The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Stéphane Denève announced, on Tuesday, details for the Orchestra's 2019/2020 season, Denève's first as Music Director. Denève, who currently serves as Music Director Designate, becomes the 13th Music Director of the SLSO with the upcoming 140th season, which runs from September 2019 through May 2020.

 

 

 

Stéphane Denève, the next St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director, said, "I fell in love with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra back in 2003 when I first conducted this superb orchestra in its beautiful home. After all these years of our partnership, I am still quite taken by the unique musical spirit of this wondrous institution. The talent and refinement of its musicians, and their true friendliness and open-mindedness, have always struck me as providing exceptional opportunities for profound music-making. I am overjoyed to begin my tenure as Music Director – to collaborate with this exceptional orchestra, to serve its remarkable community, and to ensure our music is even more accessible to all. For this first season of our 'marriage,' I was given the freedom to dream and I am passionate about every single week. I dedicate this season to a Franco-American arch, honoring St. Louis's strong and abiding connections to France and exploring our shared vibrant, sensual aesthetic – the pleasures of sound and color. Throughout the season, we will explore connections between classic repertoire and music of our time, between familiar guest artists and incredible new talent, and between Powell Hall and the vibrant St. Louis community. Many dear friends will join us next season, including my longtime collaborator Jean-Yves Thibaudet as our first Artist-in-Residence, thanks to the generous support of Jean-Paul and Isabelle Montupet. We also will continue to perform pieces recommended by our musicians, sharing these musical gifts from our family to yours."

Marie-Hélène Bernard, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra President and CEO, said, "Stéphane Denève is a remarkable musician and collaborator, and the chemistry between him and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is palpable. With the start of Stéphane's tenure as Music Director, we are thrilled to create a space for their partnership to grow and thrive. The 19/20 season is a reflection of Stéphane's boundless energy and excitement. He is building on the SLSO's 140-year history, embracing beloved traditions and also incorporating new ideas. His commitment to enhancing our artistic, educational, community, and media outreach truly aligns with the SLSO's strategic initiatives to embrace existing and new audiences. Stéphane has already established himself as a vital partner to our entire SLSO family. This is truly a historic moment for our community – and a defining one as we look toward our future together. Welcome, Stéphane!"

For his inaugural season as SLSO Music Director, Denève focused on the connection between French and American musical cultures. His classical programs also feature a wide range of repertoire including works by Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, Mozart, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and Wagner. Works by French composers Berlioz, Guillaume Connesson, Debussy, Poulenc, Ravel, Roussel, and Saint-Saëns complement American repertoire throughout the season by John Adams, Barber, Bernstein, William Bolcom, Gershwin, Jennifer Higdon, Pierre Jalbert, and John Williams.

The SLSO performs two world premieres during the 19/20 season: one by Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Puts to commemorate Denève's inaugural concerts as Music Director on September 21-22, 2019, and a work by Pulitzer Prize winner Aaron Jay Kernis on November 15-16, 2019. The SLSO also gives the premiere of a SLSO co-commission honoring Conductor Laureate Leonard Slatkin's 75th birthday – a piece in which five orchestras close to Slatkin each commissioned a composer to write a variation on Paganini's Caprice No. 24. The SLSO has partnered with John Corigliano to compose a variation. Other composers contributing new variations include Mason Bates, Guillaume Connesson, and Cindy McTee. The new variations will be added to previously composed variations premiered in commemoration of Slatkin's final concert as SLSO Music Director on May 19, 1996. The original variations were composed by Claude Baker, William Bolcom, Donald Erb, Joseph Schwantner, Joan Tower, and Slatkin himself. In addition, the SLSO gives the U.S. premiere of the orchestral version of Guillaume Connesson's A Kind of Trane featuring saxophonist Timothy McAllister, who collaborated with the SLSO on the Grammy Award-winning recordings of John Adams' Saxophone Concerto and City Noir. The SLSO also gives the St. Louis premiere of a co-commissioned work: Kevin Puts' Silent Night Elegy, commissioned alongside the San Francisco Symphony and the Indianapolis Symphony. In total, 19 pieces are SLSO premieres in the 19/20 season.

