The 2014-’15 music season is particularly enticing: it bulges with remarkable juxtapositions and compelling performers. Forget about big anniversaries for major composers. Chalk up the appeal of the season to hyper-imaginative presenters.
Rossen Milanov, having completed a handful of years as music director, draws on his own experience in crafting programs for the 2014-’15 season of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. The focus, he says, is on “young soloists whom I have personally directed and whose authentic and charismatic styles I admire.” The orchestra’s five-concert series features Bella Hristova, violin, Sunday, September 28; Natasha Paremski, piano, Sunday, November 2; Robert Belinic, guitar, Sunday, January 18; Zuill Bailey, cello, Sunday, March 15; and guest vocalists, Sunday, May 17.
Marna Seltzer, director of Princeton University Concerts since 2010, has arranged for the usual PUC series and three special events. The earliest is Saturday, September 19, when the Takacs String Quartet appears with actress Meryl Streep as narrator in a program that turns death into entertainment. Before intermission Streep reads from Philip Roth’s novel “Everyman.” After intermission the quartet plays Franz Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden.”
On Friday, October 9, mandolinist Chris Thile and bassist Edgar Meyer, composers as well as performers, appear under PUC auspices in a program that links the classical music of central Europe with the bluegrass music of Appalachia.
On Tuesday, February 18, PUC presents the Brentano String Quartet, with mezzo-soprano Joyce Di Donato. Di Donato sings the Princeton premiere of Jake Heggie’s song cycle about the tragic Camille Claudel, beloved muse and mistress of sculptor Auguste Rodin. Heggie is the composer of the acclaimed operas “Dead Man Walking” and “Moby Dick.”
Di Donato, performing in Princeton last season, amazed the Richardson audience with her ability to turn that venue into an intimate space.
The Brentano, which had served in residence at the Princeton Music Department from 1999 until this past year, has moved to Yale. Replacing it is the Yale-trained So Percussion Quartet. The So ensemble gives the first concert of its Princeton residency on Friday, September 12. The group calls the performance “a tour through several of the main strands of our work: percussion chamber music classics, new repertoire . . . and our own compositions.” So performs again on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 19 and 20.
McCarter Theater programs, masterminded by Bill Lockwood, often include events that are also part of New York’s Carnegie Hall programs. McCarter carries on the tradition in 2014-15, and adds events of outstanding interest. Renowned pianist Maurizio Pollini gives his first Princeton recital on Wednesday, October 22, at McCarter.
Organist Cameron Carpenter, whose flair extends beyond the traditional organ world, turns up at McCarter on Thursday, February, 6, with the new digital international touring organ that he has designed.
A piano quartet associated with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center plays an unusual program at McCarter on Monday, April 13. With Wu Han as pianist, the ensemble performs the only piece of chamber music composed by Gustav Mahler as well as the only piano quartet of Robert Schumann.
World music occupies a five-concert chunk at McCarter. On Saturday, October 18, Baraat, a Brooklyn-based eight-person band, presents an amalgam of New Orleans sounds and north Indian music. Then on Thursday, February 24, cellist Yo-Yo Ma brings in his Silk Road Ensemble, which draws on music and instruments ranging from Japan and central Asia to the Mediterranean. Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela play music from South Africa on Wednesday, February 25. Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains present Irish music on Monday, March 2. And on Saturday, May 2, 18 musicians from East African nations that share the Nile present new works in a program called “The Nile Project.” The group includes six vocalists using 11 languages.
The 100th anniversary commemorations of World War I (which began in 1914) will be made in song. While McCarter’s events include tenor Ian Bostridge presentation of songs from the war and that era on Monday, April 27, the various branches of Westminster College of the Arts of Rider University will present something sooner. On Wednesday, November 5, the Westminster Schola Cantorum focuses on Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 1936 “Dona Nobis Pacem,” a plea for peace.
