Orchestra librarians and orchestra lovers alike have plenty to keep them busy this fall in the Washington region.
In September, the National Symphony will welcome its new music director, Gianandrea Noseda, an Italian conductor with a dynamic international profile and big plans for his new assignment. In November, subscription audiences can hear him in three separate programs showing some of his considerable range, starting with a survey of three disparate pieces that have Baroque elements, from Beethoven's Third Symphony, the "Eroica," to Webern's "Passacaglia" (Nov. 9-11), and finishing with some highlights from Russia, a country where Noseda worked for a decade, including Prokofiev's Fifth Piano Concerto with the dazzling Yuja Wang as soloist (Nov. 30-Dec. 2).
In a smaller city, the Fairfax Symphony would be a crown jewel of the cultural landscape. In Washington, it doesn't always get the attention it deserves as a quality orchestra with interesting and ambitious programs, under the aegis of a skilled music director, Christopher Zimmerman. It starts its 60th-anniversary season in September with two programs featuring the cellist Amit Peled, one a solo recital (Sept. 13) and one a performance of the Elgar Concerto, on a program with the Tchaikovsky Fourth and a world premiere by a local composer, Mark Camphouse, honoring Fairfax County (Sept. 16). In October, it offers Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto, with Claire Huangci, and the Shostakovich Fifth (Oct. 21).
Next year is the centennial year of Leonard Bernstein, the brilliant and maddening and quintessentially American composer, and the 2017-18 season is rife with Bernstein performances. The New York Festival of Song offers a program of his vocal music at VocalArtsDC (Nov. 5), while the Kennedy Center starts a year-long "Bernstein at 100" celebration with Noseda's inaugural performance at the NSO's opening gala Sept. 24. Further highlights include performances of "Songfest" led by Leonard Slatkin (Nov. 2-4) and "The Age of Anxiety," with the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Jan. 11-13) — whetting everyone's appetite for even more Bernstein across Washington in the spring.
Another composer being celebrated this season is more in need of wider recognition. The Georgetown University Concert Choir is offering a "Year of Margaret Bonds," celebrating the prominent African American composer who was a central figure in the Harlem arts community in the 20th century. The choir will perform Bonds's evening-length Christmas cantata, "The Ballad of the Brown King," with texts by Langston Hughes, a close friend of the composer's (Nov. 15), and they will follow it with an Easter cantata by the same artists in April.
Finally, Washington Performing Arts will bring two notable orchestras with two brilliant pianists to Washington concert halls. The Mariinsky Orchestra, under Valery Gergiev, will present an artist Gergiev has championed since the start of his career, Daniil Trifonov, playing his own Piano Concerto (Nov. 12). And Antonio Pappano and the Santa Cecilia orchestra, on an otherwise all-Italian program, will offer Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto with a legendary Kennedy Center honoree, the memorable Martha Argerich (Oct. 25).
Read more from the Fall Arts Preview: