National Symphony Orchestra, Kennedy Center fall season underway

World premiere mutlmedia composition to open NSO regular concert series. Photo: Kennedy Center

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2013 – The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) is preparing to launch the fall stanza of its 2013-2014 season on a bold, original note. Music director Christoph Eschenbach will be conducting the world premiere performances of Pulitzer Prize-winner Roger Reynolds’ “george WASHINGTON” at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on October 3, 4 and 5. The composer describes his multimedia performance piece as a work that’s “not a history lesson, but about trying to enter into Washington’s world.” 

NSO highlights 

An NSO press release adds that Mr. Reynolds’ new work is a “fusion of visuals, sounds, spoken words and, above all, music.” “george WASHINGTON” is a co-commission by the NSO, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and the University of California Washington Center. Also on this regular season-opening program (October 3, 4 and 5) will be Haydn’s early Symphony No. 21, and Camille Saint-Saëns’ massive Symphony No. 3—aka the “Organ Symphony,” featuring William Neil as organ soloist. 

NSO music director Christoph Eschenbach. (Kennedy Center)

Just prior to this regular season opener, of course, will be the NSO’s annual gala opening ball and concert on September 29. The glitzy event will feature cellist Yo-Yo Ma and organist Cameron Carpenter in a program that includes Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture” and “Rococo Variations,” Bizet’s Suite No. 2 from “Carmen” and the grand finale from Saint-Saëns’ “Organ Symphony.” Mr. Eschenbach will conduct both the gala and the regular season opening concerts. 

Aficionados of organ music will certainly be delighted to hear once again the magnificent sound of the Kennedy Center’s recently installed Rubenstein Family Organ in both the Saint-Saëns Symphony and Mr. Reynolds’ new work. Replacing the Concert Hall’s tired and chronically-malfunctioning original organ, the new instrument was built by the renowned French-Canadian firm Casavant Frères and was a gift of Carlyle Group co-CEO and Kennedy Center Chair David M. Rubenstein. 

SEE RELATED: Washington National Opera, Virginia Opera launch new seasons

Throughout the season, at the conclusion of select NSO programs, brief bonus organ recitals will be scheduled. In addition, for those who still can’t get enough, Grammy award-winning organist Cameron Carpenter, the soloist for NSO’s September 29 gala, will return for a solo recital in the Concert Hall on Wednesday, October 16. (Note: The NSO will not be performing.) Mr. Carpenter’s program is TBA as of this writing. 

Console of Concert Hall’s new Rubenstein Family Organ. (Pipes displayed stage rear above chorister seats. (Credit: Ryan Pollack)

Other NSO early fall highlights will include a concert performance of Act III from Richard Wagner’s opera “Parsifal,” continuing the Wagner mood set this month by the Washington National Opera with its performances of “Tristan and Isolde” in the KenCen’s Opera House. Conducted by Mr. Eschenbach, this full program “Parsifal” concert excerpt features soloists Nikolai Schukoff (Parsifal), Thomas Hampson (Amfortas) and Yuri Vorobiev (Gurnemanz). Dates are October 10, 11 and 12. 

The NSO’s regular fall season will resume on October 31 with a program of Enescu, Barber, and Rachmaninoff that will highlight the brilliant violinist Jennifer Koh who will perform the difficult Barber Violin Concerto. Kristjan Järvi will conduct these performances, which continue on November 1, and 2. 

SEE RELATED: In Series’ Mozart update visits Judge Roy Bean in the wild west

Violinist Jennifer Koh. (Credit: Chad Batka)

NSO Pops 

On the lighter side of the repertoire, the NSO Pops is actually be getting things underway a bit early, starting with a return of its popular “Cirque de la Symphonie” program which will present circus artists doing their thing against the big league backdrop of a major symphony orchestra. Opening on September 19 and repeated on September 20, 21, and 22, the program will be conducted by Steven Reineke. 

The Pops will return on September 26 for one performance only that features the Wayne Shorter jazz quartet along with bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding. A highlight of this concert: “Gaia,” an NSO co-commissioned composition. 

Returning again in late-October, the Pops will offer multi-talented artist Michael Cavanaugh in a program of popular songs highlighting the work of Elton John (October 25 and 26), wrapping up their efforts for the month on Sunday October 27 with two performances (1 and 3 p.m.) of “Halloween Spooktacular: The Sequel!” It’s a family concert featuring “traditional” Halloween musical faves ranging from Bach’s organ Toccata and Fugue in D minor to eerie music from John Williams’ justly famous scores to the Harry Potter films. Kids are invited to come in costume. 

