Mariss Jansons, Christian Thielemann, and Gustavo Dudamel will be conducting their orchestras in Washington in the 2012-13 season. Yes, the Washington Performing Arts Society announced its season this week, and those artists are among the highlights of a roster that, following WPAS’s now-familiar template, reads like a Who’s Who of the very familiar names of classical music.
So Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell will be here; Sir James Galway (yes, he still plays) and Anne-Sofie Mutter. Piano fans will be thrilled to hear that Evgeny Kissin, Andras Schiff, and Richard Goode are on the program, as well as Simone Dinnerstein (playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the piece that launched her career) and Daniil Trifonov, the winner of the Tchaikovsky competition in 2011, who has seriously impressed Washington-area audiences at two appearances this season.
But even the names of WPAS’s subscription series ring with too many superlatives: “Celebrity Series,” “Stars Series,” “Virtuoso Series.” (Guess which of these features the so-called emerging artists.) And as every year, one misses truly adventurous programming. Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony just dazzled Carnegie Hall with a provocative festival of 20th- and 21st-century American work, including a John Cage piece that had Tilson Thomas on stage with Jessye Norman, making a smoothie in a blender. Maybe that wouldn’t play Washington. But couldn’t we have something a bit more spicy, from the orchestra renowned for its “American Mavericks” series, than another Mahler 9th?
Above: Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony are known for their “American Mavericks” festival. In Washington, they’ll offer another, less controversial calling card: Gustav Mahler.
As for the so-called emerging artists on the schedule, many of them have already done considerable emerging in the DC area, like the pianists Shai Wosner and Markus Groh (who made his DC recital debut in 1998), or the cellist Amit Peled, a faculty member at Peabody. Lukas Vondracek, who appeared with the NSO during the recent festival “The Music of Budapest, Prague and Vienna,” will give a recital, as will Inon Barnatan, who gets to move into the spotlight himself after a number of appearances here partnering better-known soloists like Alisa Weilerstein and Gil Shaham. The violinists Paul Huang and Vilde Frang (the latter a Mutter protégé) and the Carducci String Quartet are other emerging “virtuosos.”
The “non-emerging” category includes the pianists Angela Hewitt and Rafal Blechacz, the violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and her New Century Chamber Orchestra, the baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and the violinist Hilary Hahn, who will appear twice: once on her own recital, premiering some of the 27 “Encores” she has commissioned from a range of composers (something Midori has also done), and once with the Philadelphia Orchestra in its first DC appearance under Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who will become that orchestra’s music director in September.
WPAS also persists in using the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue as its “beyond classical” venue, as if poor acoustics and uncomfortable seating automatically added up to a recipe for hip and funky. But at least the offerings there, this year, really are “beyond classical,” from the Afro-Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdez to the alternative string quartet Brooklyn Rider to the vocalist Ute Lemper in a program of songs by Weill, Piaf, and other signature specialties.
Other staples – that is, highlights – include Wynton Marsalis and the Kodo Drummers. Notable non-classical performers include the singers Hugh Masekela, Suzanne Vega, and Gretchen Parlato.
For complete listings for the 2012-13 season, see the WPAS website.