Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot reveal ambitious 2017-2018 season

 2017–2018 SEASON
Photo: Brandon Patoc

Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot and President & CEO Simon Woods announce the Grammy-winning orchestra’s 2017–2018 season, presenting deep explorations of Stravinsky, Berlioz, Prokofiev, Bernstein and Vivaldi; a variety of exciting new commissions and premieres; and new recordings on the Seattle Symphony Media label. The Seattle Symphony will also go on tour to several cities in California including its first-ever residency at the University of California, Berkeley.

“As I start the 2017–2018 season as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, I am thrilled to continue this incredible musical journey with our audiences and musicians,” commented Morlot. “Beyond continuing to embrace the music that we all cherish, the new season will offer an opportunity to focus more deeply on the music of Berlioz, Stravinsky and Bernstein. Our role in presenting new music will continue, and I look forward to collaborating with John Luther Adams, David Lang and Andrew Norman, and to welcoming Alexandra Gardner for a residency program, as well as our two Featured Artists, Jeremy Denk and Kenneth Tarver.”

Woods added, “This coming season in so many ways is a summation of all that Ludovic and the orchestra have together been working towards since he came to Seattle. The commitment to new music, the cross-genre collaboration and the thematic programming are things that are now firmly integrated into the way we think about season planning at the Seattle Symphony. And as usual, we’re proud to be able to present a list of great international artists that any orchestra in the country would be proud of.”  

In April 2018 Ludovic Morlot will lead Stravinsky’s Persephone, with tenor Kenneth Tarver, dancer Anna MarraNorthwest Boychoir and the Seattle Symphony Chorale. The production will further come to life with sets and puppetry co-commissioned with the Oregon Symphony from renowned film and theater designer Michael CurryPersephone will be performed as part of an all-Stravinsky program including Song of the Volga Boatmen, Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments with pianist Marc-André Hamelin, and Les noces with the Dmitry Pokrovsky Ensembleand pianists HamelinCristina ValdésJessica Choe and Li-Tan Hsu.

Tenor Kenneth Tarver is one of two Featured Artists in the 2017–2018 season. In addition to Stravinsky’sPersephone, he will also be in Seattle in November 2017 to perform as tenor soloist in Berlioz’s Requiem, and will join Seattle Symphony musicians in Ravel’s “Chansons madécasses” as part of the Chamber series.

Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Dausgaard, in his fourth season with the orchestra, will return to conduct two subscription programs including Sibelius’ monumental choral symphony, Kullervo, inspired by the Kalevala from Finnish folk mythology. Soloists for Kullervo are Finnish-American soprano Maria Männistö and German lyric baritone Benjamin Appl. The second program is all Brahms, including Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Hungarian Dances Nos. 1, 3 and 10, Liebeslieder Waltzes, and Symphony No. 2.

Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony will continue their relationship with American composer John Luther Adams, which began in 2011 with the commission of the composer’s first major orchestral work, Become Ocean, which was premiered in Seattle in 2013, and in New York in 2014 to great acclaim. The composer was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2014, and the Seattle Symphony’s recording on the Cantaloupe label received a 2015 Grammy® Award for Best Contemporary Composition. The next Seattle Symphony commission, for a new orchestral work called Become Desert, will be premiered during the Seattle Symphony’s Masterworks Season and will be performed at the University of California, Berkeley, during a two-day residency in April 2018.

The orchestra, conducted by Ludovic Morlot, will take up a weekend residency at University of California, Berkeley, in April 2018, the first such residency for the orchestra. Two concert programs will be performed, including Sibelius’ Oceanides and Symphony No. 2, Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor,” and John Luther Adams’ Become Desert. 2017–2018 season Featured Artist Jeremy Denk will join the orchestra as the piano soloist in the Beethoven for the tour in addition to performances at Benaroya Hall as part of the Masterworks Season, Distinguished Artists series and Chamber series.

The Leonard Bernstein centennial will be celebrated around the world in 2018. At the Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot will lead the orchestra and soloists in a semi-staged version of Bernstein’s Wonderful Town as well as Overture to Candide and Prelude, Fugue and Riffs featuring Principal Clarinet Benjamin Lulich.

The Seattle Symphony continues its dedication to commissioning new works, and for the coming season will perform the following commissioned world premieres: a new work by Alexandra GardnerDavid Lang’s symphony without a heroJohn Luther Adams’ Become Desert; and Andrew Norman’s Cello Concerto which will be premiered by cellist Johannes Moser. While in residency with the Seattle Symphony, composer Alexandra Gardner will create a new community composition with LGBTQ youth who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness, as part of the Seattle Symphony’s Simple Gifts initiative. Additionally, she will be the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop Director and lead 10 students in a 12-week program that culminates in a performance of world premieres. Notable premieres also include the world premiere of a new work by Chris Rogerson.

The ever-surprising, late-night [untitled] concert series returns with three programs featuring contemporary and adventurous music. The first includes two American pieces, John Adams’ Road Movies and Steve Reich’s Different Trains, plus British composer Thomas Ades’ Life Story, which presents inventive settings of the American poetry of Tennessee Williams. The second program will include the Dmitry Pokrovsky Ensemble (who will also perform Les noces on an all-Stravinsky Masterworks Season program), as they bring folk traditions to performances of Vladimir Nikolaev’s “Ulari Udila” and Alexander Raskatov’s Voices from the Froz
en Land
. The all-Russian program will also include Stravinsky’s Octet for Wind Instruments. The final performance features works by American composers Mason Bates and Chris Rogerson. Bates’ acoustic-electric journey Red River evokes the beauty of the Colorado River while Seattle Symphony Principal Cello Efe Baltacıgil and guest violinist Nick Kendall will give the world premiere of an as-yet-unnamed new piece by Chris Rogerson.

Special concert events not included in the subscription series and currently available to subscribers only are: Opening Night Concert & Gala conducted by Ludovic Morlot and featuring renowned soprano Renée Fleming on Saturday, September 16; John Williams conducts Williams, a special appearance by the renowned film composer featuring the music from many of his beloved film scores including Star WarsIndiana JonesSchindler’s List and more, with proceeds benefiting the Seattle Symphony’s education and community programs; the festival-like Celebrate Asia event honoring Seattle’s Asian communities and conducted by DaYe Lin and featuring sitar player Nishat Khan performing the finale from his own The Gate of the Moon (Sitar Concerto No. 1) and erhu player Warren Chang performing Huoyuan Wu’s Erhu Concerto No. 1 “Capriccio for the Red Plum Blossom;” Sonic Evolution, conducted by Ludovic Morlot, celebrating Seattle’s unique musical legacy; and a full line-up of Holiday events.

The Distinguished Artists series is an opportunity for audiences to hear treasured artists in recital. The three-concert series will include solo recitals by pianist Lang Lang and violinist Joshua Bell, as well as pianist and 2017–2018 Featured Artist Jeremy Denk.

Making their Seattle Symphony debuts this season are guest conductors Karina CanellakisRoderick CoxJohannes DebusDaYe LinJohn WilliamsKazuki Yamada, and conductor and violinist Thomas Zehetmair; violinist William Hagen; pianists Jeremy DenkBeatrice Rana and Conrad Tao; sopranos Deanna BreiwickMalin ChristenssonJulia LezhnevaRaquel Lojendio and Jessica Rivera; mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti; tenors Isaiah Bell and Ian Bostridge; and baritones Benjamin ApplWill LivermanJarrett Ott and Michael Sumuel

In addition to presenting a full schedule of performances, the Seattle Symphony is deeply committed to creating meaningful community partnerships and education programs. The orchestra’s extensive education and community initiatives reach more than 65,000 people each year through a variety of programs tailored to meet the needs of various audiences, schools and communities. Link Up, a music education program that originated from Carnegie Hall’s Weill Institute, is a highly participatory multi-year music curriculum for 3rd to 5th graders. In the 2016–2017 season, it will serve more than 10,000 students in grades 3 to 5 from over 100 schools in 30 districts. Over the course of each year’s program, students learn to sing and play orchestral repertoire while focusing on specific concepts, including rhythm, melody, tempo, orchestration and composition. Schools have the opportunity to further explore the Link Up curriculum through additional activities and instruction in partnership with a Seattle Symphony teaching artist through a five, ten or twenty week residency, offered at minimal cost to all participating schools. In addition, the Symphony continues its commitment to nurturing young musicians in the community and presents numerous Side-by-Side Concerts with local high school and youth orchestras. 

The Symphony’s Community Connections program for nonprofit organizations allows marginalized communities to attend Symphony performances for free, attend pre-concert workshops and participate in in-depth creative projects. Part of the Seattle Symphony’s commitment to expand relations with its community, it currently involves more than 60 local nonprofits and works with youth, cultural and social service groups for music-making workshops, creative projects and community concerts. Examples include the Lullaby Project for mothers experiencing homelessness, and prison visitsby Symphony musicians and teaching artists. In June 2016 Seattle Symphony launched the Simple Gifts program to encompass all the work the orchestra is doing with those experiencing homelessness, from the ticketing programs that have existed for the past five years, to in-depth artistic classes and residencies and other community service projects. Of the Seattle Symphony’s 60 community partners, 17 specifically work with homelessness.

The Masterworks Season encompasses the Symphony’s core programming of symphonic repertoire. Additional subscription series include Distinguished ArtistsBaroque & WineUntuxed[untitled]Fluke/Gabelein Organ RecitalChamberSeattle PopsClassical KING FM Family Concerts and Tiny TotsNon-subscription performances may be added to subscription orders now, and will go on sale to the general public on August 5, 2017.