Kennedy Center announces a bountiful season for National Symphony, Fortas series

Tue May 25, 2021 at 12:00 pm

Michael Tilson Thomas will conduct music of Mahler and American composers in the National Symphony Orchestra’s 2021-22 season. Photo: SFS

The Kennedy Center released details of the 2021-22 season for the National Symphony Orchestra and the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts on Tuesday. The center had already announced plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary next season, and will cautiously reopen this Friday with the first NSO performance in the Concert Hall before a small audience.

The NSO season is much richer and more expansive than the plans announced by Washington National Opera two weeks ago. Gianandrea Noseda returns for his fifth season as NSO music director, leading a three-week festival pairing Beethoven symphonies with music by African-American composers George Walker and William Grant Still (January 2022). He also conducts concerts of music composed by Mozart in 1791, the year of his death, including the Clarinet Concerto and the Requiem Mass (December 2-4, 2021).

Other programs helmed by Noseda present Florence Price’s Third Symphony, along with violinist Hilary Hahn (September 30-October 2); a reprise of Louise Farrenc’s Third Symphony (February 17-19); Mahler’s Fourth Symphony (February 24-27); and the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 15 (March 3-5).

Noseda will also take a turn conducting Handel’s Messiah, in a break from the NSO’s normal rotation of guest conductors for the annual December performances. In a welcome change for some, Noseda will conduct just the Christmas portion of the oratorio, paired with Bach’s Magnificat (December 16-19).

Gemma New returns to the rostrum for the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Violin Concerto, commissioned for violinist Jennifer Koh (February 3-5). Louis Langrée makes his NSO debut conducting the new Cello Concerto by Joan Tower, with Alisa Weilerstein as soloist (May 19-21). Other guest conductors include Simone Young, Paavo Järvi, Roderick Cox, Kazuki Yamada (all NSO debuts), as well as the return engagements of Thomas Wilkins, Yan Pascal Tortelier, and Marek Janowski.

The intriguing NSO residency with Esa-Pekka Salonen, announced last fall, fell victim to the pandemic. Next season will instead feature a mini-residency with Michael Tilson Thomas, leading the NSO in two programs. The first features works by American masters Copland, Ruggles, and Tilson Thomas himself, followed by a second centered on Mahler’s Second Symphony (“Resurrection”).

In addition to three performances planned by the Kennedy Center Chamber Players, the Fortas Chamber Music Concerts series returns for a full season in the Terrace Theater. The Dover Quartet continues its tenure as quartet-in-residence, joined by pianist Haochen Zhang for a new piano quintet piece by Marc Neikrug (October 20). Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham joins the Music from Copland House ensemble for the song cycle A Standing Witness by Richard Danielpour and Rita Dove (November 4).

Other concerts include a program of string quintets with two cellos, with members of the Miami Quartet and the KLR Trio (January 27, 2022); the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and EXIGENCE vocal ensemble with mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges (February 1); Renée Fleming with the Emerson String Quartet and pianist Simone Dinnerstein in André Previn and Tom Stoppard’s Penelope, with narration by actress Uma Thurman (February 28).

Clarinetist David Shifrin joins the KLR Trio for a program including recent music by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (March 23), followed by the Harlem Quartet with pianist Joseph Kalichstein (March 30) in Jessie Montgomery’s Strum. The season ends with more notable new music, including pieces by Bryce Dessner and Clarice Assad for the Takács Quartet and bandoneon player Julien Labro (April 21), and the world premiere of David Lang’s sun-centered by the Tallis Scholars (April 27).

Subscriptions go on sale at noon Tuesday, with individual tickets becoming available later in the year.

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