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2020 SPAC Classical Season: Highlights Include Beethoven, ‘Porgy and Bess’ And ‘Star Wars’

The summer slate also includes 13 SPAC premieres by the Philadelphia Orchestra, more 'Harry Potter' and famed violinist Joshua Bell.

New York City Ballet
This summer at SPAC, the New York City Ballet will perform 'Rubies' by Balanchine and Stravinsky. (Paul Kolnik)

When it comes to phenomenal classical music, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) has its patrons covered this summer. Saratoga’s premier performing arts venue has announced its full 2020 classical season, which, like in previous years, will feature a number of SPAC premieres and performance-packed residencies, featuring the New York City Ballet (NYCB), the Philadelphia Orchestra and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS).

“SPAC is celebrating the new decade with a 2020 season chock full of innovative and contemporary works that have never been performed at SPAC as well as beloved classics by our resident companies,” Elizabeth Sobol, SPAC’s president and CEO, tells saratoga living.

That slate of innovative, new programming that Sobol mentions will include 13 SPAC premieres for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s season (including an evening of highlights from George Gershwin’s classic opera, Porgy and Bess), plus a single night of three different premieres performed by the NYCB. The 2020 summer season will also include a truly unprecedented feat: the performance of all nine Beethoven symphonies across just four consecutive nights to celebrate the composer’s 250th birthday, all under the baton of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

“2020 also marks the global celebration of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in America,” Sobol tells saratoga living. “That means Beethoven concerti, chamber music and all nine symphonies, and a record number of works by female composers.” In that spirit, CMS will close out the 2020 classical season with six programs all dedicated to Beethoven’s influence on music and all curated specifically for the chamber orchestra’s SPAC residency.

Tickets will first become available to SPAC members online, starting on Wednesday, January 15, and to the general public two weeks later on Wednesday, January 29. Check out the complete classical schedule below.

New York City Ballet: July 14-18

Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky/Martins after Petipa, Ivanov, Balanchine)
Tuesday, July 14, Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18
The NYCB will open its annual Saratoga residency with a full-length production of Swan Lake, which hasn’t appeared on SPAC’s stage since 2006.

20th Century Masters
Wednesday, July 15 and Thursday, July 16
Summerspace (Feldman/Cunningham)
Piano Pieces (Tchaikovsky/Robbins)
Rubies (Stravinsky/Balanchine)

SPAC Premieres
Thursday, July 16
Haieff Divertimento (Haieff/Balanchine)
The Shaded Line (Tan Dun/Lovette)
New Unnamed Work (Muhly/Peck)

SPAC’s NYC Ballet Gala
Saturday, July 18
This year’s NYC Ballet Gala will feature a program of exclusively jazz-inspired pieces.
In G Major (Ravel, Robbins)
The Man I Love Pas de Deux (from Who Cares?) (Gershwin/Balanchine)
Rubies (from Jewels) (Stravinsky/Balanchine)

The Philadelphia Orchestra: August 5-22

Festive Fireworks
Wednesday, August 5
The Philadelphia Orchestra will continue the tradition of kicking off its summer residency with a cannon-and-fireworks-rich version of the 1812 Overture.
Stéphane Denève, conductor
Icarus for Orchestra (Auerbach)
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Dukas)
Suite from The Firebird, 1919 version (Stravinsky)
1812 Overture (Tchaikovsky)

The score from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ will be performed in full by the Philadelphia Orchestra, along with a screening of the movie, at SPAC this summer.

