The Detroit Symphony Fall Season Preview

Why this season’s offerings will make beautiful music together.

This being the Fall Arts issue and all, we decided to inject some high-brow music into the proceedings by speaking with Erik Rönmark, artistic administrator at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Rönmark filled us in on what the DSO has in store for Detroiters this season and there is much to be excited about for both the longtime classical music fan and newcomer, alike.

Metro Times: It looks like the DSO has an exciting season coming up …

Erik Rönmark: Leonard [Slatkin, music director] has put together a great season. This is his sixth season with us. I can’t believe it’s six years already. We all feel a little more comfortable. He started with us in 2008. With every relationship, it takes a little time to grow. You can’t spring all of your ideas onto an audience right at the start. I think this season is really well-balanced, combining traditional repertoire with new, contemporary compositions. We have some exciting guest conductors coming through — and some top-name soloists.

MT: Which musicians and conductors should we be looking out for?

Rönmark: Everyone has their own preferences. We start the season with a bang, the weekend before our opening week. On September 28 we have pianist Lang Lang coming in. He’s certainly one of those classical artists who has become a household name. It’s actually going to be his first American webcast. He’s playing the Third Piano Concerto, Prokofiev, which he just recorded in the spring with the Berlin Philharmonic, so this is a piece that he’s been living with for a while. That’s going to be a fantastic program. It’s just the one concert on that Saturday.

In the spring we also have the other classical household name in Yo-Yo Ma coming in to perform the Dvorák cello concerto. We have another young pianist who just won a Gramophone Award [the Oscars of classical music] coming in in October. His name is Benjamin Grosvenor, and he’s doing the Britten Piano Concerto, which is not often heard, with our own assistant conductor Ted Abrams conducting.

Another great program this November, which I think will be very interesting, and has Leonard Slatkin conducting, is the world premiere of a composer named David Del Tredici. It’s an auditoria called Dum Dee Tweedle. It’s part of this composer’s Alice series, based on Alice in Wonderland.

MT: One of your upcoming performances is the Music of John Williams. Tell us about that … (Williams is responsible for some of the most famous movie scores ever written.)

Rönmark: John’s music can be called popular music, it’s in our pop series, but his music is just so amazing. Dividing music into genres misses the whole point sometimes. There’s good and bad music, and anything else is up to the listener to decide. John’s just one of those icons in the movie industry, but his music is so nice and refreshing to hear when you don’t look at a screen, because you miss so much of his beautiful writing.

It’s also great because in this program we get to see a lot of his movie music from Harry Potter, Star Wars and throughout Schindler’s List; you name it, he’s written it. In contrast, one of the recording projects that we’re doing with Leonard is recording his concertos.

MT: You also have a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 coming up?

Rönmark: That’s a really interesting program. Tchaik 5 is a great work on its own, but that whole week is showing a little bit of what we’re doing. A young pianist, Conrad Tao, came about two seasons ago and played his second piano concerto when he was 16. He’s just turned 19. He’s just an amazing musician. He composes and does all of these things.

He’s coming and playing the first Beethoven piano concerto. On Wednesday, Oct. 9, we’re kicking off the “Mix at the Max” series, in the music bar. It’s a smaller, more intimate series where we show off different types of music.

We did a few of them last year, and we’re going to keep doing them this year and grow them. What’s so interesting is that Conrad, who is playing Beethoven, is actually going to be our first Mix artist.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention … Branford Marsalis, who used to be one of our former jazz chairs. He is kicking off our jazz series on the Friday of the same week. So you have all these different things. You have a “Mix at the Max,” intimate after-work music theatre type of performance, you have a classical performance with Leonard and this young exciting pianist, who have you have just seen in a different light earlier on. And then there’s the Branford Marsalis Quartet — which is an amazing group.

MT: Sell the hoi polloi on the DSO — those who think “classical music isn’t for them.”

Rönmark: It’s an art form that differs from any other; you hear it as it happens, in time. There is certainly no reason that someone should feel unwelcome here. People come from all walks of life, all types of people. Come and enjoy it, and you get to experience a work of art that you will never hear again because it just happens then.

As soon as it’s done, you were part of a crowd of 2,000 people that got to hear it just played that way. There’s something about that. You might love the piece, you might not like the piece, but you’ll certainly have an opinion of your own, just like you do when you see a great work of art in a museum. This is live, and this is music that has lived for a long time combined with music that was written yesterday. The mix of it makes for such a unique experience, and you get to hear it here in Orchestra Hall, one of the great venues in the world, or to hear it when we come out and play in your community or neighborhood. Wherever you get a chance to hear the Detroit Symphony Orchestra you should take it because it will be one of those experiences that you’re going to remember.

Orchestra Hall is located at 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-576-5111. For more information, visit

Brett Callwood is a staff writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]

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