The Savannah Philharmonic is kicking off its 2019-20 season at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts with a trio of exceptional compositions by three titans of classical music — a veritable “Triple Treat.”

The opening concert is a chance for audiences to become acquainted with the Philharmonic’s new music and artistic director designate, Maestro Keitaro Harada. Harada was raised in Tokyo, graduated from Mercer University, and has conducted in cities across the United States. His reputation as an adventurous conductor has been growing throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico and Asia, and his wide musical interests include ballet, film scores, education, opera and more. Harada will conduct the opening and closing concerts this season before he officially wields the baton in his inaugural 2020-21 season.

 

The vibrant “Triple Treat” program is an excellent showcase for Harada and the Philharmonic to display their dynamic abilities on the concert stage.

“The first half is very Americana,” said Harada. “It starts with a wonderful overture by Leonard Bernstein from his opera, ‘Candide.’ It has bright colors and lots of fast-paced energy. It’s super fun and also humorous, and it’s just a great start for a great season opener.”

Harada and the Philharmonic will then perform George Gershwin’s jazz inspired piano concerto “Concert in F.” “What’s great about the Gershwin concerto is George Gershwin, to this day, is one of the only composers who was really capable of merging classical compositional style and also jazz, and incorporating jazz elements onto the classical concert stage,” explained Harada. “He was very fluent in both classical and jazz. His tunes are unbelievably memorable… 'Summertime’, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, ‘An American in Paris’... and the concerto also has beautiful melodies that when an audience hears it, they will go, ‘Oh, I’ve heard that melody before. That’s Gershwin, of course.’”

For the Gershwin piece, the Philharmonic will be joined by the Canadian virtuoso pianist Ian Parker. Parker has performed with dozens of orchestras around the world and has been described as “magnetic, easy-going and delightfully articulate.” Parker is no stranger to Gershwin’s piano concerto and in 2010 released a CD featuring “Concert in F” recorded with the London Symphony for ATMA Classique.

 

After an intermission, the final selection of the night will be the majestic “Pictures at an Exhibition” by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, with orchestration by Maurice Ravel.

“It’s the best of both worlds in this composition,” said Harada. “Mussorgsky wrote this composition originally for piano and it was famous as a piano piece. However, Ravel came along. He is a French composer who is called the master of orchestration. He knows orchestra colors like no one’s business. He is able to make Mussorgsky’s composition come to life in an orchestral setting. Each movement is literally, as the title says, a picture at an exhibition. You’re in a museum and you’re seeing different paintings. Each painting is telling a story...each of these pictures are coming to life through music. It’s a very, very beautiful piece.”

With Maestro Harada leading the Savannah Philharmonic, “Triple Treat” should be a feast for the ears and set a very high bar for the rest of the exciting 2019-20 season.