There are circles in which this year's Lexington Philharmonic finale of Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein are seen as "serious" music and next year's program of "Star Wars" with live orchestra accompaniment would be regarded as "light" classical or "pops."
But Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell isn't having that.
"It is an important piece of music," Terrell says of John Williams score for the iconic 1977 blockbuster. "It has as beautiful a love theme as anything Tchaikovsky wrote.
"I'm probably one of the few conductors that doesn't get up on a high horse about film score ... whatever. I just think this is a great piece and it has turned on generations to orchestral music. I don't think you can say just because it's film, it's not as good. If you look at that or (Bernard) Herrmann's music for 'Psycho,' it struck at the core of what was being expressed on the screen, and the music made it not just more meaningful, but immortal, in some ways."
That concert, where the movie will be shown and the Philharmonic will play the score live — as it has done with "The Wizard of Oz" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" at Picnic with the Pops the last several years — will be the 2019 season finale.
What is right in front of Terrell and the Philharmonic is this year's season finale, Saturday night at the Singletary Center for the Arts, and the music and occasion are no small undertaking.
This will be one of many concerts by many groups this year recognizing the centennial of Leonard Bernstein's birth, and as such, it will feature the titanic fifth symphony by Gustav Mahler.
Wait, Mahler? Weren't we were talking about Bernstein.
While many concerts this year have highlighted the music of Bernstein the composer — which the Philharmonic has done and will do more, later this year — he was also a highly influential conductor in the mid-20th century, most notably of the New York Philharmonic.
"Without Bernstein we have no Mahler, like we do today," Terrell says. "He was the great champion of Mahler, probably more than any conductor.
"There's no piece that's more paired than Bernstein the conductor and Mahler 5, the piece."
In fact, Bernstein was so into Mahler's music that he recorded his complete symphony cycle ... twice. The first time was in the 1960s for CBS records, and the second was a digital project for Deutsche Grammophon in the '80s.
For Terrell, this will be his first time tackling the Fifth.
"Mahler 5 tests any orchestra's steel," Terrell says. "It's symbolic of how far the orchestra has come, and probably why I waited a while to program it."
He has programmed the work, which will be on the concert along with Bernstein's "Three Meditations from ‘Mass‘" with cello soloist Joseph Johnson and "To Music" by Bernstein protégé John Corigliano, as the finale to his ninth season, which means next year is a big one. And Terrell has programmed his 10th season with some symbolism and ambition.
As big an undertaking as the Mahler is, Terrell and the Phil will wrestle another monster in the Verdi "Requiem" March 29. There are nods to the orchestra's increasing presentation of living and American composers like an All-American November show, and a small-scale opera in "Trouble in Tahiti" by none other than Bernstein.
Featured soloists will include some veterans of Terrell's tenure including Ryan Shirar, who has worked with the orchestra as an arranger and pianist, and flutist Emma Gerstein, who was principal flute with the orchestra in the 2012-13 season and is now the second flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
And, of course, the season will come to a grand end on May 18, 2019, with "Star Wars."
"I expect it to be one of the highlights of not just next year, but my tenure," Terrell says. "It's something I've really wanted to do."
IF YOU GO
What: Season finale concert featuring John Corigliano's "To Music," Leonard Bernstein's "Three Meditations from ‘Mass’" featuring cello soloist Joseph Johnson, and Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 5."
When: 7:30 p.m. May 19
Where: Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall, 405 Rose St.
LEXINGTON PHILHARMONIC 2018-19 SEASON
Oct. 20: Lexington Opera House. Bernstein "Suite from Candide," Gershwin "Rhapsody in Blue" with piano soloist Ryan Shirar, Bernstein "Trouble in Tahiti" — semi-staged opera directed by John de los Santos.
Nov. 16: Joan Tower "Made in America," Mozart "Symphony No. 31, 'Paris,'" Maurice Ravel "Piano Concerto" with soloist Tengku Irfan, Aaron Copland "Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes."
Dec. 31: Lexington Opera House. Tango Caliente! The Music of Argentina. Camille Zamora, soprano; Hector Del Curto, bandoneón; Patricio Touceda and Eva Lucero, dancers.
Feb. 8: Gabriela Lena Frank "Concertino Cusqueño," Paquito D’Rivera "Gran Danzón (concerto for flute and orchestra)" with soloist Emma Gerstein, Johannes Brahms "Symphony No. 1."
March 29: Giuseppe Verdi, "Requiem Mass" with D'Ana Lombard, soprano; Daryl Freedman, mezzo-soprano; Cooper Nolan, tenor; Peixin Chen, bass; featuring choirs from Asbury University, Berea College, Centre College, and Eastern Kentucky University.
April 12: Missy Mazzoli "Sinfonia for Orbiting Spheres," Saint-Saëns "Violin Concerto No. 3" with soloist Simone Porter, Dmitri Shostakovich "Symphony No. 5."
May 18: "Star Wars — A New Hope" in concert featuring the 1977 movie with the Philharmonic playing the original score live.
All concerts are at 7:30 p.m. at the Singletary Center for the Arts, unless otherwise noted. Season subscriptions are currently on sale at 859-233-4226. Single tickets will go on sale in July.