At 51, Berkeley Symphony shows no signs of aging. With Music Director Joseph Young and Artistic Director René Mandel, the orchestra is embarking on an interesting, unusual season.
Still, there seems to be a slight disconnect between question and answer about “what it takes” for an adventurous orchestra with limited means to keep going in the possibly post-COVID era of decreasing attendance and contributions.
The question to the music director:
“What specifically prompted program selections, and what specifically happened in the process [of considering] how today’s COVID/attendance/inflation triple whammy impacts what the orchestra plays?”
“Sometimes, we take the stories and the ideas of masterworks for granted. We may undervalue the connections and voices, or the relevance they have to the issues we face today.
“The 2022–2023 season features three major works — one at each concert — which are defined by their authentic truth. I wanted to pair them with other works that amplify those ideals. Finding your frequency means using your voice, embracing relationships; or telling your story through art to make our truths heard more clearly.”
Plans for the season, Sundays at 4 p.m. in UC Zellerbach Hall:
— Oct. 16, “Identities”
Brian Raphael Nabors: Upon Daybreak (world premiere)
Florence Price: Violin Concerto No. 2
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5
Upon Daybreak is commissioned from Berkeley Symphony’s New Music USA composer-in-residence Brian Raphael Nabors. The soloist for Florence Price’s Violin Concerto, rediscovered in 2009, is Rachel Barton Pine.
— April 2, 2023, “Connections”
Juan Pablo Contreras: Mariachitlán
Duke Ellington: New World A-Comin’
Billy Strayhorn/Chris Walden: Piano Concerto
Edward Elgar: Enigma Variations
The concert explores friendships old and new and pays tribute to places and people that inspire connections made through music. Pianist Lara Downes is soloist in works by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, highlighting the lifelong musical partnership and deep friendship between the two. Rounding out the evening of celebrating relationships, Elgar’s theme and 14 variations are sketches of friends, full of admiration, deep seriousness, and humor.
— June 4, 2023, “Enduring Stories”
Xi Wang: Lotus Prayer (world premiere)
Carlos Simon: Portrait of a Queen
For the final performance of the season, “Berkeley Symphony will weave together three tales of its own, inspired by strong women,” from One Thousand One Nights to Carlos Simon’s work of spoken word and music to tell the history of Black America from the vantage point of a strong female narrator and the world premiere of a work by Chinese-born composer Xi Wang.
Berkeley Symphony will also offer five chamber performances accompanying the Symphonic Series, exploring similar themes to complement the programming, taking place at the Piedmont Center for the Arts:
— Oct. 2: Brian Nabors’s Seven Dances for flute, clarinet, and cello, Florence Price’s Five Folksongs in Counterpoint for string quartet, and Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 3. The performance serves as a primer to the orchestral season opener, “Identities,” on Oct. 16, which features works by the same composers.
— Dec. 4: “Holiday Blast,” a concert of holiday favorites performed by the Berkeley Symphony Brass Quintet, at Piedmont Community Hall.
— Feb. 5, 2023: “Winter of Love,” featuring Amy Beach’s Romance for violin and piano; selections from Elvis Costello’s The Juliet Letters, for baritone and string quartet; and Brahms’s Piano Quartet in G Minor, Op. 25.
— March 19, 2023: “Spring Fever,” including Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps (Of a spring morning), Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, and Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor.
— May 21, 2023: “Between Worlds,” with works by Carlos Simon; Amy Beach’s Theme and Variations for Flute and String Quartet, Op. 80; and Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2.
Subscriptions to the Symphonic Series and Chamber Series are on sale now, by calling the box office at (510) 841-2800 or going online.