Kennedy Center events: Ethnic, popular, dance, opera and chamber music 

The KenCen’s concert and entertainment events, of course, never stop with something happening in the building nearly 365 days a year. That said, the fall season, already underway, more or less starts happening in September, with events ranging from the free Millennium Stage concerts that happen at 6 p.m. most evenings to concerts and events in the building’s regular theater and music venues. 

KenCen events include music, dance and, most notably, diverse ethnic musical genres from around the world. Case in point: Opening on September 20 in the Terrace will be a program of music and dance entitled “Sivam presents Utsav: The Celebration of India’s Maestros of Music and Dance.” The program continues on September 21 and 22. 

Fans of both Broadway and rock will be delighted to see the return to DC of the smash-hit musical “Million Dollar Quartet,” which highlights the early recording efforts of pop and rock immortals ranging from Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis to Johnny Cash. Opening on September 24 and running through October 6, performances will be happening in the Eisenhower Theater. 

Continuing in the Broadway vein, the Opera House will host performances of the popular, Tony Award-nominated musical “Sister Act,” based on the hit movie of the same name. Opening in mid-October, performances run through November 10. 

Although Washington is not hugely known as a ballet town, fans of popular and classical dance won’t be slighted this fall at the Kennedy Center. Appearing in the Terrace Theater from October 29 through 31, the eclectic dance troupe, Susan Marshall & Company will present an evening revolving around a single work, an electric-guitar quartet entitled “Play/Pause.” The composition will be performed by the electric guitar quartet Dither and will be interpreted on stage by members of Ms. Marshall’s company.

Also late next month, the Washington Ballet will present artistic director Septime Webre’s take on the still beloved 1841 ballet “Giselle” in the Eisenhower from October 30 through November 3. 

Throughout the year, the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater hosts a variety of chamber music programs which tend to get somewhat less attention than those programs in the larger theaters. That said, these programs offer a surprising variety of musical selections at attractive ticket prices, performed by some of the finest soloists in the world and are worth noting here.

The Terrace’s October 2 program offers an appearance by the renowned Emerson String Quartet under the auspices of the KenCen’s Fortas Chamber Music Concerts. Works include compositions by Mendelssohn, Britten, and Beethoven. 

On October 6, it’s the turn of the homegrown Kennedy Center Chamber Players—specifically, the trio of violinist Marissa Regni, cellist David Hardy, and pianist Lambert Orkis—to offer an industrial strength program of Bach, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, including Mendelssohn’s lustrous Sonata No. 1 in B-flat major for Cello and Piano and Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 2 in C. 

On October 8, the Terrace welcomes back the first stanza of perhaps the greatest concert bargain in town, the Young Concert Artists Series’ DC edition. The series regularly features the up-and-coming young artists of tomorrow before everyone else in the world gets to know them. The Series’ October KenCen offering presents the young Hermès Quartet in a vigorous program that starts with Schubert and ends with Debussy and Dutilleux. 

Sunday, October 20, brings the Korean Concert Society to the Terrace as they present a wide-ranging and interesting recital of cello and piano music ranging from Mendelssohn’s vigorous Sonata No. 2 in D major to Martinů’s rarely heard “Variations on a Theme of Rossini.” 

Lesser known operatic works also get play this fall in the Terrace, courtesy of Opera Lafayette. The company promises, on October 18 and 19, to present an amalgam of Mozart’s perpetually popular “Cosi fan tutte” (“They all do it”) along with the 1775 French Opera “Les Femmes Vengées” (“The Avenging Wives”) which parallels Mozart’s better-known work. This we’ll have to see. 

Carol Burnett wins Mark Twain Prize 

Last but not least, the area’s many Carol Burnett fans will be delighted to note that this popular singer, actress and comedienne will be the recipient of this year’s annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The KenCen promises “a lineup of the biggest names in comedy” to round out this October 20 Concert Hall event which will be taped for airing on most PBS stations around the country on November 24. 

For tickets and information on all the performances mentioned above, visit the Kennedy Center’s website at, or call the box office at either 202-467-4600 or toll free at 800-444-1324. Ticket prices generally range from $20 and up, but some events and exhibits, including all Millennium Stage concerts, are free to the public. 


Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.

Follow Terry on Twitter @terryp17


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

More from Curtain Up!
blog comments powered by Disqus
Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, movies and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was formerly the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2009) before moving online with Communities in 2010.  



Contact Terry Ponick


Please enable pop-ups to use this feature, don't worry you can always turn them off later.

Question of the Day
Photo Galleries
Popular Threads
Powered by Disqus