Subscribe

Santa Rosa Symphony’s going big this year

Santa Rosa Symphony 2021-2022 season tickets

There are several subscription packages available for the “Classical Reunion” season in 2021-2022.

The Classical Series includes seven concert sets from October through April. Classical Series concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays and 3 p.m. Sundays at Weill Hall. Discovery Rehearsals are held at 2 p.m. Saturdays at Weill Hall. If you already had a ticket, it will still be good for the special concert in June featuring the mariachi band and orchestra.

The Classical Plus Series: Ticketed seats for all seven concerts plus access to first three concerts on YouTube for 30 days

Classical Hybrid Series: Access to first three concerts on YouTube and ticketed seats to the last four concerts.

7-Concert Classical Series: Tickets to all seven live concerts

Mini Series: Eight vouchers for any combination of performance days and seats

Discovery Rehearsal Series: Tickets to all seven Saturday afternoon rehearsals.

Family Series: Interactive family concerts held at 3 p.m. on three Sundays from October through April in Weill Hall

For more information and to subscribe: srsymphony.org or 707-546-8742. Single tickets will go on sale Monday Aug. 30.

Santa Rosa Symphony Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong is thrilled to welcome audiences back to the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall for the 2021-2022 season, and not just because their energy lifts the orchestra to new heights.

After pulling off a season of virtual concerts with smaller orchestras in 2020-2021, Lecce-Chong is excited to be able to present an ambitious array of music that goes above and beyond what the orchestra would normally present in one season.

Among other things, he is looking forward to sharing four major world premieres and launching a second multiyear project, Rachmaninoff and the Hollywood Sound, which brings together some of the composer’s larger works with smaller works by influential Hollywood composers of the past and present. The idea is to illustrate their shared lush, lyrical sound.

“The four major world premieres is beyond what we would have normally attempted to do. ... It just happened the way that COVID messed with our schedule,” he said. “We’re probably going to be the most exciting orchestra in the Bay Area for the next season, because no one else is going to do this.”

In addition, Lecce-Chong has programmed some powerful warhorses he described as “heavy hitters” because they call for a large orchestra and a big sound. Think Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in December and Ottorino Respighi’s “The Fountains of Rome” next year in June

According to Lecce-Chong, it’s all part of making a statement: We’re big, we’re back and we want to celebrate.

“What is it that orchestras can do that no one else can do?” he asked. “A whole orchestra onstage, perfectly in sync, of one mind — this is what you missed about hearing an orchestra live, and the hall is going to shake a bit.”

The new Classical Plus Series includes tickets to all seven concerts plus access to the first three concerts on YouTube. The Classical Hybrid Series includes access to the first three concerts on YouTube only and ticketed seats to the last four concerts.

Earlier this month, the conductor revealed some of his thinking behind the upcoming season and touched on a few of the highlights. These responses have been edited for length.

Q How do you feel about the virtual components that build upon what you learned last year?

A This season, I was hoping to have a virtual component, and we all knew we wanted it. ... It’s allowing subscribers to have different ways to interact with us. Yes, we need to do it for our community, but potentially it is the future. With most things in life, you have a digital opportunity to interact with it, and a concert should be no different.

I think the classical music world has had this idea that somehow recordings are going to get in the way of people wanting to come to live concerts. I think it’s the reverse. The more they can interact with us when we’re not onstage, the more they will want to come hear us.

It won’t make a difference as far as what’s happening onstage. In the past year, I could record the program in any order and put it together with these great interviews. Now we’re going to capture the concert experience. It puts a little more pressure on our video team, because they have one shot at this. We will record the first concert on Saturday night. That way the video team can do a test run on Saturday afternoon.

I think everybody wins. Yes, it’s an effort. A lot more people are involved now, but we get to try something new and that will be important going forward.

Q Can you talk about some of the world premieres the orchestra will bring to light this season, starting with The Fretless Clarinet Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet and Orchestra by clarinetist David Krakauer and Kathleen Tagg, which will be performed by Krakauer in November?

A It’s a commission that is very close to home for me, because I’ve been involved since the inception of that project. He’s always been one of my musical heroes. ... He was my chamber music coach at Mannes (School of Music), and I got to work with him for many years.

We got to work together with the Reno Orchestra on “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind.” He’s the clarinetist who always does this piece. He is one of the greatest klezmer clarinetist in the world, if not the best.

I knew he was a composer and writes a lot of multimedia shows because he plays jazz, klezmer, rock ’n’ roll. He can play anything. So I asked him, “Have you ever thought about writing yourself a clarinet concerto?” And he said, “No one has asked me.” And I said, “I can fix that. Let’s make this happen.”

This is a concerto that for him is very autobiographical. It’s a very personal piece, and it’s meant a lot to him. I just got the score this past week, and I’m beyond thrilled. It’s absolutely a dream.

What’s more important is what audiences will get from the concert. I really wanted to tell his story as a part of the piece. It’s his concerto, and then the program says “Traditional Klezmer Selections.” ... David will give some history on klezmer music ... and he’s going to play really traditional arrangements, soaking the audience in that story and sound.

