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Friday, December 9, 2022

DSO leaders tout orchestra's energy, programming diversity as new season rolls out – Detroit Free Press

As the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s new season takes flight, the organization’s musical and executive leaders say they’re feeling the wind at their backs.
“Last year, it was great having audiences, but it was still such a transition year,” said DSO President Erik Rönmark. “Now I feel like we’re finally back.”
Rönmark and music director Jader Bignamini held a “fireside chat” for media last week, touting a 2022-23 season packed with classical touchstones, works by rising composers, the Paradise Jazz Series and a pops schedule that includes tributes to Aretha Franklin, ABBA, Elton John, the Beatles and more. The orchestra also features six new musicians and a 22-year-old assistant conductor.
“We have the opportunity to go through an incredible repertoire,” said Bignamini, praising the orchestra’s stylistic flexibility: “This is one of my favorite things. We have a very good energy onstage.”
Some highlights of Friday’s onstage chat with Rönmark and Bignamini:
∎ The PVS Classical Series launched this month with Bignamini conducting performances of Chopin, Mozart and other works, and the Italian music director has more coming.
“Resurrection,” at Orchestra Hall on Nov. 11-13, will be the biggest production helmed by Bignamini since his 2020 appointment, with a choir and additional musicians putting about 180 people onstage.
The music director said he’s also relishing his chance to lead the DSO through Stravinsky’s demanding “The Firebird” (March 30-April 1) and Tchaikovsky’s intense “Symphony No. 4” (June 2-4).
“We have the opportunity to go through all the history of symphonic music, from Haydn and Bach through today,” said Bignamini.
∎ The calendar includes more than a dozen works by living composers, including Mexican composer Arturo Marquez’s mariachi-based concerto “Fandango” and the dance-oriented “Danzon No. 2” (March 30-April 1).
Also coming is Carlos Simon’s “Trombone Concerto” (May 5-7), inspired by the story of the Underground Railroad and featuring DSO principal trombonist Kenneth Thompkins. It’s among the DSO-commissioned premieres on the season schedule. Pieces by Michael Abels and Jessie Montgomery are also being featured.
A new work by Cuban-American composer Tania León, winner of the 2021 Pulitzer for music, will be performed Dec. 9-11 with conductor Jonathan Heyward making his Orchestra Hall debut.
∎ The orchestra’s family concert series, limited the past two years because of COVID-19 protocols, will return this season. The series kicks off Oct. 29 with “Halloween at Hogwarts,” a selection of Harry Potter film music.
∎ Last year, the DSO performed the Third Symphony of Florence Price, which had made its world premiere in 1940 at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Price, widely recognized as the first Black female classical composer of note, returns to the schedule in November, as Bignamini conducts her Symphony No. 1.
Diversity, said Rönmark, is “so embedded in what this orchestra has always done. It’s important to have a varied repertoire for many reasons.”
Added Bignamini: “The important thing is we do great music. And we’re doing that.”
∎ Rönmark and Bignamini touted the recent hiring of 22-year-old Na’Zir McFadden as assistant conductor and community ambassador. The Philadelphia native, selected by the DSO’s musicians from a pool of 32 candidates, will lead a pair of pops concerts next spring, including a celebration of Elton John (May 13) and a hometown tribute to Aretha Franklin (May 26-28).
“I was so impressed,” Bignamini said. “He’s so young but incredibly talented.”
McFadden will also conduct the DSO next week at Perfecting Church, joined by gospel singer Marvin Winans and the Perfected Praise Choir. The free event is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the church, 7617 Nevada, Detroit.
The DSO’s full 2022-2023 calendar and ticket info — including customizable series packages introduced this year — can be found at dso.org.

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