If you want to be entertained and challenged at the same time, plan on attending this season’s concerts by the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra.
Music director Stilian Kirov has been incorporating the novel with the tried-and-true since he took over the orchestra in the 2015-16 season, with a special nod to Eastern European composers. This season, some you can expect to hear some great “war horses,” as well as lesser-known works by the great composers, and some real surprises.
The season begins Saturday evening with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, probably second only to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in popularity. It is particularly fitting that Saturday’s soloist, pianist Daniel Hsu, is a Van Cliburn Piano Competition finalist (Texan Van Cliburn won the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1958). In keeping with the Russian theme of the program, the orchestra will perform the Festive Overture by Shostakovich and the Symphony No. 5 by Prokofiev.
November’s concert explores the early Romantic movement, with Beethoven’s “Leonora” Overture No. 3 and Schumann’s Symphony No. 4. Principal wind players from the orchestra will get a chance to shine in a performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante.
Los Angeles Philharmonic Concertmaster Martin Chalifour will perform the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Max Bruch, one of the “big five” violin concertos in the repertoire, in a that also includes Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides” Overture and Haydn’s Symphony No. 104. That concert is on February 2.
The March and April concerts promise to take audiences into newer territory. The March 9 concert explores the theme of nature described by music, and includes the never-played-nearly-enough Symphony No. 6 (The “Pastoral”) by Beethoven, Antonin Dvorak’s Czech Suite and a contemporary work, “From a New Land,” by Los Angeles-based composer Anze Rozman. On April 6, the evening is given over to Gypsy music, with three pieces for orchestra and violin: Maurice Ravel’s “Tzigane,” Edouard Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole,” and “Gypsy Airs” by 19th century Romantic composer and violinist Pablo de Sarasote. Rising star Robyn Bollinger performs all three pieces, in a concert that concludes with Johannes Brahms’ beloved Hungarian Dances.
The grandest offering has been saved for the end of the season: Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”) on May 11, featuring the combined singing strength of the Master Chorale and Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield chamber choirs.
“Every piece on the program is a favorite of mine,” Kirov wrote in an email. “If I have to be more particular, I am very excited about the Mahler’s Second Symphony concert because beside of its huge range of emotional landscapes, this is also a piece that brings together on stage many of Bakersfield’s extraordinary musical groups.”
Missing from this year’s program are some of the pops concerts that the BSO had experimented with in the past few years. Remaining, however, is the Holiday Pops concert, on Dec. 16. Executive director Kari Heilman said the BSO is changing the timing and location of the concert in the hopes that more families will be able to attend.
“Moving the concert to a Sunday afternoon and to Rabobank Theater will allow for more attendance and the ability to make the lobby a winter wonderland,” Heilman wrote in an email. “Santa will also be making an appearance.”