Members of the Paducah Symphony Orchestra perform onstage at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center, 100 Kentucky Ave. A selection of both local and international guest artists will be featured during the course of the symphony's seven-performance season.
Cellists with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra perform on the stage of the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center, 100 Kentucky Ave. The symphony is kicking off its season Saturday with a performance that features violinist Ilya Kaler playing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. (Left)
The Paducah Symphony Orchestra is gearing up for a season that directors hope will be a blockbuster.
The season comprises seven performances featuring local soloists and composers, as well as internationally renowned guest artists.
“We have an orchestra that can play anything I can throw at them. I think the public will be pleasantly surprised and borderline overwhelmed,” artistic director Raffaele Ponti said.
The season opens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, featuring Russian-born violinist Ilya Kaler. Kaler stands as the only violinist to win gold medals at three prestigious competitions, including the 1986 International Tchaikovsky Competition.
Kaler, who learned the concerto when he was about 16 years old and has played it countless times since, described it as one of the most famous, best-loved violin pieces among both performers and audiences.
“This is one of those pieces that combines perfectly those elements of showmanship with wonderful violin writing and absolutely beautiful, gorgeous melodies. Memorable melodies, really,” he said.
A master class with Kaler will follow the performance at 3 p.m. Sunday at Broadway United Methodist Church. Kaler will instruct two local violinists and provide the general public with a more intimate musical experience, PSO Executive Director Daniel Sene said.
“It’s always fun to have a guest artist involved with the orchestra. ... I think when an artist is out there, they (the orchestra) work even harder to make sure that artist shines, to make sure the music is that much better,” Sene said.
The season continues Oct. 5 with Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The evening will also include the Kentucky premiere of “Three Reflections,” a composition by PSO violist Jacob Tews.
“One of my things is to constantly be tapping our talents in the orchestra,” Ponti said. “It’s homegrown, coming right from our orchestra, and a new piece no one has heard. It’s what I consider to be relevant repertoire by a living composer.”
The Nov. 2 performance of Nielsen’s Third Symphony will feature local musician Dong-Yun Shankle performing a bassoon concerto.
“Everyone sees the bassoon sitting in the orchestra, but very seldom do we hear it as a solo instrument. That’s new, fresh, and our people,” Ponti said.
Rounding out the season are the annual Christmas Celebration, to be held Dec. 14; Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, scheduled for Feb. 1; a March 1 performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto, featuring Italian guest artist Fabio Bidini; and A Choral Finale, which closes the season April 12.
Now entering his fourth season as artistic director — and his first in a renewed three-year contract — Ponti said he’s impressed with how far the symphony has come. He cited youth outreach and involvement as one of the major areas of progress.
“All the pistons on this engine are firing at high levels right now, and it takes a thousand to do it,” Ponti said, referring to volunteers and symphony board members.
All performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center, 100 Kentucky Ave. Tickets are available online at paducahsymphony.org. The symphony offers a 50 percent discount for new season subscribers.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641 or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.