The major thread tying together Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's 2022-'23 season is an organic one.
Music director Ken-David Masur has chosen a number of works that reflect on humanity's relationship with the natural world and the environment, such as Richard Strauss' massive "Eine Alpensinfonie" ("An Alpine Symphony") and Iranian-Canadian composer Iman Habibi's "Jeder Baum spricht" ("Every Tree Speaks").
Masur and the MSO have grouped some of those works into a Water Festival, three weekends of concerts with aqueous themes in early 2023, topped by performances of Tan Dun's Water Concerto, which incorporates water onstage as a musical instrument. New York Philharmonic principal percussionist Christopher Lamb, who performed in the world premiere, will also play it here with the MSO.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have turned to spending more time in nature and reflected on that connection, Masur said. But he also noted that contemporary composers are concerned about climate change and environmental damage. Habibi has pledged that every piece he composes going forward will have something to say about our relationship to nature, Masur said.
As the MSO looks forward to its second full season with audiences in its new home, the Bradley Symphony Center, Masur and his programming colleague Bret Dorhout, vice president of artistic planning, continue to blend works by living composers and lesser-known repertoire with big, familiar classics. During 2022-'23, the latter group includes Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica"), Mozart's Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter") and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.
With COVID-19 safety in mind, during the current season the MSO held back from playing some possible works onstage which would have required a larger-size orchestra, Dorhout said. The orchestra feels more confident planning music with bigger ensembles for 2022-'23.
A second theme in the coming season will be an increase in singing onstage, which should surprise no one who knows Masur's background as a boy chorister, choral coach and conductor. Masur is looking forward to unmasked singing from the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, conditions permitting.
The chorus' to-do list will include Mendelssohn's big oratorio "Elijah," which Masur programmed because his soloist of choice is available, bass-baritone Dashon Burton. Next season closes with Mahler's Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection"), which will feature the chorus singing words of consolation Mahler adapted from a Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock poem.
The women of the chorus will have their mystic moment singing in the wordless finale "Neptune" of Holst's suite "The Planet."
But wait, there's more. Masur is re-arranging Brahms' "Academic Festival" Overture to have the chorus sings the songs that Brahms drew from instrumentally for that composition.
Pianist and artistic partner Aaron Diehl will return for two different programs, including a passion project he has championed, the orchestral arrangement of jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams' "Zodiac Suite." Each of its 12 segments is dedicated to musicians born under those signs. In its dedicatory nature, Dorhout likened it to Elgar's "Enigma Variations." (Fittingly, "Zodiac" joins Holst's "The Planets" for an all-celestial bill.)
Next season will begin with a co-commissioned Fanfare composed by jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
2022-'23 Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra classical concert schedule
Here is a chronological list of Milwaukee Symphony concerts during the 2022-'23 season. All 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. 30-Oct. 1: Ken-David Masur, conductor; Christina and Michelle Naughton, pianos; Fanfare, Wynton Marsalis; Concerto for Two Pianos in E major, Mendelssohn; "Eine Alpensinfonie," R. Strauss.
Oct. 7-9: Masur, conductor; Aaron Diehl, piano; "Rodeo," Copland; Symphony No. 2 ("Song of a New Race"), William Grant Still; Concerto in F, Gershwin.
Oct. 21-22: Jader Bignamini, conductor; Blake Pouliot, violin; Ballade, Coleridge-Taylor; Violin Concerto No. 1, Paganini; Symphony No. 5, Tchaikovsky.
Nov. 4-6: Masur, conductor; Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, Cheryl Frazes Hill, director; "Jeder Baum spricht," Iman Habibi; Symphony No. 1 ("Spring"), Schumann; "Gesang der Parzen," Brahms; "Schicksalslied," Brahms; Academic Festival Overture, Brahms.
Nov. 11-12: Masur, conductor; Baiba Skride, violin; "Night Ride and Sunrise," Sibelius; "Aether" for violin and orchestra, Sebastian Currier; Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica"), Beethoven.
Nov. 18-19: David Robertson, conductor; Orli Shaham, piano; "Une Barque sur l’Ocean," Ravel; Piano Concerto No. 2, Chopin; "L’Ascension," Messaien; "La valse." Ravel.
Jan. 20-21: Masur, conductor; Christopher Lamb, Robert Klieger, Chris Riggs, percussion; Water Concerto, Tan Dun; "Vltave" ("The Moldau"), Smetana; "American Port of Call," Adolphus Hailstork; Four Sea Interludes, Britten.
Jan. 27-29: Nicholas McGegan, conductor; Jon McCullough-Benner, bass; Suite from "Naïs," Rameau; Concerto for Double Bass No. 2, Bottesini; Water Music Suite No. 1, Handel.
Feb. 3-4: Masur, conductor; Catherine Chen, bassoon; Sonora Slocum, alto flute; Julia Coronelli, harp; "The Hebrides," Mendelssohn; "Toward the Sea II" ("Umi e II")' Takemitsu; "Pictures from the Floating World," David Ludwig.
Feb. 17-19: Markus Stenz, conductor; Stephen Hough, piano; Piano Concerto No. 2, Rachmaninoff; Dance Suite, Bartók; "Carmen" Suite, Bizet.
Feb. 24-25: Han-Na Chang, conductor; Zlatomir Fung, cello; "This Midnight Hour," Anna Clyne; Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33, Tchaikovsky; Symphony No. 5, Shostakovich.
March 3-4, 2023: Jonathon Heyward, conductor; James Ehnes, violin; "Records from a Vanishing City," Jessie Montgomery; Violin Concerto No. 2, Prokofiev; Symphony No. 8, Dvořák.
March 24-26, 2023: Masur, conductor; Dashon Burton, bass-baritone; Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, Cheryl Frazes Hill, director; "Elijah," Mendelssohn.
April 14-15, 2023: Roderick Cox, conductor; Inon Barnatan, piano; "Don Juan." R. Strauss; Piano Concerto No. 4, Beethoven; Symphony No. 5, Sibelius.
May 5-6, 2023: Yaniv Dinur, conductor; Joyce Yang, piano; "In Nature’s Realm," Dvořák; Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, Mozart; Concerto for Orchestra, Lutoslawski.
May 26-28, 2023: Masur, conductor; Diehl, piano; Women of the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus; "Zodiac Suite," Mary Lou Williams; "The Planets," Holst.
June 9-11, 2023: Edo de Waart, conductor; Matthew Annin, horn; Serenade No. 2, Brahms; Horn Concerto No. 1, R. Strauss; Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”), Mozart.
June 16-17, 2023: Masur, conductor; Anna Larsson, mezzo-soprano; Milwaukee Symphony Chorus; Cheryl Frazes Hill, director; Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”), Mahler.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's upcoming season to feature more choral