ASO announces first season with Stutzmann at helm

Nathalie Stutzmann has said she likes to “combine two pieces that no one will necessarily think to combine.” Courtesy of Brice Toul

Combined ShapeCaption
Nathalie Stutzmann has said she likes to “combine two pieces that no one will necessarily think to combine.” Courtesy of Brice Toul

With incoming music director Nathalie Stutzmann programming what she said are “very important works that are not played enough,” the 2022-2023 Atlanta Symphony Orchestra season is a mix of compositions that haven’t been performed in Atlanta in at least a decade and works by living composers including the world premiere of Hilary Purrington’s “Words for Departure.”

The new season begins Sept. 22 with guest conductor Peter Oundjian leading pianist Emanuel Ax in Mozart Piano Concerto No. 18; that concert also includes the U.S. premiere of Joel Thompson’s “To Awaken the Sleeper.” Stutzmann is in Atlanta to close the season on June 15, 2023, with a program of Wagner, Ravel and guest Lise de la Salle playing the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3. She first appears on Oct. 6 with a major choral work, Beethoven’s ninth symphony.

Combined ShapeCaption
Nathalie Stutzmann will become the fifth music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra next season. Courtesy of Stephanie Slama

Credit: Stephanie Slama

Nathalie Stutzmann will become the fifth music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra next season. 
Courtesy of Stephanie Slama

Credit: Stephanie Slama

Combined ShapeCaption
Nathalie Stutzmann will become the fifth music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra next season. Courtesy of Stephanie Slama

Credit: Stephanie Slama

Credit: Stephanie Slama

Returning guest artists for the new season include pianists Conrad Tao and Jonathan Biss and violinists Hilary Hahn, Augustin Hadelich and Gil Shaham. ASO soloists include concertmaster David Coucheron and principal oboe Elizabeth Koch Tiscione.

For her first season in Atlanta, Stutzmann will travel to the city for eight weeks of performances, balancing her new duties in Atlanta with her job as the principal guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. She also is entering her last year serving as chief conductor of Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra in Norway. Staying busy is by design.

“Music is all my life, so I am never as happy as when I do music,” she said. In 2023, she will also lead two productions at the Metropolitan Opera. When she took the job with Atlanta, Stutzmann said she canceled planned appearances to spend more time in the city.

“I say no to great projects at least two or three times a week,” she added.

Principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles, who has served in that capacity since former music director Robert Spano came to Atlanta, will be ending his role at the close of the season. During his tenure, he has enjoyed a unique collaboration with Spano. “A guest conductor elsewhere is very often taking up the repertoire that the music director doesn’t wish to conduct, doesn’t have time to conduct. … From the outset here, it was very clear that it was very different,” Runnicles has said. He will lead the orchestra three times next season, including a concert featuring the ASO Chorus and Brahms’ “A German Requiem.”

When planning out her appearances, Stutzmann looked to unfamiliar juxtapositions. Referencing her recent performance pairing the Mozart “Requiem” with Strauss, she said she likes to “combine two pieces that no one will necessarily think to combine.”

Her concerts should signal to Atlanta audiences the importance of core repertoire. But when programming, Stutzmann also considers the meaning behind the compositions and the background of the composers as much as the actual music. The reaction the music elicits from the audience may be the most important criterion of all.

“Every concert is about which kind of emotion we can bring to people,” she said. “And if you are not moved at a certain point in the concert, I didn’t reach my goal with the orchestra.”

Stutzmann’s other major piece of choral programming is the 3.5-hour, multi-choir “St. Matthew Passion.” Last performed here in 2012 in a semi-staged arrangement, the Bach masterwork is planned for March. Placing the piece in her first season highlights its importance to her musical life.

“I do believe it should be the base of any musician’s life, and possibly the base of any human’s, because it is a symbol of what it is to be a human,” she said, adding that it is “not comparable to anything else.”

Here are not-to-be-missed concerts set for the orchestra’s upcoming season:

Stutzmann’s Welcome

Oct. 6, 8-9

Music director Nathalie Stutzmann’s first concert as leader of the ASO is a vocal spectacular anchored by Beethoven Symphony No. 9. Also on the program is Purrington’s “Words for Departure,” a rumination on ending relationships based on poems by Louise Bogan. Also on the program is George Walker’s ode to Walt Whitman, “Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra,” for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1996.

Combined ShapeCaption
Violinist Hilary Hahn will perform with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in December. CONTRIBUTED BY MICHAEL PATRICK O’LEARY

Violinist Hilary Hahn will perform with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in December. CONTRIBUTED BY MICHAEL PATRICK O’LEARY

Combined ShapeCaption
Violinist Hilary Hahn will perform with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in December. CONTRIBUTED BY MICHAEL PATRICK O’LEARY

Hilary Hahn

Dec. 1 and 3

Conductor Elim Chan comes to Atlanta for the first time from her perch leading the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra to lead the ASO and guest violinist Hilary Hahn in the Tchaikovsky violin concerto and Shostakovich’s tenth symphony. (Jonathon Heyward led the ASO in the composer’s ninth symphony last March.)

Combined ShapeCaption
Kazem Abdullah will make is ASO debut in January. Courtesy of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Kazem Abdullah will make is ASO debut in January. Courtesy of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Combined ShapeCaption
Kazem Abdullah will make is ASO debut in January. Courtesy of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Ives

Jan. 12 and 14

For the ASO’s first-ever performance in Carnegie Hall, Robert Shaw programmed “Washington’s Birthday” by Charles Ives. The composer has been heard through the lens of the ASO sparingly since. ASO newcomer Kazem Abdullah, one of seven new-to-Atlanta conductors to debut this season, brings Ives’ symphony No. 2 to the Woodruff. Pianist Tom Burrow comes to Atlanta for the first time to play Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto.

Combined ShapeCaption
Timothy McAllister will join the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra next season. Courtesy of Timothy McAllister

Credit: Courtesy of Timothy McAllister

Timothy McAllister will join the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra next season. Courtesy of Timothy McAllister

Credit: Courtesy of Timothy McAllister

Combined ShapeCaption
Timothy McAllister will join the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra next season. Courtesy of Timothy McAllister

Credit: Courtesy of Timothy McAllister

Credit: Courtesy of Timothy McAllister

Saxophone Concerto

March 16 and 18

The chance to hear alto saxophonist Timothy McAllister, in his ASO debut, led by former ASO assistant conductor Stephen Mulligan is a treat. The fact that the work is the U.S. premiere of a composition by drummer Tyshawn Sorey, who has been making a huge name for himself as a forward-looking classical composer after reigning as a go-to jazz drummer for decades, means this concert simply can’t be missed. Sibelius Symphony No. 2 and Weber’s “Der Freischutz” overture round the program.

Combined ShapeCaption
In addition to the piece by Florence Price, principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles led the orchestra in a moving performance of Mahler. Jeff Roffman

Credit: Jeff Roffman

In addition to the piece by Florence Price, principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles led the orchestra in a moving performance of Mahler. Jeff Roffman

Credit: Jeff Roffman

Combined ShapeCaption
In addition to the piece by Florence Price, principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles led the orchestra in a moving performance of Mahler. Jeff Roffman

Credit: Jeff Roffman

Credit: Jeff Roffman

Fond farewell

May 4 and 6

Runnicles has now been aligned with the ASO for longer than Robert Spano, so saying goodbye to the principal guest is as nearly as significant as bidding Spano adieu. While Runnicles appears with the ASO in three programs, this last one will be special. He’ll be joined for his final performance by mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts, in her ASO debut, for three excerpts from Berg’s “Wozzeck.” Runnicles’ tenure ends with one of his specialties, Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.