The commemoration is one of many musical offerings by Rider and Westminster. Rider’s Princeton Brass Band honors the visit of the Beatles to the United States 50 years earlier in a concert on Sunday, November 16. Franz Schubert’s composition of art songs in 1814 is the focus of Westminster Choir College students, accompanied by pianist J.J. Penna, on Friday, February 20. A program devoted to songs created during the composer’s last 18 months (he died in 1828), will be presented on Saturday, February 21.
The WCC also presents the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” with a performance on Saturday, April 11. And WCC’s Jubilee Singers, which devotes itself to African American music, celebrates its own 20th anniversary on Sunday, April 19, in a program called “O Praise the Lord.”
Additionally, WCC’s Symphonic Choir participates as the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra looks back on an important anniversary of its own by opening the NJSO season with Karl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” the piece that brought music director Jacques Lacombe to New Jersey in 2008. The Princeton performance takes place Saturday, October 11.
The NJSO, based in Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Center, performs in six venues throughout the state. Its first “Messiah” performance takes place Friday, December 19, in Princeton. And its three-concert NJSO winter festival, “Sounds of Shakespeare” enlists the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey for its Friday, January 16, concert in Richardson Auditorium in Princeton.
Another festival concert takes place in central Jersey on Sunday, January 25, at the State Theater in New Brunswick. Romeo and Juliet are a major presence in the festival, with music by Tchaikovsky and the suite from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” an Americanized and updated account of the lovers. The 2015 concerts are the first installment of a two-year project.
Westminster is the leading force in presenting music drama in our area during the new season. Its roster includes three operas, two of them about duping the gullible, and two spritely musicals. First is WCC’s presentation of Franz Josef Haydn’s comic opera “Il Mondo della Luna,” (“The World from the Moon”) on Friday and Saturday, December 5 and 6.
The story concerns the foolish Buonafede, who is tricked into believing that he is the guest of the emperor of the moon. “Il Mondo” is one of the more than a dozen operas that Haydn composed for the Esterhazy family. Composed in 1777, the work has had a flurry of performances since the year 2000. The WCC version, sung in Italian with English titles, is fully staged and is performed with orchestra.
WCC’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” by Giuseppe Donizetti appears on Thursday, January 15, and Saturday, January 17. The opera traces the supposed effectiveness of a love potion sold by a quack. Sung in Italian with English titles, the semi-staged production is performed with piano accompaniment.
Vincenzo Bellini’s take on the Romeo and Juliet story, “I Capuletti e I Montecchi” will be presented on Friday and Saturday, March 27 and 28. Fully staged, with piano accompaniment, it is sung in Italian with English titles.
Westminster presents its two musicals on Rider University’s Lawrenceville campus. “Lucky Stiff” appears Wednesday, October 8, through Sunday, October 12. Music is by Stephen Flaherty, book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. The action ensues when shy Harry Witherspoon learns that he can claim a $6 million inheritance from an uncle he never knew provided he takes his uncle’s body to Monte Carlo for a final vacation. The show is based on Michael Butterworth’s 1983 novel, “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.”
The creators of “Urinetown” bring a workshop production of “ZM,” a new musical, to Westminster (Rider) from Wednesday, November 19, through Sunday, November 23. The plot unfolds when executives test market a new menu item, and unwittingly release cosmic forces.
Boheme Opera Company, the oldest opera company in continuous existence in central New Jersey, has entered its 26th season. In residence at the College of New Jersey since 2011, the company presents a fully staged version of Puccini’s “La Boheme” with full orchestra on Friday, April 24, and Sunday, April 26. Boheme co-founder Joseph Pucciatti conducts.
Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts is among the opera presenters, mounting Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Three Penny Opera” on Thursday, November 14.
Turning to music of the past, the baroque period is well covered in our area. The Dryden Ensemble, for example, opens its 20th anniversary season with an intimate autumn benefit called “All Roads Lead to Bach” on Saturday, September 20. Three additional concerts take place, each of them performed at both Princeton Theological Seminary’s Miller Chapel and Trinity Episcopal Church in Solebury, Pennsylvania.
