The Hartford Symphony Orchestra has announced its 2018-19 Masterworks Series, which opens with Mussorgsky (Pictures at an Exhibition) and Bartok (Concerto for Orchestra) on Oct. 5 to 7, conducted by music director Carolyn Kuan.
The season — the HSO’s 75th — stretches across nine monthly installments, spanning October to June. Concerts are held at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. in the Belding Theater.
“Not all that many American orchestras have been around for 75 years,” says HSO executive director Steve Collins. “To do that in a moderately sized market is a real achievement. It speaks to the cultural sophistication of Greater Hartford and Connecticut in general. We have a loyal audience and fantastic donors and sponsors who believe in our organization.”
Season highlights include Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (Tchaikovsky’s Firsts, Nov. 30-Dec. 2) with 22-year-old soloist Szymon Nehring, first-prize winner of the 15th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition; a program of Mendelssohn (Symphony No. 2) and Vaughan Williams (Fantasia on “Greensleeves” and Dona nobis pacem) featuring the Hartford Chorale (April 12 to 14); and a season-closing performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 (May 31-June 2).
“We wanted to highlight some of our greatest assets this season, and they are the musicians of the orchestra,” Collins says.
“You’ll notice there are no soloists in the season opener. The orchestra is the soloist.”
Guest artists include Baroque dancer Carlos Fittante, who performs during Francesco Geminiani’s “La Follia” (Bach & Beyond, Jan. 18 to 20); bandoneon player Julien Labro on Astor Piazzolla’s “Aconcagua” (Latin Lovers, Feb. 15 to 17); klezmer clarinet great David Krakauer in Osvaldo Golijov’s “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind” (Mozart Meets Klezmer, March 15 to 17); and acclaimed string trio Time For Three performing in Jennifer Higdon’s bluegrass-tinged Concerto 4-3 (Beethoven’s 5th, May 3 to 5).
“I think the Masterworks Series for next year is an extension of the work that Carolyn Kuan started about six years ago,” Collins says, “which includes introducing dynamic guest artists in to the mix. That’s worked really well for us.”
Collins is particularly excited about Time for Three, who’ll stick around for a weeklong educational residency, a smaller-scale recital concert and a number of pop-up events around town.
“We worked really hard to bring them here,” Collins says. “It’s an incredibly dynamic, explosive trio that has taken the orchestral world and beyond by storm.”
Among the 24 composers represented in the series, four — Golijov, Higdon, Gabriela Lena Frank (“Three Latin American Dances,” Feb. 15 to 17) and Arturo Márquez (“Danzon No. 2,” Feb. 15 to 17) — are living. Two (Frank and Higdon) are female.
“It is a mix we pay attention to,” Collins says. “Diversity is important to us in terms of programming, guest artists and so on. It’s very much on our agenda. … It’s something we strive for and hope to develop further in future seasons.”