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story.lead_photo.caption Guest conductor Sarah Ioannides leads the Arkansas Symphony Nov. 10-11.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's 2018-19 season will be full of orchestral showpieces -- not necessarily large in length, but featuring big orchestral forces, says its music director and conductor, Philip Mann.

The one really big work on the season will be Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Feb. 23-24, 2019, at Little Rock's Robinson Center Performance Hall, with four vocal soloists and a monster chorus. (Though neither the singers nor specific singing groups have been named, the orchestra has used a couple of hundred choristers for past choral-orchestral programs.)

For the rest of the five Masterworks pairings, however, "it depends on what you mean by 'big,'" Mann says. "The Beethoven Ninth is really big." For the opening concerts, Sept. 29-30, "we have [Igor Stravinsky's] Petrushka and The Sorcerer's Apprentice [by Paul Dukas] -- those are big orchestral pieces.

"And the [April 13-14, 2019] 'Beethoven & Blue Jeans' program has huge, kind of blow-the-roof-off-the-building orchestral pieces, including [George Enescu's] Romanian Rhapsody No. 1, Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Suite and the 'Bacchanale' from [Camille Saint-Saens'] Samson and Delila -- those are really popular and really well-known works that also have really large orchestration.

The season closer, too, "has an orchestra that isn't huge, but uses all of the forces -- Liszt's Les Preludes, and Brahms' Hungarian Dances, the ones we're using.

"We're fielding a large orchestra more frequently; our priority, as it was this season, has been putting resources into the orchestra and playing repertoire aimed at growing audiences."

Also on the Sept. 29-30 curtain-raiser, pianist David Fung will join Mann and the orchestra for the Piano Concerto No. 20 in d minor, K.466, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The version of Stravinsky's ballet Petrushka on that program is the 1910-11 original burlesque in four scenes, not the 1946 revision and, Mann says, "I wouldn't have considered it if we hadn't previously done The Rite of Spring and Firebird," the composer's other two massive 20th-century ballets.

Rest of the lineup

The rest of the Masterworks lineup, not yet completely set in stone (all concerts, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at Robinson):

• Nov. 10-11: Guest Sarah Ioannides, music director of Symphony Tacoma and the Spartanburg (S.C.) Philharmonic Orchestra, will conduct a program that opens with Joan Tower's Made in America and includes "Vltava" (better known as "The Moldau") and "Sarka" from Ma Vlast (My Fatherland) by Bedrich Smetana and the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar.

• Jan. 26-27: Pianist Andrew von Oeyen will solo in the Piano Concerto No. 2 in f minor by Frederic Chopin. The program will also include the Overture to La forza del destino by Giuseppe Verdi and the Symphony No. 3, "Scottish," by Felix Mendelssohn.

Mann notes that von Oeyen soloed in Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto with the orchestra "in my trial week" in October 2009, when Mann was "auditioning" to succeed David Itkin as music director; he also joined the orchestra's Quapaw Quartet in Cesar Franck's Piano Quintet a couple of days later, and the orchestra has been trying to bring him back.

• The February 2019 performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 will be the second one for Mann and the orchestra (they did it in February 2012) and the orchestra's third in less than a decade -- Itkin was on the podium in February 2009.

• The April 13-14, 2019, program will also feature young violinist Gareth Johnson soloing in Tzigane by Maurice Ravel and the Romance No. 2 in F major by Beethoven. Mann notes that in place of the usual large-scale violin concerto, this offers the juxtaposition between the "intimacy and austerity" of the Beethoven Romance and the "pyrotechnics" of Tzigane.

• The May 4-5, 2019, pairing will see the world premiere of Concerto for Oboe Section by Michael Fine, with the orchestra's oboe section -- Leanna Renfro, Lorraine Duso Kitts and Beth Wheeler -- in the solo roles. This will be the first Masterworks "appearance" for Fine, whose connection to the orchestra has seen the world premieres of his Double Concerto featuring the ASO's co-concertmasters, Kiril Laskarov and Drew Irvin, in a May 2017 Intimate Neighborhood Concert, and the string orchestra version of his Suite for Strings in a River Rhapsodies chamber music concert in January 2016.

Pops Live!

The orchestra's Acxiom Pops Live! series will kick off with the 2018 version of the annual "Home for the Holidays" concert, Dec. 14-16 at Robinson.

The rest of the season (all concerts, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at Robinson):

• Feb. 9-10, 2019: "Something Wonderful," with Oscar "Andy" Hammerstein III, grandson of librettist and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, and author of The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family, featuring songs his grandfather created with composer Richard Rodgers from the musicals South Pacific, The Sound of Music, State Fair, The King and I, Carousel and Oklahoma!

• March 9-10, 2019: Beatles tribute band Classical Mystery Tour will perform about 30 Beatles tunes, marking the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

• May 11-12, 2019: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The orchestra performs John Williams' Oscar-winning score in sync with director Steven Spielberg's film, projected onto a large high-definition HD screen. Mann expects to maintain the same success the orchestra has had with other large-screen productions, including last year's Back to the Future and the ASO's first play-the-score-while-the-film-screens concert, The Wizard of Oz, in 2014. (They're doing the musical honors for Raiders of the Lost Ark at Robinson, May 12-13, to close out the current pops season.)

Season schedules for the orchestra's River Rhapsodies chamber series and INC concerts are still in the works; Mann notes that there are several commissions for premiere works on those programs that are "being ironed out."

Season tickets, with discounts for first-time and first-time-renewing subscribers, are $86-$367 for the Masterworks season, $58-$245 for the pops concerts. Call (501) 666-1761 or visit

Violinist Gareth Johnson plays works by Maurice Ravel and Ludwig von Beethoven with the orchestra in April 2019.
Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III joins the orchestra for “Something Wonderful,” a February 2019 pops concert focusing on his grandfather’s lyrics.

Style on 02/25/2018

Print Headline: ASO sets 'big' season for '18-19

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