In a few short weeks, live music will once again captivate audiences when the Las Vegas Philharmonic returns to live concerts; launching into a new era with the 2021-22 season. The 23rd season for the city’s only professional symphony orchestra dazzles with eight beautifully curated concerts from October 23, 2021, through May 7, 2022. Music Director Donato Cabrera has prepared a season full of energetic works, including all nine of Beethoven’s Symphonies, interwoven with exciting compositions by living composers i Joan Tower, Anna Clyne, Gabriela Lena Frank, Missy Mazzoli, Jessie Montgomery, Carolyn Shaw, and Juan Pablo Contreras.
A special Very Vegas Holiday performance will welcome back local entertainers including Composers Showcase founder Keith Thompson and vocal illuminati Travis Cloer, Eric Jordan Young, Michelle Johnson, and Vita Corimbi. Cabrera will also conduct a world premiere by Juan Pablo Contreras as part of a special commission in partnership with New Music USA. This bold and artistically brazen season will introduce an artist in residence program with critically acclaimed cellist and artistic visionary, Joshua Roman. His three-year residency begins on Saturday, October 23, with a performance of Dvořák’s widely popular Cello Concerto.
We chatted with Donato Cabrera as he prepares to return to rehearsals and performances and welcome audiences back into a true concert experience.
What inspired your programming for this season – in a post-shut down world – as you thought about performing again for Las Vegas audiences?
I believe audiences emerging from COVID hibernation are starved, not just for entertainment, but edification. And sadly, we missed the opportunity, with the unfortunate cancellation of 2020-21 concerts, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. So, this season was inspired uniquely by circumstances of the last year and a half, along with unbridled elation about performing live again.
Is that why there’s so much Beethoven this season?
Playing a Beethoven symphony or concerto is nothing new for this orchestra, or any orchestra in the world. But performing all his symphonies in one season with an orchestra of this size? That is new. It’s saying something bold – taking that leap and journey into a singular composer’s music with that amount of depth and concentrated attention. While the Beethoven works won’t be performed in chronological order, the bookends suggest a sonic seminar with a narrative arc: The season launches with Beethoven’s famously provocative Symphony No. 1 in C Major, and culminates in his grandiose blowout, Symphony No. 9 in D Minor.
There are many living composers featured this season, which is interesting considering the heavy emphasis on Beethoven as well. What do you hope to communicate to audience members through these selections and combinations of works and artists?
Classical music is still a living and important art form, and to stay vibrant and relevant, we must explore music that is being written today in addition to celebrating the monumental and time-honored works and composers. There is so much still to be discovered out there and so much more to be written.
There are a lot of female composers included, which isn’t often seen in one season, what inspired those choices?
There are many female composers today writing some wonderful music that deserves to be performed by orchestras and brought to audiences. I thought this season was prime for coming back with a strong statement and I think these artists are going to be important voices for years to come. I have been eager to work with some of these composers for years.
The LV Phil was the recipient of the New Music USA Grant. Tell us what this grant will allow the orchestra to achieve.
We were selected as one of six orchestras in the U.S. to lead an initiative to co-commission a new orchestral work through New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program, which fosters collaboration and collective action toward equitable representation of composers in classical music. We wanted to work with Juan Pablo because of his heritage, to bring his artistic voice into this wonderful city with so much cultural intersection. It is our goal to more deeply connect with the Hispanic community of Las Vegas. To celebrate the diversity of our city through a world premiere of Juan Pablo’s work is an honor.
You like to speak to the audience through pre-concert conversations. Will that continue and what do you get out of these discussions?
I certainly plan on it. That half an hour gives me organic and direct communication and engagement with the audience in a way that cannot happen during a concert; and any chance I get to expand on and share my love and passion for the music is something that I cherish and look forward to.
Join Donato and the orchestra in Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center, October 2021 through May 2022. Tickets for the 2021-22 season are on sale now at lvphil.org.