partner—and in the 2023-24 season, he has crafted three distinct and imaginative concert experiences that will excite existing audiences and attract newcomers, each complemented by related education activities. Robertson’s first program will deepen audiences’ understanding of Beethoven’s Ninth, exploring the highs and lows of humanity by pairing the masterpiece (with its famous “Ode to Joy” proclaiming the dream of universal brotherhood) with the semi-staged final act of Berg’s opera, Wozzeck, based on the true and brutal story of a tragic contemporary of Beethoven. In his second program, Robertson explores the concept of place expressed through music, with works that paint images of America, Finland, and Germany, including Schumann’s “Rhenish” Symphony.
For his final week in May 2024, Robertson has developed a festival bringing the eight extraordinary acoustic and electric guitarists of the collective Another Night on Earth to the community. With the Guitar Celebrations festival, the ensemble members—including Robertson—will engage with audiences and students in genre-bending performances and education programs in a variety of venues and settings across the Salt Lake Valley. The capstone to the week-long festival is a Masterworks performance at Abravanel Hall with a wide range of music for acoustic and electric guitar with orchestra, from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez (history’s most famous guitar concerto); to arrangements of music by The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Frank Zappa; to new guitar concertos by Another Night on Earth members Steven Mackey and James Moore. This innovative program highlights the versatility of the guitar while pushing the boundaries of classical programming and welcoming together audiences who enjoy popular music of many genres.
Also designed to bring new audiences to the concert hall—and to bring new perspectives to current audiences—the Utah Symphony introduces Masterworks Magnified, successor to the Unwound series, which was offered in years prior to the pandemic. For three Masterworks performances, audiences will enjoy added elements such as video projections and special lighting in the concert hall, conversations with the performers, and lobby activities on theme with the concert, allowing different and deeper experiences of classical repertoire. (The designated Masterworks Magnified programs will be announced later this spring.)
The season’s narrative begins with Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, inspired by the spiritual storytelling of Native American and African American music, in a program with Utah native Aubree Oliverson as soloist in Barber’s Violin Concerto. The storytelling motif continues with lush symphonic favorites including Copland’s vision of the American dream in Appalachian Spring; the fabled tales of the One Thousand and One Nights translated musically in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (as well as Ravel’s song cycle of the same name, with Utah Opera favorite Wendy Bryn Harmer); selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, which acts as a masterclass for storytelling through music; tone poems by Strauss and Sibelius; and theatrical and opera overtures by Mozart, Beethoven, and others. This utterly expressive repertoire is brought to life masterfully by the orchestra’s 87 extraordinary artists.
Renowned guest soloists will grace the stage for the Masterworks Series with their own personal narratives and musicality shared through works written specifically for them. For a third straight season, Sir Stephen Hough returns to the Utah Symphony, this time with the world premiere of his own Piano Concerto (The World of Yesterday), co-commissioned by the Utah Symphony and inspired by the decadence of pre-war Vienna. Danny Elfman’s colorful and lively Percussion Concerto was written for—and is performed by—dynamic percussionist Colin Currie, and trail-blazing pianist Awadagin Pratt brings a delightful mix of old and new to the stage with a Bach Keyboard Concerto and Rounds by Jessie Montgomery, who wrote the work specifically for him. Émergences-Résurgences by Swiss composer Michael Jarrell was co-commissioned by the Utah Symphony and written for the world’s most renowned violist, Tabea Zimmermann, who will give its U.S. premiere. Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers will share Arturo Márquez’s dance-inspired Fandango, composed for her, in a spirited season finale.
Co-commissioned by the Utah Symphony, Quinn Mason composed a new Trombone Concerto—bringing out the instrument’s singing quality—for the orchestra’s Principal Trombone Mark Davidson, who gives its world premiere. Continuing her annual appearance as soloist, Concertmaster Madeline Adkins performs the dream-like Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1, led by returning conductor Jun Märkl.
Other familiar faces on the podium include David Danzmayr, who leads the orchestra in two programs (Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Danny Elfman’s Percussion Concerto), Ludovic Morlot (Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony), Rune Bergmann (Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and Liszt’s Totentanz with Joyce Yang), Markus Poschner (Brahms Symphony No. 2), and former Associate Conductor Conner Gray Covington (Strauss’ Don Juan). Audiences can look forward to the exciting Utah Symphony debuts of Sir Donald Runnicles (Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5), Lidiya Yankovskaya (Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2), Anna Rakitina (Dvořák’s Violin Concerto with International Violin Competition of Indianapolis winner Sirena Huang), Eduardo Stausser (Beethoven’s “Emperor” Piano Concerto with Marie-Ange Nguci), and more. Teddy Abrams, who has previously led Utah Symphony pops programs, makes his Masterworks debut with a program including the overture to his own rap-opera about American boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
The Utah Symphony continues to represent the breadth of our world and Utah’s communities in its programming. Thirteen Masterworks concerts feature women, either as guest artists or composers, and nearly half of the Masterworks programs represent people of color—including composers Quinn Mason, Jessie Montgomery, Carlos Simon, and Arturo Márquez. In September, the symphony continues its annual celebration of Hispanic culture with an evening of food, artisan crafts, and music by Latin American composers at Celebración Sinfónica.
