Next year is shaping up to be fete-filled for Richmond’s classical music lovers.
For starters, dozens of the world’s best young violinists will descend upon Richmond in May for the Menuhin Competition, an international showcase of young musicians for which an international host city is chosen each year. Think the Olympics, but for violinists instead of athletes. The competition pays tribute to the late Yehudi Menuhin, a New York City-born violin prodigy who went on to open a violin school for gifted musicians ages 8 to 19 in England in 1963.
The year 2020 also marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birthday, and arts organizations all around town are hosting celebratory performances.
But there’s a lot happening in the meantime, starting with the Richmond Symphony kicking off its season in September without a director as it searches for someone to replace Steven Smith, who left in May.
Specifically, six guest conductors — five of them candidates for the job — will take to the stage throughout the season, which begins Sept. 21 with Marin Alsop, former Richmond Symphony associate conductor and the current music director for the Baltimore Symphony and the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Opening night features a performance of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird: Suite,” as well as pieces from Brahms and Zemlinsky, and it features the Richmond Symphony Chorus. The night also includes Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with former Menuhin Competition finalist and Paganini Violin Competition winner Inmo Yang.
The remaining five guest conductors who each hope to make lingering impressions — and potentially secure the job — include Roderick Cox in October; Ankush Kumar Bahl in January; Laura Jackson in February; Valentina Peleggi in March; and Farkhad Khudyev in April. Their repertoires include Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Bruckner and more.
The symphony’s Pops series brings Michael Cavanaugh in October performing the music of Elton John, while the Union Atlantic LolliPops series in March features Appalachian Spring with the School of Richmond Ballet.
The University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts begins its classical and chamber series in October with the Shanghai Quartet, which will be joined by two sought-after soloists, violinist Soovin Kim and pianist Orion Weiss. Later in the month, to celebrate Beethoven, pianist Simone Dinnerstein and cellist Matt Haimovitz join forces to showcase the great artist’s works along with contemporary music icon Philip Glass.
Ahead of Menuhin, the Modlin Center welcomes Daniel Hope and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra in a walk-up celebratory performance, A Tribute to Yehudi Menuhin, with pieces from Bach, Mendelssohn, El Khoury and more. It closes the season with another Beethoven special, this time showcasing four piano sonatas.
Virginia Opera opens with Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” and continues with Daniel Catan’s “II Postino (The Postman),” Gioachino Rossini’s “Cinderalla (La Cenerentola)” and finally Giuseppe Verdi’s world-renowned “Aida.”
The annual three-day Alexander Paley Music Festival pays homage this fall to French chamber music and welcomes guest performer Amiram Ganz, who plays a violin made by Italy’s Goffredo Cappa in 1690.
In November, the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia celebrates the 100th anniversary of Richmond’s Branch House, the former home of renowned architect John Russell Pope and now home to the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design. As spirituality was big in 1919, this performance, called “A Bach Séance,” combines music and theater to explore the lasting spirit of Johann Sebastian Bach. The society will also have two free performances on various themes — one in September and another in December — at the Richmond Main Public Library, in conjunction with the library’s Gellman Room Concert Series.
For more information on all of these performances, as well as many others from such groups as the Central Virginia Masterworks Chorale, Classical Revolution RVA, the Richmond Choral Society, the Richmond Philharmonic, the James River Singers and more, visit their websites.