"From the heart—may it return to the heart!" The dedication scrawled by Beethoven at the top of his choral masterpiece, the Missa solemnis, encapsulates the affecting, powerful 2017/18 Great Performers season. For more than half a century, the renowned series has brought the world's best classical artists to the stages of Lincoln Center, and next season will continue that longstanding tradition, with the finest conductors, symphony orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists offering superlative performances.

"Great Performers has presented over fifty years of legendary performances, and I’m excited to usher the series into a new era of even more compelling artistry," says Jane Moss, Lincoln Center's Ehrenkranz Artistic Director. "Our visiting artists produce some of the most memorable performances at Lincoln Center, and we are thrilled to curate such an exceptional lineup of musicians pushing at the edges of what defines classical music today."

The Symphonic Masters series will open on November 12 with the Missa solemnis, presented by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Swedish Radio Choir—named one of the world's leading choirs by Gramophone magazine—in David Geffen Hall. Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard presides over this Beethoven masterpiece, which will feature Scandinavia's preeminent vocal soloists. In the spring, late Mahler is highlighted in three transcendent performances by the London Symphony Orchestra under new music director Simon Rattle—his first New York appearances in that role. Performing Mahler’s Ninth and Tenth Symphonies (the latter completed by Deryck Cooke) and his "symphony in songs," Das Lied von der Erde, on May 4, 6, and 7, the LSO and Rattle will be joined by featured artists such as baritone Christian Gerhaher, named "the most moving singer in the world" by the Telegraph (U.K.).

 

A Heart-Filled Season: Great Performers 2017/18
Photo by Vern Evans
Gustavo Dudamel

On April 27 and 29, the Los Angeles Philharmonic takes the stage in two highly anticipated performances under music director Gustavo Dudamel, featuring monumental works by Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Varèse, as well as bringing Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms home to the hall in which it premiered in 1965 in anticipation of the composer's centennial. Additional beloved guests, including Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra on January 14, as well as violinist Joshua Bell leading London's Academy of St. Martin in the Fields on March 19, round out an exceptionally full Symphonic Masters slate.

Offering a glimpse into the passionate origins of opera, the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists under John Eliot Gardiner will open the Chamber Orchestras series with a trio of semistaged Monteverdi performances on October 18, 19, and 21. Orfeo, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, and L'incoronazione di Poppea, all performed on period instruments, will evoke the sound world from which a beloved art form was born. The Bach Collegium Japan under Masaaki Suzuki will present four cantatas from Bach's Christmas Oratorio in a special December 6 performance. Two German ensembles will also perform: Concerto Köln with The Four Seasons on January 24, and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, led by renowned fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout, with an appealing program of Mozart, Haydn, and Bach on May 19.

Vocal enthusiasts will not only be thrilled by such spectacular choral and operatic masterworks; in addition to those large-scale offerings, Art of the Song brings vocal exponents to Alice Tully Hall for intimate spring lieder recitals. Next season’s lineup opens with the compelling British baritone Simon Keenlyside on March 1. Tenor Mark Padmore and pianist Paul Lewis, regular collaborators described by the New York Times as a "dream team," will present settings of German Romantic poet Heinrich Heine by Schumann (Dichterliebe) and Brahms, as well as Schumann's Leiderkreis, on April 19. Concluding the series is Canadian bass-baritone Gerald Finley, who will delve into a poignant and nuanced Schubert collection on May 2.

 

A Heart-Filled Season: Great Performers 2017/18
Photo by Uwe Arens
Sol Gabetta

If instrumentalists are more your passion, you won't want to miss Virtuoso Recitals, featuring world-renowned soloists at the peak of their powers. The series opens on February 27 with Grammy-winning pianist Garrick Ohlsson performing Beethoven's "named" sonatas, from the powerful Pathetique and dramatic Appassionata to the dazzling Waldstein and delicate Moonlight. German violinist Christian Tetzlaff presents a solo recital of selected Bach sonatas and partitas on March 28, sure to be an unmissable concert highlighting the zenith of the repertoire. Native New Yorker Richard Goode returns on April 17 to play a selection of Classical and Romantic keyboard favorites before Argentine cellist Sol Gabetta concludes the series with an evening of Chopin, Beethoven, and Britten in Alice Tully Hall on May 12.

In one more special offering, the "indispensable" (Newsday) Emerson String Quartet will perform two concerts on October 24 and November 28, pairing late Beethoven with late Shostakovich. Known for its masterly interpretations over the past four decades, the Emerson traverses the introspective, haunting musical reflections of these two idiosyncratic geniuses through chamber music composed near the end of their careers. The 2017/18 season's film series comprises programs featuring some of classical music's most forceful personalities: cellist/conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (February 24) and conductors Leonard Bernstein (February 25), Sergiu Celibidache, Georg Solti, and Carlos Kleiber (February 28).

Great Performers would not be complete without the ever-popular Sunday Morning Coffee Concerts, featuring intimate recitals accompanied by coffee and conversation with the artists. The 2017/18 lineup includes solo recitals by the abundantly creative American pianists Jenny Lin (November 12) and Conrad Tao (December 3), as well as Denmark’s elegant Trio con Brio Copenhagen (February 4), the dynamic violinist Chad Hoopes (April 15), and the impeccable German a cappella quintet Calmus (December 17). The series concludes with the sensational piano duo Christina and Michelle Naughton, who bring their mesmerizing musicality to the Walter Reade Theater stage on May 13. Finally, for even more chamber music during the 2017/18 season, check out the Complimentary Classical series in the David Rubinstein Atrium, featuring free performances by innovative string quartets, from two hometown ensembles—Harlem Quartet (February 22) and Aeolus Quartet (April 12)—to Canada's Rolston String Quartet (January 25) and London's Heath Quartet (March 22).


Ann Crews Melton is a freelance writer and former New Yorker based in Bismarck, North Dakota.