In addition to the balance of new, innovative, and long-beloved repertoire, the Pops Series (formally the Entertainment Series), Films in Concert Series, Family Series, and Special Events are also expected to draw new audiences to the symphony. The winner of a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and an Emmy Award, Pops Series headliner Audra McDonald will dazzle audiences with her singular talent; Byron Stripling will channel the great Louis Armstrong with an electrifying tribute to the jazz great; and Direct from Sweden: The Music of ABBA will deliver the biggest hits from the iconic band. Five popular movies will play on the big screen as the orchestra plays every note live—including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (concluding the eight-part series), Black Panther, Casablanca, How to Train Your Dragon, and Frozen (presented just before Christmas).
The Utah Symphony has a long history of bringing its community together through music at the holidays and will share in seasonal celebrations with the Messiah Sing-In tradition with Utah Opera, inviting the audience to sing along with Handel’s beloved oratorio; a highly-anticipated return appearance by the adored Irish group Celtic Woman following last year’s sell-out performance; the new Holiday Pops Extravaganza! highlighting festive tunes in a dazzling spectacle of music and visuals; and Family Series mainstay Here Comes Santa Claus!, which will delight audiences of all ages with holiday favorites, a magical story played out by actors, and an appearance by the jolly man himself!
Following Here Comes Santa Claus!, the Family Series—which cultivates concert experiences perfect for the youngest music lovers—continues with the classic Peter and the Wolf, a charming story that vividly illustrates the adventures of Peter and his animal friends with different instruments representing each character. An Outer-Space Adventure! will enchant children with space-themed music accompanied by video and imagery of the solar system, created in collaboration with The Clark Planetarium.
Beyond the main-stage Family Series concerts, the Utah Symphony engages students throughout the state with a wide range of educational performances and interactive opportunities. Each year, the symphony reaches more than 62,000 students and teachers through K-12 in-school performances and a 40-year tradition of welcoming nearly every fifth grader in the Salt Lake Valley to Abravanel Hall; online materials are provided to teachers and students to spark curiosity and learning ahead of the concert experience. Open rehearsals and tours of Abravanel Hall offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into life in the arts, and the annual Youth Orchestra Festival welcomes more than 800 youth orchestra musicians into the hall. Students of all ages have the opportunity to interact with Utah Symphony musicians guest artists, and the 63-year Salute to Youth tradition creates the opportunity for students to become soloists with the symphony for a once-in-a-lifetime evening.
With a commitment to making classical music accessible to the entire community, Access to Music—a long-held tradition—is designed for those with sensory sensitivities and other disabilities. The one-hour performance is welcoming and inclusive of individuals of all ages and abilities, provides special accommodations and services for audience members, and has a relaxed attitude toward movement and noise in the concert hall, encouraging those with differing needs to fully enjoy and express themselves.
Altogether, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera reaches students in every school district in the state on a three-year rotation—leading one of the most extensive performing arts education programs in the U.S.
Other important initiatives expanding access to classical music and increasing the symphony’s presence include summer orchestra performances in communities along the Wasatch front, many with free or low-cost tickets. Finishing Touches Rehearsals offer behind-the-scenes access to experience the process of refining a performance (and light breakfast fare!) for less than $15.
The Utah Symphony will present four of its Masterworks programs at its series at The Noorda Center for the Performing Arts at Utah Valley University, the orchestra’s Utah County home in Orem (dates are noted in the listings below). Other select programs are performed at the Brigham Young University School of Music Concert Hall in Provo and the Daines Concert Hall in Logan (noted in the listings below); and at the Austad Auditorium at the Val A. Browning Center in Ogden (to be announced this spring). Each summer, the orchestra and well-known guest artists perform against the magnificent backdrop of the Wasatch mountains at the Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley® Music Festival in Park City. Programming for the summer 2023 festival will be announced on Thursday, March 23.
In total, the orchestra performs for hundreds of thousands of Utahns annually, with additional programs announced throughout the year.