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JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and Virginia Symphony orchestras and acclaimed internationally for her work on the podium as well as a catalog of recordings, will guest-conduct the opening concert of the Arkansas Symphony's 2019-20 Masterworks series Sept. 28-29.

Falletta will conduct two orchestral showpieces -- La Valse by Maurice Ravel and Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and, with "guest stars" Time for Three (Nicolas "Nick" Kendall and Charles Yang, violins; and Ranaan Meyer, double bass), Jennifer Higdon's Concerto 4-3.

Hers is the most prominent name in a list of guest conductors and soloists the orchestra is bringing in for what is being touted as an interim year between the departure of Music Director Philip Mann, who is leaving after nine years in the job, and the 2020-21 season, in which the orchestra could be auditioning candidates to succeed him.

Executive Director Christina Littlejohn and board President Jan Hundley stress that they're "taking a breather" before starting a conductor search, in part so that the board can establish just what they'll be searching for.

Hundley says the board is considering sticking with the music director-conductor model that has fit all four previous artistic leaders, whose contracts have required that they make the Arkansas Symphony their principal "gig" and central Arkansas their place of residence. But they could also explore a different model, one in which the conductor could juggle several jobs and just fly in for concerts.

So none of this season's five guest conductors is officially auditioning for the permanent position. Associate Conductor Geoffrey Robson assembled a committee to pick the pieces and the personnel on the 2019-20 season lineup. In the process, he has acquired a new title, "interim artistic director." Mann, whose departure from the orchestra was announced in May, would ordinarily have shaped the coming season, but he had no hand in any of the choices, Littlejohn says.

Mann, who is conducting Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony this weekend, will close out his term with the orchestra May 4-5.

Robson will be on the podium for the fourth of six Masterworks concert pairings, Feb. 29-March 1, 2020, with Andrius Zlabys as soloist in Thomas Ades' In Seven Days: Concerto for Piano with Moving Image. The program will also include Claude Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 7.

The rest of the Masterworks lineup (all concerts, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at Little Rock's Robinson Center Performance Hall):

• Nov. 9-10, Andrew Grams, music director of the Elgin (Ill.) Symphony Orchestra, conductor; Karen Walwyn, piano. Works by two Arkansas composers -- Festive Overture by William Grant Still and the Piano Concerto in One Movement by Florence Price -- and Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 3.

• Jan. 25-26, Carolyn Kuan, music director of the Hartford (Conn.) Symphony Orchestra, will conduct three 20th century dance-oriented works: Variaciones Concertantes by Alberto Ginastera, Dance Suite by Bela Bartok and Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo by Aaron Copland.

• April 18-19, 2020: Eric Jacobsen, co-artistic director, conductor and cellist of The Knights, conductor; Simone Porter, violin, focusing on works by French composers: D'un Matin de Printemps by Lili Boulanger, the Violin Concerto No. 3 by Camille Saint-Saens and Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique.

• May 2-3, 2020: Vladimir Kulenovic, music director of the Lake Forest (Ill.) Symphony, conductor. Cellist Zuill Bailey plays Antonin Dvorak's B minor Cello Concerto. Also on the program: Overture in C major by Fanny Mendelssohn and Symphony No. 3, "Rhenish," by Robert Schumann.

The lineup for the pops series (except as noted, all concerts, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at Robinson):

• Dec. 20-22: Home Alone, film with orchestra (also 7:30 p.m. Friday).

• Feb. 8-9: Sondheim/Lloyd Webber Celebration.

• March 14-15, 2020: Tribute to Aretha Franklin.

• May 9-10: Jurassic Park, film with orchestra.

A Halloween pops special, Oct. 19-20, will feature spooky tunes, Littlejohn says.

Photo by David Adam Beloff
JoAnn Falletta
Geoff Robson

Metro on 02/19/2019

Print Headline: Conductors, pieces announced for Arkansas Symphony series

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