Eckart Preu hasn’t had a trouble-free season since he was hired as music director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra in 2019, but he’ll get at least four more seasons to try and fix that.
The orchestra announced on Monday that it had renewed Preu’s contract and also published its concert schedule for the 2022-23 season, which begins in September.
As always, the orchestra offers a varied mix of eight classical shows, five pops! Concerts combining symphonic and popular music, three discovery concerts for younger audiences and 12 performances of the “Magic of Christmas”. All shows take place in the Merrill Auditorium.
Preu said he is excited about both the schedule and the opportunity to lead the orchestra for the next four seasons, especially since much of his tenure to date has been jeopardized by the pandemic.
“The first three years weren’t really what anyone imagined,” he said in an interview Monday. “Hopefully things will return to normal at some point. I think everyone is looking forward to a real fresh start, with a full orchestra and hopefully a full hall.”
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Comprised of more than 80 professional musicians, it is one of the largest performing arts organizations in the state.
Preu, who is of East German descent, was hired in 2019 to replace director Robert Moody, who led the orchestra for ten years. His first contract ran for three seasons. Before moving to Portland, Preu was music director of the Spokane Symphony in Washington state for 15 years. In addition to the PSO, he conducts the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra in California and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra in Ohio.
The 2022/23 season will open on September 20th with a classical concert entitled “Opening Night: DANCE”, which will feature Israeli cellist Inbal Segev and “DANCE” by contemporary composer Anna Clyne. This also includes Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, which Preu described as a “blockbuster”.
The season, which runs until May 23, 2023, will feature works by contemporary, black and female composers, as well as works by classical composers such as Verdi, Rachmaninoff, Mozart and Brahms. Among the pops! Concerts will be two performances in October with the music of the classic rock band Queen.
Preu said his goal in creating next year’s program is to ensure audiences always have a different experience. He compared it to going to a five-star restaurant many times and getting a different meal. It’s always satisfying.
“What I want to avoid is people thinking, ‘Oh, he’s a German conductor, that must be his comfort level,'” he said. “I want to create a season that cuts across styles and centuries and includes pieces we don’t know.”
The season’s guest artists include Segev; Mitisrael Alon Goldstein, a pianist; Spanish classical and flamenco guitarist Pepe Romero; the American pianist George Li; and the return of Byron Stripling, who will conduct the pops and play the trumpet! Presentation by Louis Armstrong & Friends in Spring 2023.
PSO musicians will also perform as soloists, including Ina Zdorovetchi on harp and concertmaster Charles Dimmick.
Preu said it’s hard to pick a show he’s most looking forward to, but said two performances in October with the Violins of Hope may be the most meaningful. Violins of Hope is a concert project comprising a private collection of violins, violas and cellos, all owned by Jews during the Holocaust and collected after World War II. The strings of the symphony play on these special instruments during Verdi’s Requiem.
“This show has so many layers of emotion and meaning. It will be a very special concert,” said Preu.
Audiences are slowly coming back for orchestral shows, but Preu said he’s grateful for the support from subscribers, who have paid for digital concerts throughout much of the pandemic. The symphony will continue to offer some digital shows in the next season as well.
Looking ahead to next season, Preu said he wants potential patrons to know that he selects contemporary works “very carefully.”
“If you don’t know something, people become suspicious,” he said. “I want people to walk away and say, ‘I’m glad I came.’ Classics were once contemporary. We want to help create classics for future generations.”
For the full 2022–23 schedule, see portlandsymphony.org.
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