Much has happened since health concerns caused Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra conductor Arie Lipsky to step down in June 2019. Guest conductors were hired for the 2020-2021 season, during which a search was launched for a new music director to oversee the orchestra’s membership, repertoire, and its relationship with that indispensable element, the audience. Seven finalists were chosen from the more than 225 applications from all over the world. But live competition was postponed as the onset of Covid-19 led to concert cancelations and scaled-down webcast performances.
Executive director Tyler Rand extends thanks to “our donors, corporate sponsors, foundations, and to our state and local government for providing a sustainable path out of this pandemic and back to our venues.” In July, the symphony also received more than $170,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program–a welcome shot in the arm that paved the way for a season that will feature all seven finalists.
Lina Gonzalez-Granados will lead off at Hill Auditorium on September 10. A commanding interpreter of long-established and contemporary works, she will conduct Alejandro Basulto’s tone poem Personas Invisibles, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, and Brahms’ majestic Symphony No. 2.
The October 23 concert at the Michigan Theater will be led by Perry So, who in a 2018 interview spoke of his intention to “make the music sound like it’s entirely fresh, just composed yesterday, even though it’s been around for a hundred and fifty years.” So will conduct two seemingly disparate symphonies: Haydn’s 95th and Bruckner’s 6th.
Jacob Joyce conducts straightforwardly, as if absorbed in conversation with the orchestra. His concert at Hill Auditorium on November 12 will feature U-M DMA Composition student Michael Kropf’s High Spirits, Schumann’s rarely performed Adventlied, and Mussorgsky’s colorful Pictures at an Exhibition.
Covid canceled Kazem Abdullah’s keenly anticipated two-day Beethoven Festival at Hill last September. Instead, on December 10 Abdullah will preside at Hill’s Holiday Pops concert, a perennial tradition initiated by former music director Lipsky.
Oriol Sans, who’d been slated to lead last year’s pops concert, instead takes his turn at the Michigan Theater on January 22 to conduct an overture by Polish composer Gra’yna Bacewicz, a concerto for two pianos by Mozart, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5.
Morihiko Nakahara, a staunch advocate of contemporary works, will be at the Michigan on March 12, conducting Bright Sheng’s Wild Swan concerto, Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps, and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No.2.
Earl Lee will close out the season on April 23 at Hill with Carlos Simon’s Fate Now Conquers, Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4. A versatile cellist who collaborated with jazz artists Gary Burton and Chick Corea, Lee is a serious contender among the seven superconductors vying for their place on the rostrum.
“The search committee hopes to name our next music director in the summer of 2022,” says Rand, “with the September ’22 opening night planned as their debut concert.”