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RPO planning more diverse programming in '22-'23 season

Tai Murray will perform Wynton Marsalis's Violin Concerto with the RPO on Nov. 3 and 5.
Tai Murray will perform Wynton Marsalis's Violin Concerto with the RPO on Nov. 3 and 5.

Read Daniel Kushner's full story in CITY.

Classical music has long been a white man’s game. But the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s upcoming season attempts to chip away at the homogeneity with programming that highlights composers and performers of color.

Here are several concerts to watch for this season, in chronological order. Many celebrate inclusion while enhancing the connection between orchestra and modern listener.

Any time an orchestra steps outside its stylistic comfort zone is healthy. On Sept. 16 and 17, Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik leads the RPO in a tribute to country music’s greatest songwriters with “Country Legends: The Nashville Songbook.” Tyzik arranges classics by the likes of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Willie Nelson, as well as hits from such contemporary stars as Garth Brooks, Kacey Musgraves, and Tim McGraw. Country musician Rick Brantley lends his welcoming, subtle southern drawl to the show.

The RPO celebrates a major milestone in Rochester music history with the Kodak Hall Centennial Concert on Sept. 24. Presented in conjunction with Eastman Presents, the evening has RPO Music Director Andreas Delfs sharing the podium with Eastman School of Music’s Professor of Conducting Neil Varon. Eastman alum and celebrated film and TV composer Jeff Beal — known for his work on such shows as “House of Cards” and “Monk” — conducts a new original composition commissioned for the centennial.

On Oct. 6 and 8, the RPO presents one of the most intriguing programs of the season when it welcomes conductor Mei-Ann Chen, music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011. Chen’s expressive and incisive style will be a good fit with composer Jennifer Higdon’s lush, but at times pointed “Blue Cathedral.” Pianist Inon Barnatan brings his crystalline articulation on the keys to Chopin’s sensuous Piano Concerto No. 1. The program also features the relatively obscure 19th century composer Louise Farrenc, whose Symphony No. 3 from 1847 combines the charisma and harmonic vocabulary reminiscent of Beethoven with an urgency unique to Farrenc. This is not a concert to be missed.

Read the FULL STORY.

Daniel J. Kushner