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SPAC 2019 Classical Slate To Feature Balanchine Galore, ‘Harry Potter’ And Collaboration With Indie Artist Sufjan Stevens

Besides mainstays the NYCB and Philadelphia Orchestra, SPAC will also be welcoming back Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who returns to the fold on August 7.

SPAC Summer Season
The New York City Ballet performing 'Serenade' by Tchaikovsky and Balanchine. (Paul Kolnik)

There’s a certain bumper sticker that Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), still remembers from her mother’s car when she was growing up in North Carolina. “It read: Truth is one, paths are many,” Sobol tells saratoga living. “I was a young kid, but that bumper sticker so intrigued me that I’ve used that saying during my career.” Sobol feels that creating new and exciting concert experiences is essential for classical music programming these days. “[Nowadays], people come to classical music through film scores, video games [and] all sorts of different ways,” says Sobol. “We have to provide different paths for people to come into classical music.”

In that spirit, Saratoga Springs’ world-class performing arts center is fully embracing a theme of new compositions and SPAC premieres with its 2019 classical music season. The full summer schedule launches today (January 13) and will present a record number of works that have never been performed on SPAC’s stage before, from masterpieces by Mozart to contemporary ones such as the 2015 Anthology of Fantastic Zoology by American composer Mason Bates. Whoever comes through those doors, I want them to to walk away feeling like they had a gratifying and satisfying sonic experience,” says Sobol.

For the 2019 season, SPAC’s Senior Director of Artistic Planning, Chris Shiley, digitized 52 years of the center’s repertoire. This allowed Sobol and others to analyze how many times certain pieces had been played at SPAC, and which compositions, including some truly monumental works such as Mozart’s Requiem, hadn’t been played there at all. “Twenty-nineteen is the year when we’re really able to bring new programs to SPAC that have never been performed here,” Sobol tells saratoga living. “And they’re works that need to be heard by the SPAC audience.”

The New York City Ballet (NYCB) will kick off the classical season with four distinct and eclectic programs (July 16-20), including the beloved comic ballet Coppélia (an updated version by NYCB Co-founder George Balanchine premiered at SPAC in 1974). There will be a program highlighting three SPAC premieres by 21st-century composers, as well as an evening dedicated to Balanchine and Tchaikovsky, including Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a breathtaking work of virtuosity for piano, orchestra and 27 dancers. Capping off the NYCB’s stay in the Spa City will be the annual Ballet Gala with performances of Balanchine’s Apollo, Christopher Wheeldon’s This Bitter Earth and a new, as yet unnamed piece (a collaboration with Oscar-nominated composer Sufjan Stevens) by NYCB Resident Choreographer and Soloist Justin Peck.

SPAC Summer Season
Music Director and Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra. (Jan Regan)

In keeping with the theme of newness, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s annual residency (July 31–August 17) will present 19 SPAC premieres ranging from iconic masterworks, such as Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, to inventive new compositions. SPAC’s “Cinema Series” will also be back with an assortment of popular movie scores, including Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Disney/Pixar’s Up and Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. Fans will be able to enjoy these great movies on the big screen while the Philadelphia Orchestra provides a live soundtrack. And conductor and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin returns to Saratoga to lead the Philadelphia Orchestra for its last two weeks, including the season finale, an all-Mozart night featuring the composer’s famous and haunting Requiem. Says Sobol of Nézet-Séguin’s return: “Yannick had such an incredible visit last year that he made time in his busy schedule to come up this year.” (In addition to serving as Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Nézet-Séguin took up the post of Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera last September.)

The Chamber Music Society (CMS) of Lincoln Center will close out the classical season (August 4-20) with six programs of nothing but SPAC premieres, 23 pieces in all. The works, which present a range of chamber music from around the world, with a repertoire spanning more than 250 years, will feature 24 artists from nine countries (including debut performances by four artists). Plus, there will be a first-ever performance of The Philadelphia Orchestra with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) for Wynton Marsalis’ Symphony No. 3, commonly known as the “Swing Symphony.”

