Portland Symphony Orchestra renews Music Director’s contract, announces next season
Eckart Preu hasn’t had an uninterrupted season since being hired as Music Director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra in 2019, but he’ll have at least four more seasons to try to fix that.
The orchestra announced on Monday that it had extended Preu’s contract and also released its concert schedule for the 2022-23 season which begins in September.
As always, the orchestra will present a varied mix of eight classical music performances, five Pops! concerts combining symphonic music and popular music, three Discovery concerts for young audiences and 12 performances of the “Magic of Christmas”. All shows are held at the Merrill Auditorium.
Preu said he was excited about both the schedule and the opportunity to lead the orchestra for the next four seasons, especially as much of his tenure so far has been put on hold. the test by the pandemic.
“The first three years weren’t quite what anyone imagined,” he said in an interview Monday. “Hopefully normalcy will kick in at some point. I think everyone is looking forward to a real fresh start, with a full orchestra and hopefully a full house.
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Made up of more than 80 professional musicians, it is one of the largest performing arts organizations in the state.
Preu, of East German descent, was hired in 2019 to replace director Robert Moody, who led the orchestra for 10 years. His first contract was for three seasons. Prior to working in Portland, Preu was Music Director of the Spokane Symphony in Washington State for 15 years. In addition to the PSO, he conducts the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra in California and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra in Ohio.
The 2022-23 season will open on September 20 with a classical concert titled “Opening Night: DANCE” which will feature guest cellist Inbal Segev, from Israel, and “DANCE” by contemporary composer Anna Clyne. It will also include Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, which Preu called a “blockbuster.”
The season, which runs until May 23, 2023, will feature works by contemporary, black and female composers as well as works by classical composers such as Verdi, Rachmaninoff, Mozart and Brahms. Among the Pop! the concerts will be two performances in October featuring the music of classic rock band Queen.
Preu said his goal in creating next year’s program was to ensure that audiences always have a different experience. He likened it to going to a five-star restaurant multiple times and having a different meal. He always satisfies.
“What I want to avoid is people thinking, ‘Oh, he’s a German conductor, that must be his comfort level,'” he said. “I want to create a season that transcends styles, crosses centuries and includes pieces that we don’t know.”
Guest artists for the season will include Segev; fellow Israeli Alon Goldstein, a pianist; Spanish classical and flamenco guitarist Pepe Romero; American pianist George Li; and the return of Byron Stripling, who will conduct and play trumpet in the Pops! presentation of Louis Armstrong & Friends in the spring of 2023.
PSO musicians will also be featured as soloists, including Ina Zdorovetchi on harp and concertmaster Charles Dimmick.
Preu said it was hard to pick a show he most looks forward to, but he said two performances in October featuring the Violins of Hope could be the most meaningful. Violins of Hope is a concert project that features a private collection of violins, violas and cellos, all of which were owned by Jews during the Holocaust and collected after World War II. The string players of the symphony will perform on these special instruments during Verdi’s Requiem.
“This show has so many layers of emotion and meaning. It will be a very special concert,” Preu said.
Audiences are slowly returning for the orchestral shows, but Preu said he was grateful for the support from subscribers who paid for digital concerts through much of the pandemic. The symphony will also continue to offer digital shows next season.
As he looks ahead to the next season, Preu said he wants potential patrons to know that he selects contemporary works “very carefully”.
“If you don’t know something, people get suspicious,” he said. “I want people to go away and say, ‘I’m glad I came.’ Classics were also contemporary once upon a time. We want to help create classics for the next generation.
Find the complete program 2022-’23 on portlandsymphony.org.
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