Hot Summer, Hotter Fall: A Sizzling Season for Music, Dance in 2014-15



Momix will perform at this year’s Summer Festival

By Susan Isaacs Nisbett
Ann Arbor, Mich. May 14, 2014

My colleague Roger LeLievre says it’s a hot summer ahead on the folk and pop scene. But when the temps start cooling down in September, and all the classical musicians and dancers return from idyllic months at festivals in the mountains and workshops by the shore, things start heating up all over again in Ann Arbor.

Here are a few things I’m looking forward to once fall rolls back around.

Some of you know that when I’m not typing away madly writing this blog, I’m practicing madly at the piano – it’s my favorite keyboard, but don’t tell my computer or it’ll have a hissy fit and start malfunctioning (again). So I couldn’t help but notice what a piano-centric season 2014-15 seems to be, for both the University Musical Society and for the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra.

Emerson String Quartet 4 by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Emerson String Quartet (Photo: Lisa Marie Mazzucco)

Yes, I’m disappointed (once again) that no piano trio made it onto the UMS chamber music calendar. There’s the consolation that it’s a fabulous chamber music season – starting with the Emerson String Quartet (Sept. 27), with its new cellist, Paul Watkins, and a Lowell Lieberman UMS-co-commission/world premiere – but you’ll have to seek other venues, like Kerrytown Concert House and the U-M School of Music, for a fix of the gorgeous literature for piano and strings.

watts smiling credit steve j. sherman

Andre Watts

On the other hand, well, the stars (and the programming gods at UMS and the A2SO) have aligned to provide piano fans with two cracks at the Beethoven Emperor Concerto (Andre Watts/A2SO, Sept. 13, at Hill Auditorium; Sunwook Kim/Seoul Philharmonic under Myung-Whun Chung, UMS, April 23); and two tempting Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 performances (Ann Arbor favorite Anton Nel/A2SO, Nov. 15; Russian frequent visitor Denis Matsuev/Mariinsky Orchestra, Jan. 25, UMS).  (The Mariinsky, conducted by its wild and wonderful maestro Valery Gergiev, stays in town two nights. The Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 is on offer the first evening, with 24-year-old pianist Behzod Abduraimov, grand prize winner of the 2009 London International Piano Competition, at the keyboard.)

anton nel thru piano from website cropped

Anton Nel

My piano pantheon  — and probably yours, too – includes Richard Goode, who arrives April 26 for a solo recital of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy and Schumann.  It is repertoire he knows and plays deeply, and you can expect that he will have much that is affecting to say.  And March 25 brings a UMS concert by another of my favorites pianists (and writers about music), Jeremy Denk, a recent MacArthur Fellowship winner. He’s in good company for a program of Bach and Stravinsky: the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. And if you’ve heard Denk’s Goldberg Variations, you’ll want to add the Bach keyboard concertos on the program to your musical memory bank, too.  I’ve not heard pianist Helene Grimaud live yet, so I’m looking forward to her UMS appearance Feb. 19, playing the Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, under Yannick Nezet-Seguin. That’s a triple-threat lineup!

But it’s not all ivories and ebonies in 2014-15. Among the concerts I’m eager to hear are two by the San Francisco Symphony, returning to Hill Auditorium under UMS auspices. Nov. 13, it’s Mahler 7 (with Mahler hero and impossibly boyish 70- year-old Michael Tilson Thomas at the helm, ); the next night brings a welcome return by violinist Gil Shaham, in the second Prokofiev violin concerto.

Choral music and opera fans have reason to rejoice greatly, too, and not just for the annual Choral Union “Messiah,” Dec. 6-7. The Choral Union also has a February 14 valentine for listeners, Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah.”  Apollo’s Fire brings Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 to town on Nov. 6; and it’s early Christmas with a Dec. 9 Rossini “William Tell” – the whole opera, thanks, not just the part you know, presented in concert by the Teatro Regio Turino, with the vocally stunning American soprano Angela Meade as Matilde. UMS can sell you the seats for all of these.

And pop into a seat for a UMS dance series that is buoyantly fabulous. It’s broad in scope and happy to jete from modern dance luminaries like Trisha Brown  (don’t miss the chance, Feb. 21-22, to see her hallmark “Set and Reset,” a collaboration with Laurie Anderson and Robert Rauschenberg, and her solo collaboration with visual artist Robert Rauschenberg, “If you couldn’t see me”) to up-to-the-moment dance makers like Kyle Abraham, a 2013 MacArthur winner (March 14-15).

And for those who missed it in New York or elsewhere (including me), make sure to put Canadian Compagnie Marie Chouinard (Jan. 23) on your dance card, for her “Gynmopedies,” in which the dancers not only dance but also perform Satie’s piano score (yes, more piano!). Two more shows – by Belgium’s boundary-breaking Charleroi Dances (Oct.10-12) and by Ann Arbor favorite the Lyon Opera Ballet (“Cinderella,” April 24-26) — complete the series.

Before then, if you’re dance hungry, catch that shape-making marvel, Momix, at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival June 21 and 22, when the company takes over the Power Center Stage for “Botanica.” Plants have never had it so good.No one wishes summer away, especially after the winter we’ve had. But at least we know it’s just a hop, skip and jump till we’re getting ready for more good listening and great watching come September.

Useful addresses:

Ann Arbor Summer Festival:

Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra:

Kerrytown Concert House:

University Musical Society:

University of Michigan School of Music;

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