Q In January, the orchestra will perform the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s Symphony No. 1, the second installment of the First Symphony commissioning project. And her short piece, “Rust,” will be on the first program. What does her music sound like?

A She is from the Bay Area, which is really cool, and her music is inspired by nature. But I gave all these composers carte blanche. We wanted to let them to speak for themselves. She is in Europe right now, so she won’t be at the first program, but she will definitely be here for the symphony.

Q How did the world premiere of Michael Daugherty’s “Valley of the Moon,” on the May concert set, come about?

A I love his music and have done it a lot over the years. He came out here and was inspired by the area. His work is very Americana. We actually did a brass piece by him on our May (2021) virtual program.

The piece itself (“Valley of the Moon”) celebrates the biodiversity of Sonoma County. Sonoma County has so many different microclimates, and that really captured his imagination.

Q Then there’s the special concert in June, rescheduled from May 2020, that will feature a world premiere of Enrico Chapela Barba’s “Los Braceros” (The Laborers) Cantata for Mariachi and Orchestra. How is that coming along?

A We thought we were going to do it twice, and this is our third try. There will be four singers, and it’s a huge undertaking. I don’t know how we’re going to get everyone onstage.

Enrico did a lot of research about the Braceros (the Bracero Program brought millions of Mexican guest workers to the U.S. between 1942 and 1964) and talked to people. ... It’s one of these great works of art that will inspire further thought and discussion. It tells this very emotional and colorful story, through the sounds of mariachi backed up by an orchestra.

Q What was the impetus behind the four-season project, Rachmaninoff and the Hollywood Sound?

A I’ve thought about it for quite a while. When I was assistant conductor at the Milwaukee Symphony, Edo de Waart was doing a Rachmaninoff cycle, with all the concerts and the symphonic works. We all know the concertos; they are played consistently, and they are amazing works. But because we play them so much, there’s less opportunity to hear the colorful and bombastic symphonies. So I’ve fallen in love with those. We’ll do three symphonies and the Symphonic Dances over four years.

I’ve always been interested in bringing to the concert hall the works of film composers. If you go back 50 years, there was really no distinction. Back then, more classical composers were desperate to be movie composers. Stravinsky tried to write for the movies three times and got rejected three times. And then those composers would take those movie works and make them for orchestra.

In the first part of the century, Rachmaninoff’s music, with its big, romantic sound, became part of the movies. He spent a lot of time in Hollywood, but he hated Hollywood and moved there for his health. He wasn’t involved and yet his music had such an influence on the music of Hollywood.

His second piano concerto was in “The Seven-Year Itch” (1955). It’s one of my favorite movie scenes, with Marilyn Monroe getting seduced by a guy dreaming that he is playing Rachmaninoff. Then there’s “Shine,” based on Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto, and how it can make you go mad.

Rachmaninoff and these other composers were writing big, lush romantic works, but they are not works of the past. They are using the orchestra in remarkable ways. ... You can hear how the score evokes so much imagery and tells stories.

In coming years, I want to do “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Vertigo” and “Gone with the Wind.”

Q Then there’s the Family Music Series, where you’ll play a major role in “Francesco at the Bat” in April 2022.

A I love our Family Concert Series (and) I’m a massive baseball fanatic, and now I live in an area where I can openly root for the Giants.

I did a program similar to this in Pittsburgh. I don’t think we talk about how much work it takes to play music. I want to really shine a light on that, and the connections between how we prepare to do sports and music. What is teamwork? Being a great athlete and being a great musician have so many similar parts.

Q Any parting thoughts on the upcoming season that you’d like to share in light of the continuing pandemic?

A We’re actually able to take risks this season, and we’re not two concerts away from bankruptcy. That shows how last season was so important to us. Everyone stepped up and supported us, even though we didn’t sell a single ticket, and we are able to go into this season really putting our best foot forward.

I lose a little sleep every week over how things could turn out not so great, but we’ve shown that we’re going to deliver, in any way we have to. If they couldn’t shut us down last season, they won’t shut us down now.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56

Santa Rosa Symphony 2021-2022 season tickets

There are several subscription packages available for the “Classical Reunion” season in 2021-2022.

The Classical Series includes seven concert sets from October through April. Classical Series concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays and 3 p.m. Sundays at Weill Hall. Discovery Rehearsals are held at 2 p.m. Saturdays at Weill Hall. If you already had a ticket, it will still be good for the special concert in June featuring the mariachi band and orchestra.

The Classical Plus Series: Ticketed seats for all seven concerts plus access to first three concerts on YouTube for 30 days

Classical Hybrid Series: Access to first three concerts on YouTube and ticketed seats to the last four concerts.

7-Concert Classical Series: Tickets to all seven live concerts

Mini Series: Eight vouchers for any combination of performance days and seats

Discovery Rehearsal Series: Tickets to all seven Saturday afternoon rehearsals.

Family Series: Interactive family concerts held at 3 p.m. on three Sundays from October through April in Weill Hall

For more information and to subscribe: srsymphony.org or 707-546-8742. Single tickets will go on sale Monday Aug. 30.

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette