What you need to know about Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's 2023-'24 season

·7 min read

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra opened the Bradley Symphony Center in the teeth of the COVID-19 pandemic. So its leadership sees the upcoming 2023-'24 season as part of a continuing effort to welcome listeners to the newish venue and back to live concerts.

With that in mind, "I'd say every program has something on it that people are going to like as well as something that may be new," said Bret Dorhout, vice president of artistic planning, who works with music director Ken-David Masur on mapping out each season. Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Dvořák's "New World" Symphony and Ravel's "Bolero" are among the classical tradition's greatest hits on next season's playlist.

Masur's innovations as Milwaukee Symphony's leader have included recruiting an artistic partner, a high-caliber soloist who also gets involved in local music through educational outreach and additional performances. Last season and the current one, it's been pianist Aaron Diehl. The MSO will have a new partner next season: vocalist Dashon Burton.

Here's a look at some of the most exciting events planned for the 2023-'24 classical season, followed by a complete listing.

Vocalist Dashon Burton will be the MSO's artistic partner

Bass-baritone Burton, who is singing Mendelssohn's "Elijah" this season March 24-26 with the MSO, will be featured in three different programs in 2023-'24: contemporary composer Eleanor Alberga's "The Soul's Expression" and several Schubert songs Sept. 22-24; Brahms' "Serious Songs" March 1-2, 2024; and Orff's popular "Carmina Burana" Jun 7-9, 2024. As artistic partner, Burton also will be involved in such outreach activities as master classes and school visits. Burton not only has the range to sing everything from big opera to madrigals, he's also a great storyteller and musical evangelist who can connect with listeners, including younger ones, Masur said.

A weekend Bach festival will feature Brandenburg concerti

The MSO will pack a two-program festival in honor of Masur's Leipzig homeboy Johann Sebastian Bach into a single weekend. (Listeners who plan appropriately can hear both concerts on Saturday March 23, 2024.) Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and Baroque violinist Rachell Ellen Wong will join the orchestra to play three of the Brandenburg concerti over the two programs. In period style, Masur won't be on the podium for those concerti. But he will conduct other Bach works over the weekend, including the "Magnificat," featuring the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus.

The season will include two works by Ukrainian composers

On Sept. 29-30, MSO will perform Valentyn Silvestrov's "Prayer for the Ukraine," composed in 2014 for a different crisis but taken up recently by orchestras in light of the Russian invasion. The season finale program June 14-15, 2024, will include Boris Lyatoshynsky's symphonic poem "Grazyhna," composed in honor of Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz and inspired by Mickiewicz's poem about a mythical female warrior.

Third Coast Percussion joins MSO to perform unusual Takemitsu composition

Masur has programmed one of the signature — and most unusual — works by Tōru Takemitsu, the Japanese composer best known to Western listeners. For Takemitsu's "From Me Flows What You Call Time" (May 17-18, 2024), guest artists Third Coast Percussion from Chicago will play bells suspended from the ceiling, using long colored ribbons. The location of the ribbons gives listeners a sense of the whole hall as a musical environment, not just the stage, Masur noted.

Principal trombonist Megumi Kanda will be a feature soloist during the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's 2023-'24 season.
Principal trombonist Megumi Kanda will be a feature soloist during the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's 2023-'24 season.

Trombonist Megumi Kanda takes on new Tan Dun music about old instruments

Once again the MSO will feature several of its own principals as soloists next season. For Tan Dun's "Three Muses in Video Game" (June 7-9, 2024), which just received its world premiere in late 2021, trombonist Megumi Kanda will emulate the sounds of ancient traditional Chinese instruments, including the xiqin (forerunner of the erhu), the bili (akin to an oboe) and the sheng (a mouth organ). Principal oboist Katherine Young Steele, who played the first notes in Bradley Symphony Center's first concert in 2021, will perform Mozart's Oboe Concerto (Feb. 2-3, 2024). And principal trumpeter Matthew Ernest will play the Hummel Trumpet Concerto (Jan. 26-27, 2024).

2023-'24 Milwaukee Symphony Orchestral classical concert schedule

Here is a chronological list of Milwaukee Symphony classical concerts during the 2023-'24 season; all programs and soloists are subject to change. Concerts will take place at the Bradley Symphony Center, 212 W. Wisconsin Ave. For subscription and other info, call (414) 291-7605 or visit mso.org.

Sept. 22-24: Ken-David Masur, conductor; Dashon Burton, bass-baritone; "Be Still," Daniel Kidane; "The Soul's Expression," Eleanor Alberga; several songs by Schubert; Symphony No. 5, Beethoven.

Ken-David Masur is music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
Ken-David Masur is music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Sept. 29-30: Masur, conductor; Yefim Bronfman, piano; "Prayer for the Ukraine," Silvestrov; Piano Concerto No. 1, Brahms; "Petrushka," Stravinsky.

Oct. 20-22: Matthias Pintscher, conductor; Leila Josefowicz, violin; Prelude to "The Afternoon of a Faun," Debussy; "Assonanza," Matthias Pintscher; “Ibéria” from "Images pour orchestra," Debussy; "Bolero," Ravel.

Nov. 3-4: Masur, conductor; Aldo López-Gavilán, piano; Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, Cheryl Frazes Hill, director; Overture to "Fidelio"; Beethoven; "Emporium," Aldo López-Gavilán; "Meeresstille und Glückliche Fahrt" and Choral Fantasie, Beethoven.

Nov. 10-11: Edo de Waart, conductor; Joyce Yang, piano; "The Chairman Dances," John Adams; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Rachmaninoff; Symphony No. 1, Elgar.

Nov. 17-18: Ruth Reinhardt, conductor; Andrei Ioniță, cello; "Rear-view," Jonathan Cziner; Cello Concerto No. 2, Shostakovich; Symphony No. 4, Brahms.

Jan. 26-27, 2024: Bernard Labadie, conductor; Matthew Ernst, trumpet; Symphony in C minor, Rigel; Trumpet Concerto, Hummel; Symphony No. 40, Mozart.

Feb. 2-3, 2024: Masur, conductor; Katherine Young Steele, oboe; Symphony No. 35 (“Haffner”), Mozart; Oboe Concerto in C major, Mozart; Variations & Fugue on a Theme of Mozart, Reger.

Feb. 9-10, 2024: Iván López-Reynoso, conductor; Jorge Federico Osorio, piano; "Redes" Concert Suite, Revueltas; Piano Concerto No. 1, Beethoven; "Pictures at an Exhibition," Mussorgsky/Ravel.

Violinist Randall Goosby will perform with the Milwaukee Symphony in Feb. 2024.
Violinist Randall Goosby will perform with the Milwaukee Symphony in Feb. 2024.

Feb. 23-25, 2024: Christian Reif, conductor; Randall Goosby, violin; Overture in D minor, Pejačević; Violin Concerto in E minor, Mendelssohn; Concerto for Orchestra, Bartók.

March 1-2, 2024: Masur, conductor; Dashon Burton, bass-baritone; "Thrace," Dobrinka Tabakova; "Vier Präludien und Ernste Gesänge" (“Four Preludes and Serious Songs”), Brahms/Glanert; Symphony No. 6 ("Pathétique"), Tchaikovsky.

March 8-10, 2024: Jader Bignamini, conductor; George Li, piano; Three Dance Episodes from "On the Town," Bernstein; Piano Concert in G major, "Valse nobles et sentimentales," Ravel.

March 22-23, 2024: Masur, conductor; Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord & leader; Rachell Ellen Wong, violin & leader; Brandenberg Concerto No. 1, Brandenberg Concerto No. 5, Violin Concerto in E major, Suite No. 3 in D major, Bach.

March 23-24, 2024: Masur, conductor; Esfahani, harpsichord & leader; Wong, violin & leader; Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, Cheryl Frazes Hill, director; Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Harpsichord Concerto in A major, Violin Concerto in A minor, "Magnificat" in D Major, Bach.

April 26-28, 2024: Masur, conductor; Stewart Goodyear, piano; Piano Concerto No. 1, "Totentanz," Liszt; Symphony fantastique, Berlioz.

May 10-11, 2024: Joseph Young, conductor; Alexi Kenny, violin; "Pulse," Brian Raphael Nabors; Violin Concerto, Barber; Symphony No. 9, (“New World”), Dvořák.

Chicago's Third Coast Percussion performs Oct. 30-31 with the Milwaukee Symphony.
Chicago's Third Coast Percussion performs Oct. 30-31 with the Milwaukee Symphony.

May 17-18, 2024: Masur, conductor; Third Coast Percussion; Women of the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus; Fanfare from "La Peri," Dukas; "From Me Flows What You Call Time," Takemitsu; Nocturnes, Debussy; "Sorcerer's Apprentice," Dukas.

June 7-9, 2024: Masur, conductor; Dashon Burton, bass-baritone; Megumi Kanda, trombone; Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, Cheryl Frazes Hill, director; "Fate Now Conquers," Carlos Simon; "Three Muses in Video Game," Tan Dun; "Carmina Burana," Orff.

June 14-15, 2024: Masur, conductor; Augustin Hadelich, violin; "Grazyhaa," Lyatoshynsky; Symphony No. 7, Sibelius; Violin Concerto in D major, Tchaikovsky.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What you need to know about Milwaukee Symphony's 2023-'24 season