The Guild for Early Music celebrates the 10th year of its annual Early Music Festival at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton on Sunday, October 12. More than a dozen ensembles are expected to perform. Music from the 12th to the 18th century is scheduled for two indoor stages over a period of more than five hours. Costumed heralds are to announce the mini-concerts. Brass and wind fanfares introduce each concert. Wandering musicians and dancers are part of the festival. Music by 17th century English composer Henry Purcell is the climax of the festival.
A quick observation from the schedule so far: the most frequently announced composer of the season in central New Jersey is Schubert; Mozart follows.
Now a few last minute additions:
The Institute for Advance Study again offers several innovative and interesting free concerts. The first, on Friday, October 10, and Saturday, October 11, features the 28 member chorus from Philadelphia, the Crossing, performing David Lang’s Pulitzer-Prize winning work, “The Little Match Girl Passion,” based on the Hans Christian Anderson story. Also on the program is Philadelphia-based composer Kile Smith’s “The Consolation of Apollo,” a piece using dialogue between the astronauts of Apollo 8 and their TV broadcast from the moon’s orbit.
On Friday, November 14, and Saturday, November 15, pianist Ralph van Raat presents “Amsterdam/New Amsterdam,” an exploration of connecting musical works by Dutch composer Louis Andreissen, American David Lang, and American John Adams.
Concerts at the institute continue in on Friday, February 20, and Saturday, February 21, with Bridget Kibbey, Jack Stulz, and Julietta Curenton presenting “A harp, a Viola, and a Flute,” which includes artist in resident Sebastian Currier’s “15 Minutes.” The final offering is pianist Peter Serkin and cellist Fred Sherry’s “Late Beethoven and American Modernism.” All concerts take place in Wolfensohn Hall at 8 p.m. and are free through reservation.
The New Jersey Capital Philharmonic, under the conduction of Daniel Spaulding, heads into an ambitions season on Saturday, October 25, with guest pianist Awadagin Pratt appearing in a program that includes Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.
The orchestra’s other events include the Sunday, December 14, Classical Christmas Program, with guests including the Princeton Girlchoir; the annual New Year’s Eve Concert, on Wednesday, December 31, highlighting music by Strauss and Gershwin; a Saturday, February 14, Valentines Day event with celebrated vocalist Maureen McGovern.
The season finale on Saturday, May 9, “Espana!,” features music with Spanish flavor and include music by Trenton composer George Antheil and the appearance of flamenco dancer Liliana Ruiz. All events are at 8 p.m. at the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, Memorial Drive, Trenton. For details, visit www.capitalphilharmonic.org.
The Philomusica Concert Choir at Our Lady of Peace Church North Brunswick presents three pieces based on the ancient “O Magnum Mysterium” text: one by Tomas Luis de Victoria, one by Francis Poulenc, and one by the American composer William Hawley, on Saturday December 6, at 8 pm, and on Sunday, December 7 at 4 p.m.
NAMI Mercer, (the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness) presents a concert exploring the link between mental health and musical creativity will be the theme. Noted psychiatrist-pianist Richard Kogan — who studies the works and minds of some of the world’s celebrated composers with mental disorders — presents and explores the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sunday, November 9, at the Stuart Country Day School in Princeton.
The Princeton Theological Center’s concert schedule includes three events at the Miller Chapel. At 8 p.m. on Friday, September 12, guest choral conductor and sacred music director Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, Isaac Wardell leads a community sing along called “Teach Me Some Melodious Sonnet: An evening of Psalms and Hymns.” Other events include “Carols of Many Nations,” set for Wednesday, December 10, and the Engle Organ Concert, featuring Michael Gittens and the Princeton Seminary Chapel Choir, Saturday, February 21.