Tickets will be available online at spac.org beginning on Monday, January 14 at 10am. Check out the full schedule below:

New York City Ballet: July 16 – 20

Tchaikovsky and Balanchine
Tuesday, July 16 (8pm) and Thursday, July 18 (2pm)
NYCB’s opening night and Thursday matinee will celebrate the ballet company’s co-founder, Russian choreographer/dancer George Balanchine alongside one of his lifelong inspirations, Romantic-era composer Tchaikovsky.
-Serenade (Tchaikovsky/Balanchine)
-Mozartiana (Tchaikovsky/Balanchine)
-Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 (Tchaikovsky/Balanchine)

SPAC Premieres By 21st Century Choreographers
Wednesday, July 17 (8pm)
This night of all SPAC premieres will highlight three incredibly different, contemporary works, including the as-yet-unnamed Justin Peck collaboration with indie rock star Sufjan Stevens.
-Varied Trio (in four) (Harrison/Frohlich)
-New Work by Justin Peck (Stevens/Peck)
-The Runaway (Nico Muhly, Kanye West, Jay-Z, James Blake/Abraham)   

Coppélia (Delibes/Balanchine/Danilova)
Thursday, July 18 (8pm), Friday, July 19 (8pm) and Saturday, July 20 (2pm)
Coppélia is one of the greatest comedic ballets of the 19th century. This revised version by Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova didn’t just premiere in Saratoga in 1974, but it was also co-commissioned by SPAC.

SPAC’s NYC Ballet Gala
Saturday, July 20 (8pm)
The NYCB Gala is one of the highlights of SPAC’s summer season and a must on the Saratoga social calendar with incredible food, beverages and, of course, unforgettable ballet.
Apollo (Stravinsky/Balanchine)
-This Bitter Earth (Richter,Otis/Wheeldon)
-New Work by Justin Peck (Stevens/Peck)

The Philadelphia Orchestra: July 31 – August 17

Festive Fireworks
Wednesday, July 31 (8pm)
Stéphane Denève, conductor
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s residency kicks off with an evening of festive pieces full of beauty, bravado and even some marching. New to the program this year will be the SPAC debut of dancers from the Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO).
Sheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov)
La Valse (Ravel)
1812 Overture (Tchaikovsky)

Beyond Baroque
Thursday, August 1 (2pm)
Stéphane Denève, conductor
With this program, audiences will revisit the Baroque Era through the ears of modern composers and arrangers, such as Leopold Stokowski, former Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra and famed for his orchestral arrangements of popular classical pieces.
-“Adoramus te” (Palestrina/orch. Stokowski)
-Le Tombeau de Couperin (Ravel)
-Suite from Pulcinella (Stravinsky)
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor (Bach/orch. Stokowski)
Fugue in G minor (“Little”) (Bach/orch. Stokowski)
Toccata and Fugue in D minor (Bach/orch. Stokowski)

Songs of the Sea
Friday, August 2 (8pm)
Stéphane Denève, conductor
Renowned pianist Janice Carissa will make her SPAC debut performing Ravel’s jazz-inspired Piano Concerto in G major.
-“Four Sea Interludes,” from Peter Grimes (Britten)
Piano Concerto in G major (Ravel)
-“The Sunken Cathedral,” from Preludes (Debussy/orch. Stokowski)
-La Mer (Debussy)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert
Saturday, August 3 (8pm)
*Conductor to be announced
Audiences will be able to enjoy the magic of the first Harry Potter film projected onto the big screen at SPAC while hearing the Philadelphia Orchestra perform John Williams’ Grammy-nominated score.

Yannick Returns
Wednesday, August 7 (8pm)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin returns for an incredible array of Romantic-era and contemporary pieces.
-Masquerade (Clyne)
-Poème de l’amour et de la mer (Chausson)
Symphony No. 1 (Rachmaninoff)

American Idylls
Thursday, August 8 (8pm)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
This program will feature three SPAC premieres by American composers, plus the truly phenomenal and effervescent symphonic poem, Fountains of Rome.
-blue cathedral (Higdon)
-Appalachian Spring (Copland)
-Fountains of Rome (Respighi)
-Anthology of Fantastic Zoology (Bates)

South American Sounds
Friday, August 9 (8pm)
On August 9, Peruvian conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya will be making his first-ever SPAC appearance for an evening of South American music.
-Danzón No. 2 (Márquez)
Harp Concerto (Ginastera)
-Tangazo (Piazzolla)
Perú negro (López)

Disney/Pixar’s Up in Concert
Saturday, August 10 (8pm)
Constantine Kitsopoulus, conductor
The Philadelphia Orchestra is proud to give the animated motion picture Up its SPAC debut on the movie’s 10th anniversary.

Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights in Concert
Wednesday, August 14 (8pm)
Kensho Wantanabe, conductor

Chaplin’s famous romantic comedy, City Lights, will come to life when The Philadelphia Orchestra accompanies, performing Chaplin’s score (yes, he composed, too!).

Marsalis’ “Swing Symphony”
Thursday, August 15 (8pm)
William Eddins, conductor

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO)
TheSwing Symphony” (Symphony No. 3) by Grammy Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wynton Marsalis, who’s also Music Director of JLCO, will feature a first-ever performance by both JLCO and The Philadelphia Orchestra, following an opening jazz piece by the JLCO.

Jan & Yannick
Friday, August 16 (8pm)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Making his SPAC debut is 23-year-old Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki with a performance of Edvard Greig’s very popular and dramatic Piano Concerto.
-“Prelude to Act I,” of Lohengrin (Wagner)
Piano Concerto (Greig)
Symphony No. 7 (Dvořák)

All Mozart
Saturday, August 17 (8pm)
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Christian Blackshaw, piano
Albany Pro Musica
The Philadelphia Orchestra will conclude its three-week residency with a night of Mozart masterpieces, including the Piano Concerto No. 27, K.595 with pianist Christian Blackshaw and Mozart’s unforgettable Requiem with Albany Pro Musica.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: August 4 – 20

Thrills & Chills
Sunday, August 4 (3pm)
Showing off its musically eclectic nature, the Chamber Music Society (CMS) will begin its season with a little bit of everything, including works by American, German, British and French composers.
Jeux d’eau for piano (Ravel)
Fantasy for Flute and Piano, Op. 79 (Fauré)
Sonata for flute and piano (Poulenc)
Capriccio for cello and piano (Foss)
Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6 (Britten)
Trio in D major for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 70, No. 1, “Ghost” (Beethoven)

Instrumental Array
Tuesday, August 6 (8pm)
On August 6, the SPAC program will feature three undeniable masterpieces:
Concerto in D minor for Keyboard, Strings, and Continuo, BWV 1052 (Bach)
Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7 (Kodály)
Grand Nonetto in F major for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass, Op. 31 (Spohr)

Deeply Inspired
Sunday, August 11 (3pm)
This program will celebrate those young musical prodigies that left their permanent mark on classical music but were lost to the world too soon.
Trio in B-flat major for Violin, Viola, and Cello, D. 581 (Schubert)
Concerto No. 12 in A major for Piano and String Quintet, K. 414 (Mozart)
Trio No. 2 in C minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 66 (Mendelssohn)

International Voices
Tuesday, August 13 (8pm)
SPAC’s audience will go on a sonic journey through North America and Europe in this program that celebrates the music of both cultures.
Southland Sketches for violin and piano (Burleigh)
Couple for cello and piano (Adolphe)
L’Histoire du soldat (“The Soldier’s Tale”), Trio Version for violin, clarinet, and piano (Stravinsky)
-Selections from Suite populaire espagnole for violin and piano (Falla)
Sextet in C major for Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano, Op. 37 (Dohnányi)

Vienna to Paris
Sunday, August 18 (3pm)
Vienna to Paris brings to Saratoga music inspired by these two marvelous cities that, for centuries, have been the crown jewels of Europe’s classical music scene.
Trio in C minor for Violin, Viola, and Cello, Op. 9, No. 3 (Beethoven)
Quartet in G minor for Strings, Op. 10 (Debussy)
Quartet No. 2 in A major for Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello, Op. 26 (Brahms)

Technical Brilliance
Tuesday, August 20 (8pm)
The CMS closes out its residency with a celebration of three of classical music’s most brilliant technical craftsmen, composers that left us with works of dazzling virtuosity and imagination.
Quartet in F major for Strings, K. 590, “Prussian” (Mozart)
Sonata No. 1 in D minor for Violin and Piano, Op. 75 (Saint-Saëns)
Sextet in A major for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Two Cellos, Op. 48 (Dvořák)

 

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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