Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Re-imagines Their Season Once Again!

Originally planning to open their 2020/21 season on January 23rd, 2021, additional pandemic induced delays in completing their new performance home has caused the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to move back opening night to February 6th!

Scott Paulus, Milwaukee Symphony: Allen-Bradley Hall

But there will still be a robust sixteen performance season with twelve classical events and four pops events all performed live in their new Allen-Bradley Hall by socially distanced musicians and available via live stream or on demand viewing to their subscribers.

This looks to be an exciting season despite the disappointment in not being able to celebrate the new season in their new home, the Bradley Symphony Center! This year will be a chance to hear more of our favorite symphony players as they play in smaller ensembles. And because of the smaller ensembles, there will be new pieces that we don’t get to hear regularly and some new composers that will help freshen our experience in classical music. So I am looking forward to see how this season transpires!

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra: Ken-David Masur

Here is the link to the MSO’s website and the list of concerts for the ‘new’ 2020/21 season. (please note, although each concert has a buy tickets button, single tickets are not available, just subscriptions to the virtual season). This link will allow you to click on each concert to get the full list of pieces being performed. Ken-David Masur is listed as the music director and host for all sixteen concerts.

The live concerts will be performed at 7:30 P.M. on Saturday nights from February 6th, 2021 through June 19th, 2021. Subscription information for the sixteen virtual concerts can be found at this MSO website page.

And don’t worry, there is still a Beethoven Symphony on the schedule! Number 7 to be exact will be the featured closing piece for the last virtual concert on June 19th, 2021.

I am actually looking forward to this. I have really missed live concert performances this past fall and after watching some theater online, I know that the MSO will come through and provide us with a fulfilling experience. But as we go, I would like to hear your thoughts too…so feel free to leave your comments below, at any time during the season. The first time you comment, it won’t show up immediately, so be patient!! Or if you prefer to contact me directly, you can use our email account:

Scott Paulus, Milwaukee Symphony: Bradley Symphony Center

Michele Dall’Ongaro’s La Primavera

Over the past several seasons, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has been including pieces by modern composers in many of their regular subscription concerts. And wisely so. Instead of having a modern music weekend that is poorly attended, they are gradually acclimating their audience to new works. Some of this works very well but sometimes not.

Way back in the day when I owned the Milwaukee record store, On Broadway Plays (on Broadway south of Wisconsin Ave), Thursday was classical music day. I only played classical music and had specials on classical albums. During that time I learned about contemporary and modern composers and ran the gamut from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass…with Steve Reich becoming one of my favorites. So I look forward to finding new music during my MSO subscription concerts.

The MSO featuring Orion Weiss on piano played Michele Dall’Ongaro’s La primavera during the last concert that I was able to attend before the season was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to hear. I had never heard anything by Mr. Dall’Ongaro before…so off we went.

Now this short piece (at under six minutes) is set for piano and string orchestra and is part of a four season suite, each season from a different composer. Mr. Dall’Ongaro wrote La primavera : Spring.

The piece opens very softly with single note piano inserts and plucked strings in return. At first I feared this seeming call and response would yield a tedious and drawn out piece but that thought quickly disappeared as the strings took on a resilient forward flow that draws out the piano and pulls it along. And then they each find their own voices and play off each other, sometimes against each other, and sometimes despite each other. It is an amazingly captivating piece…pulling in points and counterpoints and rhythms familiar to us all but with tones and ideas from contemporary serious music as well without disrupting the feeling…that this is familiar but we’ve never experience quite the like before!

In fact after I got over my initial concern, I totally got lost in the music and was just swept along until we reached the end…and I was so involved that I missed that it had ended and I felt lost because I wanted…felt that I needed more.

Maybe because I was there and became so invested in the experience, that I feel Mr. Weiss and the MSO did a better job of this that the recording I included below. But this recording is phenomenal as well and is the version recommended for listening in the MSO program. Give it a listen and only then read the MSO program notes that I have copied in below.

this ‘video’ is just the photo plus audio

OK, I have copied in the program notes for this piece from the MSO. I think that my experience of this piece may have been limited if I had read this before I heard it. I like to experience new art without too many preconceived notions. But when going back after reading them, it gave me something more to think about! And I hope you enjoyed La primavera as much as I did!

La primavera is set for solo piano and string orchestra. At its outset, pizzicato strings and pointillistic interjections from the piano seem to evoke raindrops, which become ever more frequent. The rain stirs nature to awaken, with perpetual motion from the plucked strings and colorful piano chords and figuration across the whole of the keyboard. Streams of 16th notes from both piano and strings ensue, then portamento strings and more pointillistic pianism tell us that the whole of nature is quivering with new life. Before we even realize it, this delightfully exuberant work seems to end before it even began.

I hope that the MSO’s 2020/21 season will be unaffected by COVID-19 and I am looking forward to their new venue!!