It's been a busy couple of months at the Elgin Symphony Orchestra with the season-opening concerts fast approaching and a need to hire a series of guest conductors to fill the void left by longtime music director Robert Hanson's surprising mid-June retirement.
But everything is ready to go, with the ESO's 62nd season to open Sept. 23-25 at the Hemmens Cultural Center with an all-Russian program under the baton of Ignat Solzhenitsyn, one of five guest conductors engaged for the 2011-12 season.
"It was a scramble, but fortunately, the Elgin Symphony has such a great reputation as an orchestra -- our musicians have such a high profile -- that when I, and Mark Mallamo (director of operations and artistic administration) made some phone calls, they said 'absolutely, we'd love to come and help out,'" said CEO Dale J. Lonis. "We basically approached them saying, 'We have to fill all these dates on short notice and we need your help.' And every one of these conductors was willing to step in."
The 2011-12 guest conductors have for the most part previously worked with the ESO.
"That was one of our criteria," Lonis said. "When Mark and I started talking about whom we should get, we decided to start, first of all, with conductors the orchestra has already indicated it really, really admires. People like Daniel Hege, who's been here before, came to mind immediately because the orchestra really liked him; and Tania Miller, absolutely, they really liked her. Actually, there were two more names the orchestra really liked and they said they'd love to help us, but they didn't have any of those dates available.
"So, that was the challenge in putting the puzzle together, because even if potential guest conductors had the will, they didn't have the dates," Lonis said, adding that the immediate challenge, because of short lead time, was filling the first classic series dates of an all-Russian concert.
Solzhenitsyn, the renowned Russian pianist and conductor, is guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and just stepped down after six seasons as music director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia to become its conductor laureate. He also is on the piano faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Solzhenitsyn has conducted the orchestras of Baltimore, Buffalo, Dallas, Indianapolis, Nashville, New Jersey, North Carolina, Seattle, Toledo and Toronto as well as the major orchestras in Russia.
Solzhenitsyn will make one change in the previously announced season-opening music lineup. Instead of Tchaikovsky's Third Orchestral Suite, he has substituted Sergei Rachmaninoff's symphonic poem "The Rock." Remaining on the program are Alexander Glazunov's Violin Concerto in A Minor, with ESO concertmaster Isabella Lippi the soloist; along with two Tchaikovsky favorites, the "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture" and the "1812 Overture."
Single tickets for this and all Classic Series concerts cost $24-$70, which can be purchased at (847) 888-4000 or elginsymphony.org.
The remaining 2011-12 Classic Series programs are as follows:
Nov. 5-6: "American Icons: Sights and Sounds," conducted by ESO associate conductor Stephen Squires, with guest pianist Kevin Cole playing George Gershwin's Concerto in F Major. Also on the program are Ferde Grofé's "Grand Canyon Suite" and Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings."
Jan. 6-8: Guest conductor Daniel Hege will lead a program including Zoltan Kodaly's "Dance of Galanta," Franz Josef Haydn's Symphony No. 59 and Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" (1945 version).
Feb. 3-5: Guest conductor Jose Luis Gomez is joined by guitarist Jason Vieaux for Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez," the program also includes Georges Bizet's Symphony in C and Maurice Ravel's "Bolero."
March 2-4: For an all-Beethoven concert, guest conductor Tania Miller will be joined by pianist Chu-Fang Huang for the "Emperor" Concerto, the concert also including Symphony No. 4 (replacing the previously announced Eighth Symphony) and the "Creatures of Prometheus" Overture.
March 30-April 1: Previously announced guest conductor/violinist Jaime Laredo will lead a program of music by Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn, with Laredo sharing the solo stage with guest violinist Bella Hristova. The Mozart "Jupiter" Symphony will conclude the concert.
May 4-6: Guest conductor Victor Yampolsky will collaborate with cellist Matt Haimovitz for Camille Saint Sans' Concerto in A Minor. The concert will also include Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov's "Scheherazade."
Stephen Squires will be on the podium for three of the four Pops Series programs, beginning with "Simply Sinatra" with vocalist Steve Lippia on Oct. 14-16, the Friday concert at Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Arts. The previously announced Carl Topilow will conduct the "Broadway Romance" pops concerts on Nov. 18-20, with guest vocalists Liz Larsen and Sal Viviano.
Single-ticket prices for Pops series concerts are $25-$74 and $24-$70 for Classic Series concerts. Latest ticket and program information is available at (847) 888-4000 or elginsymphony.org.
Sept. 11 'Concert of Remembrance'
Tickets are on sale for "A Concert of Remembrance," presented by Elgin Choral Union, with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way in Elgin.
Conducted by Elgin Choral Union music director Andrew Lewis, the concert will feature Johannes Brahms' "A German Requiem" and American composer John Adams' "On the Transmigration of Souls."
Tickets, which cost $25 to $50, can be purchased at hemmens.org, (847) 931-5900 or at the Hemmens Theatre box office. For details about the Elgin Choral Union or this concert, visit elginchoralunion.org.