Time for Three/Triple Concerto
Thursday, August 6
Stéphane Denève, conductor
Overture to Candide (Bernstein)
Triple Concerto – East Coast Premiere (Puts)
Symphony No. 4 (Brahms)

Beethoven 2020 | Joshua Bell Returns
Friday, August 7
Stéphane Denève, conductor
Soloists: Joshua Bell, violin, Steven Isserlis, cello, and Jeremy Denk, piano
Triple Concerto (Beethoven)
Ein Heldenleben (Strauss)

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert
Saturday, August 8
Lucas Richman, conductor
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, complete with film (Williams)

Beethoven 2020—The Seventh Symphony
Wednesday, August 12
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Fate Now Conquers – NY State Premiere (Simon)
Symphony No. 8 (Beethoven)
Symphony No. 4 (Beethoven)
Symphony No. 7 (Beethoven)

Beethoven 2020—Eroica
Thursday, August 13
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Climb – NY State Premiere (Hunt)
Symphony No. 2 (Beethoven)
Symphony No. 3, “Eroica” (Beethoven)

Beethoven 2020—The Fifth
Friday, August 14
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Jeder Baum spricht – NY State Premiere (Habibi)
Beethoven Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven)
Beethoven Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral” (Beethoven)

Beethoven 2020—Ode to Joy
Saturday, August 15
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
with the Albany Pro Musica and the Pro Musica International Festival Chorus
Pachamama Meets an Ode – NY State Premiere (Frank)
Symphony No. 1 (Beethoven)
Symphony No. 9,  “Choral” (Beethoven)

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony 30th Anniversary Edition
Wednesday, August 19
George Daugherty, conductor
Created by George Daugherty and David Ka Lik Wong
Bugs Bunny at the Symphony 30th Anniversary Edition

Beethoven 2020—The Emperor

Thursday, August 20
Louis Langrée, conductor
Jonathan Biss, piano
Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor” (Beethoven)
Symphony No. 5 (Tchaikovsky)

Porgy and Bess
Friday, August 21
Marin Alsop, conductor
with the Morgan State University Choir
Escaramuza (Frank)
Coincident Dances (Montgomery)
Highlights from Porgy and Bess (Gerswhin)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban In Concert
Saturday, August 22
Justin Freer, conductor
with the Morgan State University Choir
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, complete with film (Williams)

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: August 9-25

Vienna-Budapest-Prague
Sunday, August 9
CMS will open its season with a concert dedicated to the cities that helped cement the careers of three of Europe’s greatest composers.
Quartet in C minor for Strings, Op. 18, No. 4 (Beethoven)
Quintet No. 2 in E-flat minor for Piano, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, Op. 26 (Dohnányi)
Quintet in G major for Two Violins, Viola, Cello, and Bass, Op. 77 (Dvořák )

Viennese Trinity
Tuesday, August 11
Quartet in B-flat major for Strings, Hob. III:1, Op. 1, No. 1, “La chasse” (Haydn)
Quintet in E-flat major for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, and Piano, Op. 16 (Beethoven)
Quartet in D minor for Strings, D. 810, “Death and the Maiden” (Schubert )

Beethoven’s Heirs
Sunday, August 16
Sonata in A major for Cello and Piano, Op. 69 (Beethoven)
Trio in E minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 90, “Dumky” (Dvořák)
Quintet in E major for Piano, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, Op. 15 (Korngold)

Speed Demons
Tuesday, August 18
Trio in D major for Violin, Viola, and Cello, Op. 9, No. 2 (Beethoven)
Märchenbilder for Viola and Piano, Op. 113 (Schumann)
And…They’re Off for Piano, Violin, and Cello (Tower)
Quintet in F minor for Piano, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello (Franck)

Through Beethoven
Sunday, August 23
Petite Suite for Piano, Four Hands (Debussy)
Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano, Op. 47, “Kreutzer” (Beethoven)
Quintet in F-sharp minor for Piano, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, Op. 67 (Beach)

Inheritance
Tuesday, August 25
Quartet in G minor for Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello, K. 478 (Mozart)
Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major for Piano and String Quintet, K. 449 (Mozart)
Trio in B-flat major for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 97, “Archduke” (Beethoven)

Jeff Dingler
Jeff Dingler

Jeff Dingler is saratoga living's Senior Writer. He's a graduate of Skidmore College and a professional musician.

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