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NJSO announces 2014-15 season: ‘Messiah’ in, Bernstein too

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Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, Music Director Jacques Lacombe and President and C.E.O. James Roe announced New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-15 season, the maestro’s sixth, with pleasant surprises all around. If you want Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, you’ll have them—just not in abundant supply. If Mendelssohn, Bernstein, and Tchaikovsky are more to your taste, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to indulge. If you’re a film fan, especially of “Singin’ in the Rain,” you’ll get to see it on a large screen above the Orchestra, which will provide the music track.

Subscription performances begin Oct. 10, 2014, in Newark with Claude Debussy’s “Nocturnes,” Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with Westminster Symphonic Choir and soprano Aline Kutan, tenor Jean-Francis Monvoisin and baritone Étienne Dupuis, and George Antheil’s “McKonkey’s Ferry,” part of the New Jersey Roots Project. The Project “focuses on composers who were either born in New Jersey or whose time spent in the Garden State has significantly influenced their artistic identity.” The concert program repeats Oct. 11 and 12 in New Brunswick’s State Theatre and Morristown’s Mayo Performing Arts Center.

A special pre-season event Friday, July 18, 2014, will showcase the world premiere of Edward T. Cone’s “Symphony,” to be presented at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium. The event will also mark the launch of the pilot phase of NJSO’s Composition Institute, in collaboration with the Cone Foundation and Princeton University. The Institute will nurture emerging composers who will receive feedback from Maestro Lacombe, composer Steven Mackey, and NJSO players.

A second world premiere—NJSO violinist Darryl Kubiak’s “O for a Muse of Fire”—will take place during the March 19-22, 2015, concert series. The muse in question? Shakespeare. Jacques Lacombe will also direct Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 6, ‘Pathétique,’” in Englewood’s bergenPAC, Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, Princeton and New Brunswick.

Violinist Sarah Chang will be artist in residence during the Orchestra’s Winter Festival, three weeks of works based on or inspired by Shakespeare. Emphasis is on “Romeo and Juliet” in various incarnations, from Tchaikovsky’s eponymous “Fantasy-Overture” through selections from Charles Gounod’s operaRoméo et Juliette” and including Leonard Bernstein’s modern take on the story of star-crossed lovers, in his “‘West Side Story’ Suite,” arranged for violin and orchestra. The Suite will travel to all six regular venues: Princeton, Red Bank, Morristown, Englewood, Newark and New Brunswick.

Georg Frideric Händel’s “Messiah” will have three performances Dec. 19-21, 2014, in Princeton, Neptune’s Michael T. Lake P.A.C. and Newark. Maestro Lacombe will lead the Orchestra, Montclair State University Singers and soloists Nathalie Paulin (soprano), Mireille Lebel (mezzo-soprano), Isaiah Bell (tenor) and Gordon Bintner (bass-baritone).

Among nine guest conductors are three women: NJSO Associate Conductor Gemma New, Sarah Hicks—leading the vocal quartet Spectrum and the Orchestra April 18 and 19, 2015 (in Newark and New Brunswick), in a sounds of Motown concert—and Xian Zhang, who will conduct Brahms’ “Concerto for Violin and Cello,” Richard Strauss’ “Serenade for Winds” and Mozart’s “Symphony No. 39.” That concert will take place April 30–May 3, 2015, in Newark, Princeton, and Morristown.

A special one-off concert in Newark at 3:00 p.m. Sunday, April 13, 2014, will include Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3” with pianist Gleb Ivanov and Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6, ‘Pastoral.’” All tickets for the event are $20.

Students with proper ID can save considerably with NJSO’s Class Pass at $10 a concert or $25 for unlimited concerts during the season.

Must you have an all-Beethoven program? Then you’ll have to wait till season’s end, June 4-7, 2015. Maestro Lacombe and pianist Marc-André Hamelin will perform in Newark and Englewood “Piano Concerto No. 5, ‘Emperor,’” and “Symphony No. 5” with “‘Coriolan’ Overture” opening the program.

If you can’t get enough piano, another one-off concert in Newark Friday, May 15, 2015, will feature pianist André Watts at the keyboard for Grieg’s “Piano Concerto” and Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 3.” Completing the program will be Mozart’s “‘Così fan tutte’ Overture” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Four Norwegian Moods.”

President and C.E.O. James Roe, formerly first oboe with the Orchestra, commented on his recent retirement from the stage: “To make this change within my own orchestra, which I love so much inside and out, has been an amazing privilege.” How has his relationship with Music Director Jacques Lacombe been altered? “Our communication is much more verbal now, and he doesn’t wave his hands at me (as much).”

This article was amended to show the correct date for the concert featuring pianist Gleb Ivanov. The concert, though announced at the Jan. 27 press conference, forms part of the present season, not the 2014-15 season as originally stated. Also, the programmed piano concerto will be by Sergei Rachmaninoff, not Sergei Prokofiev.

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