Santa Rosa Symphony 2020-2021 season program broadens horizons

For its second full season under Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony will offer an expanded 2020-2021 season that will include a new opera offering — Mozart’s “Magic Flute” in concert — along with two world premieres, balanced by beloved masterworks by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

The season will open on Oct. 2 with a gala honoring community icons Norma and Corrick Brown (Corrick Brown is the symphony’s conductor emeritus) and run through May 3. Returning guest artists include Russian pianist Alexander Toradze, cellist Zuill Bailey and violinist Elina Vähälä.

Lecce-Chong also will showcase a few of his favorite soloists: rising 19-year-old violinist Julian Rhee and clarinetist David Krakauer, who will perform traditional klezmer music and a world premiere of a klezmer clarinet concerto he co-wrote.

In keeping with the new standard of presenting two premieres every year, the orchestra will continue its First Symphony Project with a performance of a new symphony by Composer-in-Residence Gabriella Smith, the second of four composers commissioned over four years to write a major work. A short work by Smith, “Tumblebird Contrails,” will be performed in November.

“At this moment, this orchestra has five commissions over the next three seasons, all longer than 20 minutes,” said Lecce-Chong, who put together the private funding for the First Symphony Project, a collaboration between his two orchestras in Santa Rosa and Eugene, Oregon.

During the 2019-2020 season, Lecce-Chong said he intentionally programmed a chunk of American music written during the past 10 years to show its vitality and accessibility. This included eight contemporary works and two world premieres.

For next season, Lecce- Chong has sprinkled in some little-known gems, shining a light on composers who are no longer alive and not well known, such as Mieczyslaw Weinberg, whose “Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes” will open the first concert set.

“The big picture for this (new) season is the fact that I am now able to diversify a bit.” he said. “I wanted to kind of broaden our horizons.”

This November and December, the symphony will perform the final symphonies of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, back-to-back.

“This is the meat of the repertoire,” he said. “Audiences know them and the orchestra will have played them many, many times.”

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 will be performed with the SSU Symphonic Chorus for the holiday choral concert, a long-standing tradition that brings the community together.

“It hasn’t lost an ounce of relevance,” Lecce-Chong said of the sprawling, 70-minute work. “These days, there are so few things that people can come together over. This is one of those.”

While the 2019-2020 season will close with a new work that fuses mariachi and classical music, next season the orchestra will introduce another folk form — a concerto incorporating klezmer music — during the January concert set.

Clarinetist David Krakauer, once Lecce-Chong’s chamber music coach, made a famous klezmer recording, “The Dreams of Prayers of Issac the Blind,” with the Kronos Quartet.

“Klezmer music is part of the Jewish heritage and comes from the oral tradition of storytelling,” Lecce-Chong said. “To begin the concert, he has arranged traditional klezmer music. His concerto will be very eclectic, so it’s good to hear the traditional first.”

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