The Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra will not commission a new work in the 2012-13 season, but the lineup announced at Friday night's concert reaffirms music director Scott Terrell's commitment to bring new music and new artists to the Bluegrass.
Among the selections on the program for next season are works by marquee contemporary composers such as Jennifer Higdon and Mason Bates. Top-notch guest performers include the Grammy Award-winning new-music ensemble eighth blackbird and cellist Johannes Moser, whose recent high-profile gigs include the world premiere of Enrico Chapelas Electric Cello Concerto "Magnetar" with conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
"I look at Jennifer Higdon and Mason Bates, and they are at the forefront of composing right now," Terrell said earlier this week. "Their music hasn't made it here yet. But to give the audience the aesthetic at least, so that they can get their own level of curiosity."
Terrell and Philharmonic executive director Allison Kaiser said the Philharmonic has enjoyed great success with newly commissioned works the past two seasons, including a work from Daniel Kellog, the first writer in its biennial Saykaly Garbulinska Composer-in-Residence program with the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington.
"Even in what we consider a non-composer year, we're still bringing those things to this public and making them aware this is the industry in which we live and that we at the Phil are part of that broad orchestral world," Terrell said. "One of the things we'll never shy away from is doing great orchestral works. But giving those works perspective inside the current canon is absolutely necessary."
Other unique features of the season include a performance of Astor Piazolla's tango opera María de Buenos Aires in a cabaret setting at the Downtown Arts Center on Feb. 1 and 2 and a season-ending concert of Peter Boyer's work for orchestra and actors, Ellis Island: The Dream of America, featuring performers from Lexington's Project See Theatre.
Across the country, orchestra audiences have not been widely known for their openness to new music, often scared off by many so-called unlistenable works by mid-20th century academic composers. But a combination of a more audience-friendly aesthetic in current composition and a new audience base for the Philharmonic have made Lexington a friendly town to new composition. Kaiser says the Philharmonic's subscriber base has grown 43 percent in the past two years.
"What that tells us is, yes, this community is liking this new exploration that we're doing," said Kaiser, who has been with the Philharmonic since August 2010. "There is new excitement in our community about what orchestral music can mean."
The season will open with a familiar face in pianist Alessio Bax, who has been part of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington's core quintet since 2007. He will play Sergei Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini in the season-opening concert on Sept. 14. The season will close with Rachmaninoff's legendary Piano Concerto No. 3 with pianist Chu-Fang Huang on May 10, the same concert with Boyer's Ellis Island on the program.
In choral works, Terrell has put together a program centered on Aaron Copland with choirs from Berea College, Transylvania University, Centre College, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky on Nov. 16. The annual performance of George Frideric Handel's Messiah will return to the Cathedral of Christ the King on Dec. 15.
Overall, heading into his fourth season at the artistic helm of the Philharmonic, Terrell says he is feeling comfortable in the position and like he is able to program the sorts of seasons he wants to present.
He said, "I'll gladly put our lineup up against anyone else's in terms of high-level artistry."