ST. PETERSBURG, FL – The Florida Orchestra will celebrate the unique musical language of America in its new 2023-24 season in the fall, the orchestra announced today. Inspired by the 100th anniversary of Gershwin’s groundbreaking Rhapsody in Blue, Music Director Michael Francis is featuring a wide range of American composers from Aaron Copland to Wynton Marsalis alongside global masterpieces from Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Dvorak and more. In September, he launches the premier Hough Family Foundation Masterworks series with a bang: Holst’s The Planets paired with the thrilling Percussion Collective. In the Raymond James Pops series, the circus meets the symphony in Cirque Dances with Troupe Vertigo, in addition to Twist & Shout, a tribute to 60 years of The Beatles in America; a supersonic Sci-Fi Spectacular of space-themed movie and TV music; and the very merry tradition of Holiday Pops. Season tickets for all series are on sale now at FloridaOrchestra.org.
“It’s important to celebrate America’s own musical art form,” said internationally acclaimed Music Director Michael Francis, a British native who became an American citizen in 2019. “This season we’ll take audiences on a journey across America’s musical landscape, as we explore our musical roots and where we are today. Alongside the story of American music, we will delight our Tampa Bay community with beloved classics from around the world. New this season will be secret ‘mystery pieces’ — moments of discovery and fun that won’t be listed in the program. We remain passionate about reflecting the different cultures that make up Tampa Bay and beyond.”
At the heart of TFO’s 56th season, Maestro Francis will conduct featured soloist Stewart Goodyear in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (Feb. 17 & 18, 2024). This masterpiece combined jazz and classical to change music forever when it premiered 100 years ago in 1924. “This revolutionary work deserves to be put on a pedestal and celebrated as one of the most important pieces of American art. So much of America’s heritage is on display in one extraordinary piece,” said Francis, who will enter his ninth season with TFO. The concert will spotlight works by three more American composers: jazz great Wynton Marsalis’ Herald, Holler & Hallelujah; Grammy Award winner Mason Bates’ Alternative Energy; and the legendary Leonard Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town.
For the first time ever, all 13 Hough Family Foundation Masterworks concerts will include a surprise, unlisted “mystery piece” personally chosen by Maestro Francis. “We’ve put a lot of thought into each short piece, which will enhance the concert in an unexpected and memorable way and reveal something new. They will make you smile,” Francis said.
October 2023 brings another important American masterpiece, Copland’s Appalachian Spring (Oct. 21 & 22), showcasing the beauty of the distinctly American sound. “Copland saw how the power of music can unite a country. He created an open, pioneering sound that tapped straight into the psyche and soul of the American people,” said Maestro Francis. The program also features Grammy-nominated baritone Jubilant Sykes performing American spirituals that highlight our African-American heritage. “These songs reflect our diverse musical roots as a nation,” Francis said.
More big moments in TFO’s core classical series include Dvorak’s New World Symphony (April 12-14, 2024), based on American spirituals while Dvorak lived in the United States; Beethoven’s heroic Eroica Symphony (April 5-7, 2024); Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Jan. 19 & 20, 2024) and Elgar’s Enigma Variations (May 17-19, 2024). The series wraps up with Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection” (May 25 & 26, 2024), which features the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. “With a vast orchestra and huge choir, Mahler’s Second Symphony is the most impressive concert experience possible. It is the most uplifting, jaw-dropping masterpiece, and one you simply have to hear live,” Francis said.
Additional American composers include Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto (Jan. 19 & 20, 2024) with soloist Stella Chen; Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia (For Orbiting Spheres) (Jan. 6 & 7, 2024); John Adams’ The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra (April 5-7, 2024); and Michael Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony (Oct. 28 & 29). “Daugherty is an extension of Dvorak and Copland but with a dash of DC Marvel comics and Andy Warhol thrown in. This is a really vibrant piece of American culture,” Francis said.
TFO will bring a wide range of world-renowned guest artists to Tampa Bay stages, including guest conductor Jonathon Heyward of the Baltimore Symphony, the only Black music director of a major U.S. orchestra. He’ll conduct a program of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 and more. Pianist Yulianna Avdeeva will make her TFO debut in Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, exciting young pianist George Li will perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Javier Perianes returns for Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, and Julian Rachlin will be conductor and violinist for a program that pairs him with violinist/violist Sarah McElravy for Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. TFO’s own virtuoso musicians will be in the spotlight, including Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer, who joins Principal Cello Yoni Draiblate for Brahms’ Double Concerto, and Principal Clarinet Natalie Hoe for Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto.
All Hough Family Foundation Masterworks concerts include popular Pre-Concert Conversations, which take a deep dive into the stories behind the music with guest artists and conductors, starting one hour before the performance. Sponsored by Smith & Associates Real Estate.
To explore the full season, visit FloridaOrchestra.org