Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer, along with principal pops conductor Jerry Steichen and Utah Symphony|Utah Opera president and CEO Melia Tourangeau, announced the symphony’s 2012-13 season and the renewal of Fischer’s contract Monday.
The season will revolve around another classical cycle with Mendelssohn’s five symphonies, enhanced with a heaping helping of Russian works.
Among the pops repertoire, Steichen was particularly excited about singer Michael Cavanaugh joining the symphony for an evening of Billy Joel music. Cavanaugh was selected by Joel himself to star in the Broadway musical “Movin’ Out.” Another particularly special event, “Ballroom With a Twist,” will feature dancers from “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Other highlights of the season include a recital by world-famous Chinese pianist Lang Lang and a special performance of “Romeo and Juliet”-inspired music for Valentine’s Day. Picks for youth and families include the 53rd Annual Salute to Youth Concert, “Halloween Hi-Jinks” and “The Magical Firebird,” an educational introduction to one of Stravinsky’s greatest works.
Fishcher has renewed his contract with the symphony through the 2015-16 season and has many plans for the orchestra’s improvement, demonstrated by the season’s varied repertoire.
Tourangeau said in an interview following the press conference that she “couldn’t be more thrilled” about Fischer’s choice to stay.
“He doesn’t want out, and we don’t want out," she said. "It was a pretty easy negotiation."
Fischer often referenced his vision for the future of the orchestra throughout the press conference, and with vision came many changes, including a return to classical works with the full Beethoven cycle in the current season.
“I decided to have another cycle based on classical music as I believe that classical music is helping the orchestra to reach new heights,” he said.
On the flip side of the classical tradition, the orchestra will for the second time showcase the world premiere of a new commissioned work. Fischer is enthusiastic about continuing the new tradition.
Fischer will again conduct 12 of the 18 masterworks performances, but this season will also bring many renowned guest conductors and artists, he explained.
“We are trying to build relationships with some conductors who we think are bringing a lot to the orchestra and community,” he said. Guest conductors include Gerar Schwartz, Nicholas McGegan and Jun MÄrkl.
“His philosophy is that he should be the least talented on the podium and that all of the guest conductors — he really is hoping to just build the caliber of who we’re able to attract to come to Utah,” Tourangeau said.
She detailed how Fischer brings in conductors who specialize in certain types of music he may not and how he brought in Russian conductor (and Fischer’s personal friend) Andrey Boreyko, who’s known worldwide. They plan to have Boreyko return for the 2013-14 season.
Fischer does very much of the same relationship building with guest artists.
The upcoming season will see a return collaboration with violinist Hilary Hahn and a partnership with pianist Louis Lortie for an evening of Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos 1-3 — part of a small Tchaikovsky festival that weekend.
Between high-caliber guests and a fusion of new and classic works alike, Fischer is transforming the Utah Symphony.
Coincidentally, he acknowledged, there have been many changes among the orchestra members, as well. Within the next couple of years, the Utah Symphony will have replaced about 25 percent of its members, much of it due to the regular cycle of orchestra changes. Many members are retiring, for example.
“Every time somebody’s leaving, it’s not without sadness and huge respect for what they have done for the orchestra,” Fishcer said, adding that it does make a great opportunity for him to create the orchestra he wants to in the next few years.
He expressed his gratitude to the staff and especially the orchestra for their acceptance of and excitement over so many changes.
“I am pushing them to the boundaries and making changes on every level and they’re all so responsive, and I’m proud of this fantastic group,” he said.
Tourangeau is certainly pleased with what the orchestra has achieved so far and thinks their momentum can only build.
“Next year is going to be more of the same and even better,” she said.
For a full schedule of the Utah Symphony's 2012-13 season, visit www.utahsymphony.org. Season tickets are available online or by calling 801-533-NOTE (6683).