Violin superstar Hilary Hahn playing Bach. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting Stravinsky. Renowned early-music specialist William Christie leading Les Arts Florissants in a period performance of Haydn's The Creation. The 2018/19 season of Lincoln Center's Great Performers is filled with performances that match some of the world's most accomplished musicians with the repertoire in which they excel.
Since 1965, the distinguished series has brought the world's most renowned orchestras, conductors, and soloists to Lincoln Center. Numerous performers have made their New York recital debuts as part of Great Performers, including soprano Renée Fleming, pianist Garrick Ohlsson, and two violinists who will return next season as part of the Virtuoso Recitals series: Joshua Bell and Hilary Hahn.
"Great Performers has consistently brought extraordinary performers to New York City and made it possible for our audiences to develop deep relationships with these artists," Ehrenkranz Artistic Director Jane Moss says. "Lincoln Center is unique in that we present widely diverse styles of music across our programming, but Great Performers is really the root from which all other branches of our programming grow. It reflects our ongoing commitment to high-quality classical music. Without this core of superlative classical music, we would not be who we are."
The 2018/19 season comprises several beloved series: Symphonic Masters, dedicated to the orchestral canon; Chamber Orchestras, which often focuses on period-instrument ensembles; various recital series, including the star-studded Virtuoso Recitals and the convivial Sunday Morning Coffee Concerts; and a film series that connects past to present by screening historic performances and behind-the-scenes rehearsals of classical-music icons. Each series features performers in programs that showcase their individual strengths and interests.
Next season's Symphonic Masters begins with the Russian National Orchestra on February 20, 2019. Known for breathing new life into the Russian repertoire, the orchestra—led by Kirill Karabits (who trained under Iván Fischer) in his New York debut—shines in an all-Rachmaninoff program, with pianist Mikhail Pletnev bringing his renowned artistry to the virtuosic Second Piano Concerto. The UK-based Philharmonia Orchestra and its music director Esa-Pekka Salonen, who carries on the composer/conductor tradition, present two concerts. On March 10, Salonen brings a composer's insight to a jewel of the Romantic repertoire: Bruckner's lush Seventh Symphony. The next evening, Salonen conducts his own Cello Concerto, with soloist Truls Mørk, before digging into the complete Firebird by one of his muses, Igor Stravinsky.
Known for his impassioned presence on the podium, Edward Gardner conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra on April 14 and 15. The first is an all-French affair anchored by Ravel's glittering Piano Concerto performed by one of the best Ravel pianists in the world, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. If the first is an exercise in nuance and color, the second program unleashes the orchestra's full power in a heroic program of Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Mahler's titanic First Symphony, and the Sibelius Violin Concerto with dynamic soloist James Ehnes. On May 19, Manfred Honeck and his Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra close out Symphonic Masters with Mahler’s luminous Fifth Symphony, the perfect showcase for the ensemble’s blazing brass section.
While the forces may be smaller, the impact of Les Arts Florissants will be fully felt on November 15 in a historically informed performance of Haydn’s Enlightenment-era oratorio, Die Schöpfung ("The Creation") as part of the Chamber Orchestras series. In this highly anticipated concert, renowned conductor William Christie summons the seas, animals, storms, and light from the Book of Genesis.
Fans of period instruments will also delight in performances by two more internationally acclaimed ensembles. On February 12, 2019, Accademia Bizantina brings Italian flair to music by Mozart and Haydn with the brilliant violinist Giuliano Carmignola. On March 12, the acclaimed Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and its celebrated early-music maestro Nicholas McGegan will be joined by a pair of vocal stars—mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo—for a characteristically adventurous program marrying the old (Handel arias) and the new (a world premiere by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Caroline Shaw). The energy peaks on April 9 when the Australian Chamber Orchestra and its electrifying lead violinist Richard Tognetti join forces with pianist Inon Barnatan for a crackling evening of classical fugues by Bach and Beethoven.
Chamber-music mastery is also on display in two programs from the Takács Quartet, one of the world’s finest ensembles, as anyone who attended its pair of unforgettable Beethoven performances at Alice Tully Hall two seasons ago can attest. In 2018/19, the quartet embarks on a journey through the symphonic textures, timbres, and colors of two of Schubert’s most sublime creations: the C-major String Quintet (with cellist David Requiro, October 18) and the Trout Quintet (with pianist David Korevaar and bassist Paul Erhard, March 14).
If you prize intimacy and excellence, the Virtuoso Recitals series has much to offer. On October 23, violinist Hilary Hahn presents a personally poignant program, revisiting some of Bach's solo violin works, which she recorded for her smash-hit debut recording more than two decades ago. The recital reflects her impressive evolution from child prodigy to an intrepid artist of the highest caliber.
Another prodigy who has entered the pantheon of violin greatness closes the series. On April 30, Joshua Bell will be joined by two of his favorite musician friends—cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Jeremy Denk—for an all-star chamber recital featuring a hand-picked program of Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel. In addition, Martin Fröst—perhaps the world’s finest clarinetist—plays Brahms on December 12, and, on April 2, the probing, poetic pianist Piotr Anderszewski delivers what Gramophone calls "the most intelligent, searching and delightful account of [Beethoven's] Diabelli Variations to have reached us since Brendel's."
One of Great Performers' favorite traditions, Sunday Morning Coffee Concerts, returns with another stellar set of intimate recitals accompanied by coffee and conversation with the artists. The 2018/19 lineup is bookended by two thrilling pianists: Federico Colli in his New York debut (December 2) and Francesco Piemontesi (May 19). It also features two award-winning string quartets: the Van Kuijk Quartet (February 3) performing Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" and the Verona Quartet delving into Janáček's "Intimate Letters" (February 24). Violinist Benjamin Beilman and pianist Orion Weiss (April 14) and the acoustic/ electric guitar virtuoso Jiji (April 28) round out the season.
The coming season's film series, which will take place in April at the Walter Reade Theater, is dedicated to history's great pianists and features rare rehearsal and performance footage of Rudolf Serkin, Arthur Rubinstein, and Glenn Gould, among others.
Finally, free chamber music performances by rising string quartets from around the world are once again featured in the Complimentary Classical series at the David Rubenstein Atrium. The Navarra String Quartet plays Ravel and Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks (February 7), the Tesla Quartet takes on Beethoven's final quartet (March 7), the Castalian String Quartet performs Schubert and Britten (April 18), and the Minguet Quartet plays Beethoven and Mahler (May 2).
Amanda MacBlane is senior writer and editor for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Great Performers is a presentation of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Generous support for Great Performers is provided by Rita E. and Gustave M. Hauser.