State of the Art

If you’ve wished Charlotte Symphony would dare more, line up for ’16-’17 tickets now

Guest conductor Michael Christie will lead a program of Liszt, Beethoven and Ligeti in the Charlotte Symphony’s 2016-17 season.
Guest conductor Michael Christie will lead a program of Liszt, Beethoven and Ligeti in the Charlotte Symphony’s 2016-17 season. Tim Trumble


A world-premiere percussion concerto. Choral masterpieces by Bruckner, Mendelssohn and Mahler. Seven works the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra has never played, from Liszt and Rachmaninov to modernists György Ligeti and Thomas Adès. Major solo opportunities for three of the CSO’s principals.

Not to mention Van Cliburn’s piano.

Anyone who has felt the CSO needs to show more daring or program with more variety should be lining up now for season subscriptions to the 2016-17 Classics Concerts season. They cost $217-$539 for the seven-show package and $255-$633 for all 10 shows. (Asterisks below designate the three that aren’t part of the full season.) You can get them at 704-972-2000 or

Now I’m going to tell you, concert by concert, why I think you should care.

Sept. 30-Oct. 1: Tchaikovsky’s “Hamlet” Fantasy Overture, Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 4. An all-Tchaikovsky program recommends itself, if you like the heart-on-the-sleeve Russian composer, but “Hamlet” has never been played here. American violinist Esther Yoo became the youngest winner ever of the Sibelius Violin Competition in 2010 – at 16.

Oct. 14-15: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, Ligeti’s Concerto Romanesc, Liszt’s Totentanz and Piano Concerto No. 1, under guest conductor Michael Christie. Italian pianist Benedetto Lupo, a bronze medal-winner in the 1989 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, is touring with Steinway CD 375, Cliburn’s own concert grand.

Nov. 4-5: Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, Peter Maxwell Davies’ “An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise” and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (“Scottish”). Music director Christopher Warren-Green has a special flair for English composers, and Elgar’s Serenade would be one of his desert island discs. He’ll need to find a bagpipe soloist for “Orkney Wedding.”

Nov. 18-19***: Wagner’s overture to “Tannhauser,” Richard Strauss’ Waltz Sequence No. 1 from “Der Rosenkavalier,” and two choral works by Bruckner: “Psalm 150” and “Te Deum.” Bruckner’s welcome any time, and the 25-minute “Te Deum” – which he reportedly called “the pride of my life” – is the finest 19th-century setting of this sacred text.

Jan. 6-7: Beethoven’s overture to “Fidelio,” Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, Leonard Mark Lewis’ Concerto for Percussion. Until Brahms, Schubert’s final symphony was the greatest ever written by anyone not named Ludwig. If you saw CSO percussionist Leonardo Soto play Michael Daugherty’s “Raise the Roof” in 2013, you’ll want to hear what he does with this new piece by Winthrop University’s Lewis.

Feb. 10-11: Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending,” Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante (K. 364), Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. Warren-Green made notable recordings of the first two pieces with his London Chamber Orchestra; now he’ll conduct CSO concertmaster Calin Lupanu in “Lark” and Lupanu and principal violist Benjamin Geller in the sublime Mozart.

March 3-4***: Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah,” with guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. Through the 19th century and into the 20th, the British ranked this Old Testament story about the Hebrew prophet second in importance only to Handel’s “Messiah.” A highlight: After a series of prayers to Baal get nowhere, Jehovah consumes a sacrifice in a pillar of fire.

March 24-25***: The overture to Adès’ opera “The Tempest,” Richard Strauss’ Oboe Concerto and Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony. The Dvorak D Minor (or any of his last three symphonies) would be reason enough to go. Strauss’ last major orchestral work (with soloist Gordon Hunt of Warren-Green’s London Chamber Orchestra) and the chance to hear any piece by England’s hottest living composer are lagniappe.

April 7-8: Rossini’s overture to “La Cenerentola,” Prokofiev’s Suite No. 1 from his ballet “Cinderella,” and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Fabio Bidini as soloist. Believe it or not, the CSO has never done this concerto. And “Cinderella” represents Prokofiev at his most warm-hearted (yet still gingery), especially in its most famous waltz.

May 12-13: Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. The Charlotte Symphony Chorus will get plenty of work in “Elijah” and the Bruckner pieces, but the heaven-storming “Resurrection” symphony – which opened Belk Theater in 1992 and was last played by the CSO in 1999 – will feature more than 200 musicians, choristers and soloists.

Toppman: 704-358-5232