Think Smaller

New Choices for a Sarasota Orchestra Season

After postponing its original schedule of performances, the orchestra returns with a season of safer, smaller ensemble concerts.

By Kay Kipling October 2, 2020

Sarasota Orchestra artistic advisor Jeffrey Kahane will conduct two concerts in the reconfigured 2020-2021 season.

The Sarasota Orchestra announced about a month ago that it would not be presenting its previously announced concert season, due to Covid-19. But leaders also promised a “reimagined” season of smaller ensemble concerts. Now, details of the programming and the dates for those concerts have been released.

Starting in November, in-person audiences will be limited to 20 percent capacity at the orchestra’s Holley Hall, and all concerts will be streamed for at-home viewing. As artistic advisor Jeffrey Kahane said in a release announcing the changes, “At a time when so many of us are yearning for community and hungry for the energy and inspiration that great music can bring, we consider it a privilege to connect through our artform.”

Kahane developed the new concert season with Kerry Smith, the director of artistic planning, along with musicians and administrative leadership. The focus will primarily be on strings, percussion and piano, since wind instruments present problems with mask wearing or possible spreading of particles in the air. (That could change later on if conditions improve.) Musicians will be socially distanced on the Holley Hall stage as well.

The reimagined season commences Nov. 5-8 with performances of Bologne’s Symphonie Concertante No. 2 in G featuring soloist Daniel Jordan and Samantha Bennett. Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings will feature 13 of the orchestra’s musicians.

Up next, Nov. 19-22, will be three works for string quartet: Schubert’s String Quartet No. 12, Arensky’s String Quartet No. 2, and Barber’s Adagio for Strings, familiar to many from its use in films. A further celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday features string quartets by the master, Dec. 10-13.

Pops fans will have a chance to celebrate the holidays, Dec. 17-20, with seasonal music including the theme from the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life and other traditional favorites.

The new year will kick off with works inspired for the composers by others. Caroline Shaw created her Entr’Acte after hearing a work by Haydn. Josef Suk wrote his Serenade for Strings after his mentor, Dvorak, advised him to “lighten up” his music. And Dvorak himself wrote his Nocturne after the loss of his mother. Those works will be heard Jan. 14-17.

Other January concerts, Jan. 28-31, span the centuries to deliver music by 18th-century composer Arcangelo Corelli, Beethoven’s Serioso string quartet, and 20th-century African-American composer George Walker’s Lyric for Strings.

Pops music returns with Valentine’s Day concerts, Feb. 11-14, that stress romance through songs like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “Night and Day” and other standards. February offers up Latin sounds, with works by Tania Leon, Golijov and Piazzolla, Feb. 25-28. An “All in the Family” program, March 11-14, brings together pieces by W.F. Bach, J.S. Bach and C.P.E. Bach, showing that talent does run in the genes.

Schubert’s monumental Death and the Maiden (String Quartet No. 14) is the centerpiece for concerts March 25-28. Kahane will conduct and play piano in “Tributes,” April 15-18, with works by Britten and Ernest Bloch on the bill. (Most of the season’s programs will be conductorless.) Jazz Pops, featuring music from Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and more, takes the stage April 29-May 2; and Kahane will also conduct May 6-9 when Aaron Copland’s Appalachian String Suite is joined by Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 and Jessie Montgomery’s Banner, a perspective on the Star-Spangled Banner.

While the orchestra does not expect the season to be financially viable (it is supported largely by philanthropic donations), leaders felt it was important to move forward with an adjusted season, both to keep audiences engaged and to provide some respite in these difficult times. Information about purchasing limited seating and streaming concerts at home will be available in mid-October. Check out for more.

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