The current 2018/2019 season was curated with the thoughtful input of SLSO musicians. Building on a programming initiative that was first explored during his Music Director Designate year (the current 18/19 season), Denève continued the idea of incorporating repertoire suggested by SLSO musicians in the 19/20 season, with 10 programmed works requested by members of the SLSO family.

Denève will lead the SLSO for 12 weeks total throughout the season, including 11 classical subscription programs, a Live at Powell Hall program, and the SLSO's annual New Year's Eve Celebration concert. His tenure as Music Director begins with the festive Forest Park concert for the St. Louis community on September 12, 2019, featuring the SLSO and the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary with this 18/19 season. Over the past 50 years, the SLSO has performed 32 free community concerts in Forest Park, entertaining hundreds of thousands of St. Louisans on Art Hill. In 2004, this special event became an annual tradition, thanks to the generosity of Mary Ann Lee, and serves as the unofficial start of the orchestra's season. In addition to the IN UNISON Chorus, Denève – who is committed to working with all SLSO performing ensembles – will lead the St. Louis Symphony Chorus in three programs and the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra in a portion of one of their concerts during his first year as Music Director. He also leads the SLSO in the opening Live at Powell Hall program: the music of John Williams on September 13-15, 2019. Denève will take the podium for the SLSO's annual New Year's Eve Celebration on December 31, 2019. In addition to his work on stage, Denève is committed to advancing the SLSO's deep relationships and service to the St. Louis region. During his first season as Music Director, he plans to experience, and participate in, the SLSO's rich and varied education and community engagement efforts.

Denève's opening program on September 21-22, 2019, represents his "marriage" to the SLSO following his "engagement" season and is programmed around the well-known wedding saying, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." His opening concert begins with the world premiere of Virelai by Kevin Puts, and features Jennifer Higdon's Blue Cathedral, Debussy's La Mer, Guillaume Connesson's The Shining One featuring the Jean-Paul and Isabelle Montupet Artist-in-Residence Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Ravel's Piano Concerto in G with Thibaudet, and closes with Gershwin's An American in Paris. Denève concludes the season on May 8-9, 2020, with Stravinsky's landmark work, The Rite of Spring, plus the SLSO premieres of Pierre Jalbert's Music of Air and Fire and Guillaume Connesson's Cello Concerto with the SLSO debut of internationally-renowned cellist Gautier Capuçon.

Denève is committed to nurturing meaningful artistic relationships between the SLSO and the world's greatest artists and will regularly create substantive projects to realize these collaborations. For the 19/20 season, celebrated pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet has been named Artist-in-Residence, made possible with the generous support of Jean-Paul and Isabelle Montupet. Thibaudet will collaborate with the SLSO in four programs during the season. He will perform Ravel's Piano Concerto in G (September 21-22, 2019), Guillaume Connesson's The Shining One (September 21-22, 2019), Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 (January 18-19, 2020), a selection of works in the symphonic play Maurice Ravel: A Musical Journey (May 1, 2020), and Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (May 2-3, 2020). He will also collaborate with SLSO musicians for a one-night-only chamber music event on January 17, 2020, co-presented by Washington University as part of its Great Artists Series. Thibaudet is the first SLSO titled guest artist since the 1990s.

Conductor Laureate Leonard Slatkin conducts a program in early October that includes the premiere of a revised theme-and-variation piece with contributions from five composers to honor his 75th birthday. Additional works on Slatkin's program include Mozart's Oboe Concerto with SLSO Principal Oboe Jelena Dirks and Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life). SLSO Resident Conductor Gemma New will lead the orchestra in a program that includes Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem featuring the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5, and Arvo Pärt's Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten on April 17-18, 2020.

The classical season's Pre-Concert Conversations are again sponsored by Washington University Physicians and, in recognition of an extraordinary gift from Emerson, the SLSO has named the stage the Emerson Concert Stage at Powell Hall.

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