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Toronto Symphony Orchestra announces 2013-14 season long on steady, short on bold

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2013-14 marks Peter Oundjian's 10th season as Toronto Symphony Orchestra music director.
2013-14 marks Peter Oundjian’s 10th season as Toronto Symphony Orchestra music director.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra music director Peter Oundjian’s 10th season in 2013-14 will look a lot like most of his other seasons with the organization. This is a case of not fixing something that is running smoothly.

The New Creations Festival, which comes up every March, is perhaps the most obvious example of an organization playing it safe. It welcomes back popular American composer John Adams as its marquee guest in 2014.

The annual January Mozart bash makes no changes to its format, and there are no grand operatic gestures, such as last fall’s electrifying concert performance of Manuel de Falla’s La vida breve.

The biggest news in the Toronto Symphony’s 92nd season is a new series of Friday-evening concerts, an inaugural Chinese New Year concert featuring pianist Yuja Wang, and a move to turn the season opener into a gala fundraising event with afterparty — featuring the classical music world’s peripatetic piano rock star, Lang Lang.

Like the cleanly remodelled website the organization unveiled this morning, the new season isn’t about to ruffle any feathers.

In a follow-up interview, Oundjian rationalized the return of John Adams to New Creations only three seasons after his previous visit by saying, “his music is performed more often than that of any other living composer.” Also, the music director is preparing to record Harmonielehre and the Doctor Atomic Symphony — and Adams himself was eager to reconnect with the musicians (he will be conducting during the New Creations Festival, as well).

Composer anniversaries are being dutifully marked.

One particularly notable concert during Benjamin Britten’s centenary year is the Toronto Symphony début of the wonderful young tenor Nicholas Phan in the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings on Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and 2. Two weeks earlier, James Ehnes will present the Violin Concerto, among the other Britten works on offer.

Oundjian says that because the concerts featuring Britten works are clustered in the fall, “it will feel a lot like a celebration.”

Several Richard Wagner opera overtures are the TSO’s nod to that man’s 200th birth anniversary.

The New Creations Festival absorbs the bulk of new work presented every season, which will include premieres of new pieces by Torontonians Kevin Lau (the symphony’s associate composer) and Brian Current.

There are two new pops concerts added to resident pops conductor Steven Reinecke’s offerings: a screening of the movie Casablanca and a visit from ABBA-loving Finns, Rajaton.

An Oct. 11 concert features the music of Rufus Wainwright.

Sir Andrew Davis will mark the 40th anniversary of his first Toronto conducting gig with Mahler’s Symphony No. 9. Other returning favourite leaders are Thomas Dausgaard and Stéphane Denève.

There are several notable conducting débuts on the list, including very talented Brit Edward Gardner.

The season’s singers are a mix of great Torontonians — including the return of Sondra Radvanovsky and a TSO début for mezzo Wallis Giunta — and international names, including countertenor Lawrence Zazzo’s visit for Messiah.

That sort of sensible, safe mix continues with other guest soloists — a list that includes veteran favourites such as pianists Janina Fialkowska and Angela Hewitt, as well as newcomers such as violinist Julian Rachlin and pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough.

The Afterworks concerts, which start at 6:30 p.m., continue with host Tom Allen, as do Saturday Casual Concerts, Light Classics, Saturday-afternoon Young People’s Concerts and a Luminato favourite, a late concert at the end of the festival. In 2014, it will feature Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.

You’ll find all the details here.

John Terauds

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