A big question was how the Washington National Opera would emerge in its new configuration as Kennedy Center constituent, and the news is guardedly positive: at least, everything on the program is something I’ll be happy to see, an admittedly subjective criterion but not an inconsiderable one when the season has only five operas.
The National Symphony Orchestra’s theme for 2012-13 is young artists, “young” evidently being anything under 43 given the inclusion of the pianist Jeremy Denk as one of the youthful debutants, and certainly not indicating “discovery” given that a season highlight is a 7-day residency by the pianist Lang Lang (including a two-piano recital with Christoph Eschenbach), and other young artists include Yuja Wang, Alisa Weilerstein, Jonathan Biss. Forget themes: there are some appealing debuts (the violinists Augustin Hadelich and Pekka Kuusisto, the conductors Vasily Petrenko and Juraj Valcuha), some strong returnees (Christoph Dohnanyi, Marek Janowski, Hugh Wolff), and highlights including the launch of the new organ and a performance at Carnegie Hall, Eschenbach’s first with the orchestra, honoring Mstislav Rostropovich with symphonies by Schnittke and Shostakovich. The orchestra is also trying to vary its programming: having artists play different concerti on different evenings, performing an evening of chamber music between two orchestral concerts, or introducing the “Beyond the Score” program from the Chicago Symphony that seeks to place works of music in a larger social and cultural context. It doesn’t feel like a particularly earth-shattering season, but it’s also not trying to be anything it’s not — except, possibly, young.
The highlights of the Fortas Chamber Music concerts, in my book, are the evening-length, fully-staged performance by Anonymous 4 of David Lang’s newly commissioned piece “Love Fail,” and the appearance of Dawn Upshaw with the Crash Ensemble from Dublin, reprising part of their performance on the striking CD Gra agus Bas. The Kennedy Center Chamber Players seem to be going through a shift, their entire programming for their four concerts not yet announced.
What’s missing? On my wish list might be a composer-in-residence; contemporary opera; more groups like the Crash Ensemble; in-house projects and/or commissions; and a bit more spark to the NSO’s programming. What do you wish you’d seen on the 2012-13 schedule, and what do you like about what’s there?