How will MSO celebrate 25 years with John DeMain?

Season kicks off with Pianist Emanuel Ax
How will MSO celebrate 25 years with John DeMain?
Photo by Peter Rodgers

How does one mark a milestone such as John DeMain’s 25th anniversary as music director of the Madison Symphony Orchestra? By trotting out his personal favorites, bringing back tried-and-true soloists or sticking to a decades-old formula for success? Madison Symphony’s 93rd season reveals that it’s all of the above.

DeMain’s opening program on Sept. 28-30, brings back Emanuel Ax, one of the greatest pianists of our time, for Brahms’ “Piano Concerto No. 2.” DeMain also includes the extended suite from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Fanfare Ritmico” by Jennifer Higdon.

With DeMain conducting Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” in Barcelona, the Oct. 19-21 set of concerts will be conducted by Canadian Tania Miller, and under-the-radar cellist Zuill Bailey will play works by Edward Elgar and Tchaikovsky.

DeMain returns for the Nov. 9-11 “Remembering Lenny” concerts (2018 is the centennial of Bernstein’s birth), with selections from “Candide,” “On the Town” and “Symphony No. 2.” Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7,” the last work Bernstein conducted, closes the concert.

“A Madison Symphony Christmas,” Nov. 30 and Dec. 1-2, promises the entire symphony and chorus in santa hats for the annual occasion. On Jan. 20 comes another installment of the multimedia series “Beyond the Score.” This time the symphony breathes new life into Mendelssohn’s sunny Italian “Symphony No. 4.”

In February, another favorite guest, violinist James Ehnes, returns. And DeMain marks composer John Harbison’s 80th birthday with the delightful “The Most Often Used Chords.”

The season ends May 3-5 with a favorite DeMain tour de force, Mahler’s “Symphony No. 8″ – or “Symphony of a Thousand” – with more than 500 performers, including three choirs, eight soloists and the orchestra.

DeMain has said he will remain at the helm as long as audiences and the MSO board wanted him. Who doesn’t think DeMain should direct MSO’s centennial season, which is only seven short years away?