Three may be the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra’s magic number this summer.
The CSO 2013 season features three world premieres: The Romeo and Juliet Project, a collaborative extravaganza featuring Chautauqua’s best in dance, theater and voice; Laurence Roman’s “Concertino for Flute and Orchestra,” featuring Richard Sherman, CSO principal flutist; and Michael Colina’s “Three Dances for Cello and Orchestra,” in which Jaime Laredo will conduct cellist Sharon Robinson, his wife.
There are also three evenings of anniversary performances. This year marks the 100th birthday of Benjamin Britten and Pyotr Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” as well as the 200th birthdays of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. CSO will honor each of these composers throughout the season.
It’s also the third year without a music director for CSO, and one might think the musicians would be nervous performing only under visiting directors.
“I like it, personally. I’m fine with the way things are,” said Brian Reagin, CSO concertmaster. He was quick to point out that the orchestra is in the hands of Marty Merkley, vice president and director of programming.
“With the music director or without a music director, a lot of [the season program] is Marty engaging soloists, engaging guest conductors,” Reagin said. “And of course when you talk about soloists you have to pick and choose from their repertoire, and how that fits with the program we’re trying to put together.”
Merkley has organized an ambitious season, with input from Reagin and other members of the artistic advisory committee.
“I think it’s a darn good season,” Merkley said. “We’re highlighting all kinds of celebrations this summer.”
He suggested taking “The Rite of Spring,” for example.
“It’s a seminal piece in classical music. It changed music and dance forever,” Merkley said. “It still sounds incredibly modern, even 100 years later. A lot of people are afraid of it, and they shouldn’t be.”
After working hard in the off-season to get the CSO ready for the summer, Merkley seems equally relieved and ready.
“I think we’ve come up with a very interesting program … if it all goes well, heaven knows,” he said. “You really have to dig deep and get into the whole philosophy to try to match some of the lectures with the orchestra concerts.”
Other program collaborators and consultants include CSO manager Jason Weintraub and Marian Tanau, CSO’s assistant personnel manager. Weintraub plays English horn and Tanau the violin for CSO.
“Every music piece is a jewel that I love to cherish and discover as a performer,” Tanau said.
As concertmaster, Reagin is more focused on the challenges facing the orchestra’s string section.
“I don’t see anything on paper that jumps out at me that says, ‘Man we’re gonna trip over that,’ ” Reagin said.
He can’t help but joke about the demanding schedule.
“Ask me again in Week Five and see how many of us are left.”
However, Reagin is completely serious about the talent in CSO.
“We have some real superstars in this orchestra. I think most people would wonder how it is that we come together so quickly and put these things together so quickly.”
Some of the guest conductors and soloists are new to the performing arts at the Institution, but many have quickly become part of the tradition.
Uriel Segal, former CSO music director, will return to Chautauqua to conduct the anniversary performance of “The Rite of Spring” in Week Six. Tanau said he is excited to work with his old music director.
Violinist Augustin Hadelich, whom Segal discovered while in Europe and brought to the Institution for his American debut, will return under the direction of Josep Caballé-Domenech, a new guest conductor.
Chautauquans will be pleased to see the return of Alexander Gavrylyuk, an award-winning pianist who Reagin said “brings the house down every time.” Elizabeth Schulze, who is both a new guest conductor and the only female conductor on the line-up, is set to conduct the concert in Week Four.
No matter what Chautauquans crave for their ears — Hollywood favorites, German romanticism or even Americana feel-good tunes — CSO is set to play it this summer.