Music News & Reviews

Mondavi Center in 2016-17 offers wide world of music, new and old

Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic will perform at the Mondavi on Nov. 2. The featured work will be Austrian composer Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.
Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic will perform at the Mondavi on Nov. 2. The featured work will be Austrian composer Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.

A world of adventurous music and performers will arrive at the Mondavi Center during its upcoming 15th season.

Topped by the Mondavi debut of acclaimed conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, an eclectic list of internationally known artists and rising stars fills the center’s 2016-17 schedule, officially unveiled Friday, April 1. The new season of music kicks off Sept. 28 with Jazz at Lincoln Center featuring trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

Other audience favorites returning to the Mondavi Center on the UC Davis campus include recitals by violinists Itzhak Perlman (Jan. 14) and Joshua Bell (Feb. 2) as well as holiday programs by the Vienna Boys Choir (Nov. 29) and the American Bach Soloists (Dec. 10), who will perform George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.” That mixes in the Mondavi lineup with world music from Australia’s Black Arm Band (Feb. 8), flamenco superstar Diego El Cigala (Nov. 1) and the Havana Cuba All-Stars (Nov. 12).

“This season is especially global,” said Mondavi executive director Don Roth. “We always have performers from around the world. But this year, we have artists coming from every continent except Antarctica.”

Probably the most anticipated concert on the schedule stars performers who have among the shortest treks to get here: Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic. This world-acclaimed orchestra hasn’t appeared in the Sacramento area in 30 years, when André Previn conducted it at the Community Center Theater.

Dudamel will conduct Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony on Nov. 2. “That’s a very big program and will be a very big night,” Roth said. “It also kicks off our orchestra series.”

This season is especially global.

Don Roth, Mondavi executive director

This rare visit highlights an orchestra series that also features the China Philharmonic (with violinist Julian Rachlin, Dec. 3), the Prague Philharmonia (with cellist Gautier Capuçon, Jan. 28), the Bruckner Orchester Linz (with violinist Robert McDuffie, Feb. 11) and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (with pianist Garrick Ohlsson, March 18).

“This is always our most popular series,” Roth said. “Subscription sales for our orchestra series come close to selling out every year. We have a very loyal audience.”

In an unusual twist, the Austria-based Bruckner Orchester Linz will play two diametrically opposed programs on back-to-back nights. Under the direction of Dennis Russell Davies, the orchestra performs a Feb. 10 program devoted to such modern American composers as Phillip Glass and Duke Ellington, followed by a more traditional night of Robert Schumann, Samuel Barber and Richard Strauss.

“That’s one of the highlights for me,” Roth said. “We have a traditional program as part of the orchestra series plus a very contemporary concert of all American music. The Glass Symphony No. 11 is brand new; it gets its Carnegie Hall premiere the week before.”

That also fits a second theme of the season: a mix of old and new.

“We have a balance of debuts and favorite returning artists,” Roth said. “Even if the big orchestras have been here before, they’re bringing new soloists.”

Such soloist include violinist Nicola Benedetti, who joins the Venice Baroque Orchestra for Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” (Feb. 27).

Part of that mature mix comes with the Mondavi’s reputation for outstanding acoustics and open-minded audiences.

“Artists who have been here regularly make room for us,” Roth noted, “but also new artists know us now and want to come. That makes for a very exciting season.”

These really are Indian artists working at the highest level.

Don Roth, Mondavi executive director

Some programs survey a lot of music in a single day. Violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with the Curtis Chamber Orchestra (Jan. 21) as part of a one-day, two-program musical marathon that also features all five Mozart violin concertos, performed by five young soloists.

As a pre-holiday treat, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center packs Johann Sebastian Bach’s complete cycle of six Brandenburg Concertos into one night (Dec. 11).

Likewise, Mondavi’s jazz series offers a lot of music from both rising and established stars. Besides the beloved Wynton Marsalis, the list of jazz veterans includes Aaron Diehl and Cecile McLorin Salvant (in a salute to Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin, March 14) and the Aziza Quartet with Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke and Eric Harland (April 5).

“We’re really excited about jazz pianist Joey Alexander (Oct. 19-22),” said Jeremy Ganter, the Mondavi’s director of programming. “He’s only 12 years old and has already been nominated for a Grammy.

“All of our Studio Jazz artists will be making their Mondavi debuts. That includes Creole trumpeter Etienne Charles (April 26-29) and Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda (Feb. 15-18).”

Adding spice to Mondavi’s musical mix is a season-long series of performances devoted to “India in the Artist’s Eye.”

“That series kicks off with Bickram Ghosh’s Drums of India (Sept. 30),” Roth said. “We think if people come out for that, they’ll want to come to everything.

“These really are Indian artists working at the highest level who might not have had that much exposure yet in the United States.”

Dance, theater and thoughtful speakers also are woven into the packed schedule, which opens softly Sept. 24 with National Public Radio’s live taping of “Science Friday.” Among the featured speakers are George Takei of “Star Trek” fame and Bassem Youssef, the “Jon Stewart of Egypt.” Modern dance performances include that of Ronald K. Brown/Evidence with choreography inspired by visits to Cuba.

Current subscribers have until April 30 to renew their series. New subscribers may purchase series starting May 16, with single seats available July 11.

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

2016-17 Mondavi Center schedule

Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, University of California, Davis, One Shields Ave., Davis

When: Season is Sept. 24-May 21, 2017; current subscription renewal deadline: April 30; new subscriptions available May 16. Single seats available July 11.

Box office: Noon-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; closed Sundays

Information: 866-754-2787,