As we get ready to begin a new season, I’m thinking about what went into creating this season since I’m about to start collecting all of the various little notes I’ve been making for the past 10 months about possible concerts for the season after next, as I begin to plan for it.
There are lots of things I think about when putting a season together, but the first thing is attending to the core works of the orchestral tradition. By that I mean, attending to what is essentially a rotation of a huge number of incredible masterworks that collectively represent an expression of genius and inspiration like virtually no other canon of works put together for any purpose whatsoever in the history of mankind. I genuinely feel that exposure to these works and the ideas which went into creating them on a consistent basis is an extremely positive thing for society and mankind.
To put that in practical language, I determine which Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Dvorak , etc., symphonies and concertos are ready to come back on the schedule and use them as a sort of pool from which to draw the outlines of the season’s skeleton or framework, so to speak. At the same time I decide if we or I really need to play a certain work for some reason. Who knows what that might be, but sometimes like over the past year or so, I’ve decided I needed to come back to Beethoven 5…a few years ago it was the violin concerto, so whatever those works are, they go on another list. I then get out my list of works which are not on the list of standards but should be played in my opinion and continue working my way though that list by deciding on a few to try and work in somewhere.
Then I pull out the 8 or 9 most popular works from all of these lists and see what I have. How many symphonies, and how many concertos are on that list? To put it another way, how many New World Symphonies and how many Rachmaninoff 2nd piano concertos did I come up with on a top 8 or 9. Then I start pairing works together…a lesser known concerto with a popular symphony…a hit concerto with a relative rarity for orchestra alone…and then see what I’ve got.