WPAS's 2010-11 season to showcase two Russian orchestras and name-brand stars

By Anne Midgette
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This month, the Kennedy Center culminated a 10-year relationship with the Mariinsky Orchestra with a week-plus residency. In October -- the Mariinsky is back. The Washington Performing Arts Society's 2010-11 classical music season, announced Monday, will open with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky performing another mammoth work at the Kennedy Center: Mahler's Eighth Symphony. After the intense Mariinsky exposure here this month, Kennedy Center regulars may not realize they've ever been away.

More exciting is the arrival of another Russian orchestra in April: Yuri Temirkanov will lead the St. Petersburg Philharmonic at Strathmore.

The 2010-11 season (tickets go on sale Friday) has an unusually high complement of name-brand stars. Yo-Yo Ma, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Joshua Bell (returning for the third consecutive year), Renée Fleming, Evgeny Kissin and Itzhak Perlman will all give recitals, as will Emanuel Ax, Maurizio Pollini and Hilary Hahn. And James Levine will bring his Boston Symphony Orchestra to the Kennedy Center -- assuming he is by then free of the health issues that have forced him to cancel so many performances this season.

"It's basically a who's who of classical music," said WPAS's president, Neale Perl, adding, "It's a huge season for us."

The season will also be marked by co-productions with other Washington institutions, such as the Vocal Arts Society, which teams up with WPAS to present the mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, not a typical venue for a vocal concert recital. The event celebrates the Vocal Arts Society's 20th anniversary. The Choral Arts Society will appear in Mahler's Eighth (which it recorded with Gergiev, and which it will go on to sing at Carnegie Hall) and participate in a "What Makes It Great" presentation of the Mozart Requiem. Young Concert Artists will co-present a recital by the violinist Caroline Goulding.

As usual, the series is strong on pianists: Other recitalists include Simone Dinnerstein, Marc-André Hamelin and Pierre-Laurent Aimard. The Dresden Staatskapelle will appear under one-time wunderkind Daniel Harding; Japan's NHK orchestra will play Elgar's cello concerto with Daniel Müller-Schott.

It's not clear that the season will shake the perception that touring orchestras often present more conservative fare in Washington and save the edgier stuff for Carnegie Hall. Levine, for instance, will conduct Mozart and Schumann rather than some of the living Americans he loves.

Asked about this, Perl cited a quote from Wynton Marsalis, once accused of being too conservative in his programming for Jazz at Lincoln Center. "They're called masterpieces for a reason," he said.

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