Musical Musings

Masterworks 2021-2022: a Season's Heart and Soul

Previews by Betsy Hudson Traba

by Betsy Hudson Traba, Principal Flute

As the Principal Flutist of Sarasota Orchestra (SO) since 1993, I have been part of 28 season announcements. I will say, however, that I have never been more excited than I am today, looking forward to my 29th season with the SO and our long-awaited return to the stage as a full orchestra.

Blake Pouliot

Our Masterworks series is the heart and soul of any season, and I expect emotions to run high as we all take the stage in the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall for Portraits in Sound in November. Acclaimed 25-year-old violinist Blake Pouliot joins us as the soloist in the iconic Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Grand Rapids Symphony Music Director Marcelo Lehninger will lead the program, which opens with music from his native Brazil and concludes with Mussorgsky’s beloved Pictures at an Exhibition, a real showpiece for every section of the orchestra. From the opening trumpet solo to the majestic final movement, “The Great Gate of Kiev,” I expect this program to be a joyous musical homecoming.

Conrad Tao

American Voices in December opens with the Overture in Sonata Form, a contemporary work by Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams, who will make his Sarasota debut. Despite its unassuming title, the composition is guaranteed to knock you out of your seats with its jazz, funk, salsa, and Eastern-European influences. The concert features pianist Conrad Tao, dubbed “one of five classical music faces to watch” by The New York Times, in Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto. Aaron Copland’s uplifting Appalachian Spring, one of my favorite works to perform, concludes the program. I always imagine the morning mist over the mountains at the beginning of that work, and Copland’s gorgeous setting of the Shaker tune “Simple Gifts” will leave you smiling through tears at the end.

Garrick Ohlsson

Legendary pianist Garrick Ohlsson returns to our stage in January for Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. If you have never seen Ohlsson perform live, do not miss this opportunity! He is a musical giant, one of the greatest pianists of our time, and the “Rach 3” is a monumental work. Sarasota Orchestra Artistic Advisor and Sarasota Music Festival Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will lead the program, which begins with Brahms’ bucolic Second Symphony. The combination of the serenity of the Brahms with the drama and virtuosity of the Rachmaninoff should make this a program to remember.

Augustin Hadelich

February’s Beethoven & Tchaikovsky will showcase the extraordinary German-Italian violinist Augustin Hadelich, who now calls the United States home and will make his Sarasota debut. Hadelich is one of the most sought-after soloists in the world today, and to have him here for four performances of the Beethoven Violin Concerto is truly a feather in our orchestral cap. New Bedford Symphony Music Director Yaniv Dinur will lead the program, which opens with the fascinating Field Guide by Gabriella Smith and concludes with Tchaikovsky’s blockbuster Fourth Symphony. I expect audiences will rave about this program for a long time afterward!Aaron Diehl

At the end of February, celebrated pianist Aaron Diehl arrives alongside Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director JoAnn Falletta for Fairy Tales and Fireworks. Equally at home in the jazz and classical worlds, Diehl toured Europe with Wynton Marsalis while still a teenager (Marsalis nicknamed him “The Real Diehl”). His performances of Gershwin’s music have drawn particular praise, and he will undoubtedly be captivating in Gershwin’s jazzy Concerto in F. Ravel’s colorful Mother Goose Suite opens the program, and the concluding orchestral showpiece, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, will give the Orchestra a chance to really cut loose!

Simone Porter

New World in March spotlights violinist Simone Porter performing Samuel Barber’s passionate Violin Concerto, which just happens to be my personal favorite. The work is a challenging mixture of deep lyricism and virtuosic technical demands, and Porter has been reported to “devour its difficulties like a cat playing with a mouse” (Edmonton Journal). My heart belongs to the searing melody of the concerto’s second movement, which moves me in the same way as Barber’s Adagio for’s just unforgettable. Omaha Symphony Music Director Thomas Wilkins leads this program concluding with Dvořák’s iconic “New World” Symphony No. 9, beloved the world over. You’ll undoubtedly leave the concert hall humming the extended English horn solo in the symphony’s second movement, which was the origin of the spiritual “Goin’ Home.”

Angelo Xiang Yu

We conclude our Masterworks season in April with violinist Angelo Xiang Yu, a Sarasota Music Festival favorite, and Bramwell Tovey, former Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony. Breaking Boundaries’ cinematic program includes the Ballade by Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. If you look up “joy” in the musical dictionary, you’ll find the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh. I can think of no more appropriate piece to end our Orchestra’s jubilant “Return to Music.”

We hope you’ll join us!

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