No question about it, the region musical treasures are providing remarkable juxtapositions and sound opportunities.
Boheme Opera NJ
Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton, 609-396-2435, www.bohemeopera.com.
Christmas Memories of Bygone Years: A Good Ole-Fashioned Holiday in Carol and Song. Free concert. Friday, December 12.
Glen Oaks Farm, Solebury, PA, 215-297-5972, www.concordiaplayers.org.
Concert. Music and cocktails. Friday, September 19.
126 Sculptors Way, Hamilton, 609-586-0616, www.groundsforsculpture.org.
Guild for Early Music. Music from the medieval, renaissance, baroque, and Early American eras. The program includes a dozen ensembles, instrumental and vocal. There will also be strolling musicians. WWFM Classical Network introduces performers. Sunday, October 12.
91 University Place, 609-258-2787, www.mccarter.org.
Maurizio Pollini, piano. Wednesday, October 22.
Jeremy Denk, piano. Friday, November 7.
San Francisco Symphony. Conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 Tuesday, November 18.
Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University, 800-ALLEGRO, www.njsymphony.org.
Classic Vienna: Mozart, Strauss Jr. & Schubert. Eugene Tzigane, conductor and Lise de la Salle, piano. Friday, November 7.
Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1. Stefan Sanderling, conductor and Inon Barnatan, piano. Friday, November 28.
Handel’s Messiah. Nathalie Paulin, soprano, Mireille Lebel, mezzo-soprano, Isaiah Bell, tenor, and Gordon Bintner, bass-baritone. Friday, December 19.
State Theater, 15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 800-ALLEGRO, www.njsymphony.org.
Carmina Burana. With the Westminster Symphonic Choir. Program includes Antheil, Debussy and Orff. Saturday, October 11.
Gil Shaham Plays Mendelssohn. Program includes Rossini, Mendelssohn, and Franck. Sunday, October 26.
Classic Vienna: Mozart, Strauss Jr. & Schubert. Eugene Tzigane, conductor and Lise de la Salle, piano. Saturday, November 8.
Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1. Stefan Sanderling, conductor and Inon Barnatan, piano. Sunday, November 30.
Pops: A Take 6 Holiday with the NJSO. Joseph Joubert, conductor. Sunday, December 14.
Paul Robeson House
Princeton High School, Princeton, 609-924-1666.
Benefit Concert. Paul Robeson Repertoire presented by Kevin Maynor accompanied by Eric Olsen on piano. Trenton Children’s Choir and the First Baptist Church Praise Dance also perform. $50. Sunday, September 21.
Princeton Symphony Orchestra
Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University, 609-497-0020, www.princetonsymphony.org.
Classical Series: Romantic Imaginings. Works by Bruch and Bruckner. Bella Hristova, violin. Rossen Milanov conducts. Pre-concert lecture at 3 p.m. Sunday, September 28.
Classical Series: Edward T. Cone Concert. “Clasically Russian” features works by Bolcom, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky. Natasha Paremski, piano. Rossen Milanov conducts. Pre-concert lecture at 3 p.m. Sunday, November 2.
Princeton University Concerts
Richardson Auditorium, 609-258-2800, princetonuniversityconcerts.org.
Takacs String Quartet. Readings from Philip Roth’s Novella Everyman interspersed with short works for string quartet by Arvo Part, Philip Glass, and Schubert. Narrated by Meryl Streep. $35 to $65. Friday, September 19.
Emerson String Quartet. Program of works by Haydn, Beethoven, and Ravel. Thursday, October 2.
Chris Thile, Mandolin and Edgar Meyer, Bass. $40. Thursday, October 9.
Richardson Chamber Players. “Divine Winds,” mixed chamber works by Mozart, Poulenc, and Giuliani. Sunday, October 19.
Ebene String Quartet. Program of works by Haydn and Schumann. Thursday, November 6.
Richardson Chamber Players. “Russian Treasures,” mixed chamber works by Rachmaninoff, Medtner, and Stravinsky. Sunday, November 23.
Princeton University Department of Music
Taplin Auditorium, 609-258-2800, princeton.edu/music.
Princeton Sound Kitchen. PRISM Quartet performing works by Viet Cuong, Alex Dowling, Noah Kaplan, Steven Mackey, Emma O’Halloran, Chris Rogerson, and Gabriella Smith. Free. Friday, October 10.
Princeton Sound Kitchen. Fidelio Trio performing new works by Quinn Collins, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Viet Cuong, Amanda Feery, Emma O’Halloran, and Jason Treuting. Free. Tuesday, November 18.
Princeton Sound Kitchen. Various artists and ensembles performing works by Elliot Cole, Quinn Collins, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Florent Ghys, Wally Gunn, Andrew Lovett, and Jason Treuting. Free Tuesday, December 2.
15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-246-7469, www.StateTheatreNJ.org.
Rodgers and Hammerstein Tribute. Todd Ellison’s Broadway in Concert. Sunday, October 5.
The Senegal St. Joseph Gospel Choir. 15 singers and 4 traditional Senegalese drummers. Program includes “Amazing Grace,” “The Storm is Passing Over,” and “Day Oh.” $27 to $52. Saturday, October 18.
Classical Series. Marsalis “Well Tempered” featuring The English Chamber Orchestra with Branford Marsalis. Pre-performance cocktails. Post-performance dinner and silent auction. $250. Sunday, November 2.
Classical Series. Moscow State Symphony Orchestra featuring Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin. Program includes Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. Sunday, November 16.
A Seraphic Fire Christmas. Carols by Candlelight. $27 to $52. Sunday, December 7.
Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street, Princeton, 866-846-7464, www.princetonsingers.org.
30th Anniversary Concert. Works by Lassus, Debussy, and Schumann. Featuring Eric Whitacre’s “Leonardo Dreams His Flying Machine,” a reprise of Steven Sametz’s “Dante’s Dream,” and the premiere of a new work commemorationg the 30th anniversary by Pulizter Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky. Saturday, September 27.
Westminster Choir College
Bart Luedeke Center, Rider University, Lawrenceville, 609-921-2663, www.rider.edu.
Rider University Art Gallery Concerts. Mark Johnstone and Peter Plomchok on guitar. Works by Antoine de Lhoyer. Free. Friday, November 7.
Celebrate the Beatles. Princeton Brass Band, conducted by Stephen Arthur Allen. Free. Sunday, November 16.
Holiday Concert. Rider University Band and the Blawenburg Band. Conducted by Jeffrey Rife. Free. Tuesday, December 2.
Music for a While: Songs for Voice and Lute. Songs of the 16th and 17th centuries performed by Sean McCarter, baritone; and Carlos Cuestas on lute, theorbo, and Baroque guitar. Free. Sunday, September 21.
Phyllis Alpert Lehrer and Friends. Phyllis Alpert Lehrer and Ena Bronstein Barton on piano, Jayn Rosenfield on flute, and Melissa Bohl on oboe. Works by Brahms, Gaubert, Poulenc, and Saints-Saens. Free. Sunday, September 28.
Masterworks Transformed. William Hobbs on piano. Works by Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Liebermann, Humperdinck, and Stavinsky. Free. Sunday, October 5.
Mozart for 2, 3, 4 and 5. Jill Crawford on flute, Dezheng Ping on violin, Alisa Seavey and Marjorie Sleden on viola, Laurie Cascante on cello. Works by Mozart. Free. Saturday, October 11.
Erik Allesee in Recital. Eric Aleesee on piano. Works by Ravel, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, and Gershwin. Free. Sunday, October 12.
Lori Sims in Recital. Free. Friday, October 24.
Master Class with Lori Sims. Free. Saturday, October 25.
