From Beethoven to Berio – Ludovic Morlot on the 2015-2016 Season

Brandon Patoc Photography

How did the collaboration with Artist in Residence Jean-Yves Thibaudet come about?

You know it’s a funny thing — we’re both originally from Lyon, Southeast of France, but we never actually performed there together. He’s not that much older than me, but when I was a kid he was already one of the leading French pianists. To not only have had the chance to collaborate with him for the past couple of years now, but to also be able to bring that special relationship to the Seattle Symphony is meaningful to me. There’s a real affinity in repertoire between he and I. Also, he’s not only a great pianist and great soloist, but he’s a great chamber music partner and the fact that we can have him do some chamber music projects with our musicians is very valuable.

Are there any particular arcs or themes in the 2015–2016 season?

There are a couple themes actually. One of them in particular runs over two seasons and that’s our big Beethoven cycle. However bold and outside of the box you want to think with programming, you are always ultimately tempted to come back to the importance of presenting all of Beethoven’s symphonies. It is a thrilling project for me because we’ll be able to pace ourselves and explore all of Beethoven’s symphonies and piano concertos over the course of two seasons.

There’s another recurrent theme next season — you’re going to hear four of Strauss’ tone poems. Our Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Dausgaard will be conducting Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, you’ll also hear Also Sprach Zarathustra and Don Quixote, and I’ll be conducting Don Juan.

Also, we are presenting both ends of the spectrum of Mahler’s Symphonies with his first and his last, No. 1 and No. 10. This will be the first presentation in Seattle by the Seattle Symphony of Mahler’s completed Symphony No. 10 (Cooke version). This is a really exciting project.

What concerts in the upcoming season lie closest to your heart?

Each program is like a different journey, each touching on different emotions and telling different stories. For me, every program is something that’s been conceived out of love and passion for a certain area of music. So, all of them are actually very thrilling.

I’m really happy to open with the Beethoven/Mahler program, because I’ve always found that Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony and Mahler’s First Symphony have a lot of things in common. There’s a theme about nature throughout these two pieces, and I wanted to build that parallel between them.

I’m looking forward to doing Strauss’ Don Quixote, with our principal viola player Susan Gulkis Assadi and principal cellist Efe Baltacıgil. It’s paired with Brahms’ Third Symphony, which is continuing our exploration of the Brahms symphonies with the orchestra.

Are there standout programs next season that people might overlook?

Another program I’m really excited about, and we can think of it as kind of being on the line of core repertoire and really edgy, is Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony. It features the Seattle Symphony Chorale and this is a highlight of the season for me as well.

When it comes to core repertoire, there’s a program that I built around the key of C major, and it includes Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto, Mozart’s last symphony (“Jupiter”) and Stravinsky’s Symphony in C. This is a more classical program that is really based on the key of C major. When we talk about core repertoire, that’s one that will be very special to me.

When it comes to commissioning and new works, I should highlight our [untitled] series. [untitled] is the late Friday night concert series taking place in the Grand Lobby. There is a real American focus throughout that series next season! We’ll be bringing back music by John Luther Adams (In the White Silence) and one program will be commissions by composers from the University of Washington. And then there will be another [untitled] which honors the memory of artist Robert Rauschenberg with music by Christian Wolff, John Cage, Morton Feldman and Earle Brown.

Other not-to-be-missed programs are a commission by Giya Kancheli, Sinfonia by Luciano Berio with guest vocalists Roomful of Teeth, and John Adams will be coming back in March to conduct his new violin concerto Scheherezade.2 — all of these are on the Masterworks series.

What guest artists do you most look forward to working with next season?

Imogen Cooper is going to be here — we’re bringing back dear friends like Jean-Yves Thibaudet of course, but also Renaud Capuçon who will play Brahms Violin Concerto and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet who will play Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3. I’m also very excited about having some of our musicians from the orchestra performing as soloists. In addition to Principal Cello Efe Baltacıgil and Principal Viola Susan Gulkis Assadi in Don Quixote, Concertmaster Alexander Velinzon, Principal Harp Valerie Muzzolini Gordon and Principal Oboe Mary Lynch will be featured in programs throughout the season.

I always look to give some of our programs a bit of a vocal focus, so to have a vocal soloist is important to me. Mark Padmore is a wonderful tenor who will be singing in our Shakespeare program, honoring the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Soprano Jane Archibald will join the orchestra for an all-French program singing in Fauré’s Requiem and Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi.

You’ve spoken before that it takes five years to really start making a stamp on an organization, and that you are on a journey together. Now that you are embarking on your fifth year, where are you on your journey with the orchestra?

I must say that going into this fifth season is really confirming my theory that it takes five years to find a common voice of how to share the music on stage. I said two years ago that it was already incredible that it was so comfortable and I was already identifying with that feeling, but I think this is why I want to tackle the masterworks of Beethoven in the two-year time frame. I think it’s likely we’ll approach it with much more understanding of each other.

Something I love about the Seattle Symphony is that we’ll keep trying to be very aware of what is successful for us on stage and also with the audience, and really try to create an offering that is exciting each and every time.

View the new season brochure here!

By Heidi Staub

Posted on February 23, 2015