For Flutes Only. Kimberly Bryant, Ellen Fischer Deerberg, John Lane, Katherine McClure, Barbara Highton Williams, and Kevin Willois. Free. Saturday, November 1.
Suzuki Family Concert. Barbara Highton Williams on flute, Urska Haule Fegus and Chika Mimura on violin, Shannon Merlino on violin and viola, Laurie Cascante on cello, and Ikumi Hiraiwa and Eva Kastner-Puschl on piano. Free. Sunday, November 2.
Never Fear. Westminster Schola Cantorum, conducted by James Jordan. Works by Part, Mealor, Tavener, Runestead, Forrest, and LaVoy. $20. Sunday, November 9.
Spiritual Lights. Westminster Williamson Voices, conducted by James Jordan. Works by Part, O’Regan, Mendelssohn, Victoria, and Howells. $20. Saturday, November 15.
The Invention of Love. Westminster Choir conducted by Joe Miller. Works by Urmas Sisask, Eric Whitacre, Monteverdi, and J.S. Bach. Sunday, November 16.
Fall Concert. Westminster Kanorei conducted by Amanda Quist. $20. Saturday, November 22.
Sacred Rights, Scared Song: A Concert of Concern. Works by Fran Gordon, J.A. Kawarsky, Laomi Less, Benjie Elen Schiller and others. Free. Sunday, November 23.
Fall Concert. Westminster Jubilee Singers. Conducted by Brandon Waddles. $20. Sunday, November 23.
An English Christmas. Westminster Concert Bell Choir. Conducted by Kathleen Ebling Shaw. $25. Also Sunday, December 7. Saturday, December 6.
Gill Memorial Chapel
Fall Concert. Free. Saturday, November 8.
Kaleidoscope Chamber Series. Danielle Sinclair, soprano; Eva Kastner-Puchl, alto; Timothy Urban, bass and recorder; Melissa Bohl on oboe; Flora Newberry on natural trumpet, Hyun Soo Lim on violin, Ruth Ochs on cello, Kathleen Scheide on historic keyboards. Works by J.S. Bach. Free. Sunday, November 16.
Holiday Concert. Rider University Choir. Conducted by Philip Orr. Free. Friday, December 5.
Westminster Conservatory at Nassau. Patricia Landy and Carol Comune on piano. Free. Thursday, October 16.
Westminster Conservatory at Nassau. Jesse Freedman on guitar. Free. Thursday, November 20.
Destinations. Directed by Ruth Ochs. Works by Grieg, Enescu, and Schumann. $15. Sunday, October 19.
Il mondo della luna. William Hobbs, music director. $25. Also Saturday, December 6. Friday, December 5.
An Evening of Readings and Carols. Westminster Chapel Choir, Westminster Concert Bell Choir, Westminster Choir, Symphonic Choir, Westminster Schola Cantorum, and New Jersey Youth Orchestra. Holiday music for choir, organ, and brass. Register. $40 to $70. Also Saturday, December 13. Friday, December 12.
Lucky Stiff. Books and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Music by Stephen Flaherty. Nathan Hurwitz, director. Wendy Feaver, music director. Kate Swan Choreographer. $9. Through Sunday, October 12. Wednesday, October 8.
ZM. Books and lyrics by Greg Kotis. Music by Mark Hollman. Sean Daniels, director. Steven Gross, music director. Wendy Seyb, choreographer. $9. Through Sunday, November 23. Wednesday, November 19.
Fall Caberet: An Evening with Ryan Scott Oliver. Directed by Mariann Cook. Free. Also Saturday, December 6. Friday, December 5.
Niles Chapel, Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street, 609-921-2663, www.rider.edu.
Katherine McClure on flute and Kathy Shanklin on piano. Free. Thursday, September 18.
Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University, 609-258-9220, www.rider.edu/arts.
Holiday Concert. Princeton Brass Band. Conducted by Stephen Arthur Allen. Free. Sunday, December 21.