2015-16 a season of firsts for CSO New people, shows and opportunities

For the first Masterworks concert in early November, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and CSO Chorus will be joined by baritone soloist Dashon Burton for a performance of William Walton’s “Belshazzar’s Feast.”

The 2015-16 season is a big one for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, full of new opportunities, new personalities and new musical experiences.

This is the year that Charleston audiences will get to know new music director Ken Lam, who was selected from a field of six finalists in 2014.

This is the year that the orchestra will perform, finally, in a proper concert hall worthy of the music it makes.

This is the year that the CSO can properly claim begins a new era, one that will emphasize community outreach and education, collaboration and quality.

Programming for the new season has been in the works ever since Lam was announced as new lead conductor. He and Concertmaster Yuriy Bekker, along with Executive Director Michael Smith and others, have sought to showcase the orchestra, feature young guest artists, spotlight local soloists and strike a balance between musical favorites and not-so-familiar works, Lam said.

The Chamber Orchestra Series led by Bekker has been combined into a now-enlarged Masterworks Series, with all eight performances scheduled for the Gaillard Center. Bekker will conduct three intimate programs, in November, February and March.

One is dedicated to the music composed during the transition between the Classical and Romantic periods and features Charles Messersmith playing Weber’s First Clarinet Concerto. Another is all Baroque and opens with Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe, featuring Micah Gangwer and brand-new CSO oboist Zachary Hammond. The last offers works by Rossini and Mendelssohn as well as a commissioned piece — a concerto for special guest artists Project Trio — by Adam Schoenberg, who will be in attendance.

The full band will play five Masterworks concerts featuring favorites such as Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 (played on the new Steinway by Daria Rabotkina) and his Third Symphony, the Sibelius Violin Concerto (played by Bella Hristova), Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 (performed by Sandra Wright Shen), Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Second Piano Concerto (performed by the College of Charleston’s Ran Dank) and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.

But Lam also will introduce patrons to a recent composition by College of Charleston composer Edward Hart called “Dover Beach,” lesser-known pieces by Sibelius (who was born 150 years ago, in 1865), and choral works that showcase the CSO Chorus.

For the first Masterworks concert in early November, the CSO Chorus will be joined by baritone soloist Dashon Burton for a performance of William Walton’s “Belshazzar’s Feast,” a rich and compelling cantata based on a biblical story.

A similar musical configuration will be employed at the end of March for performances of Poulenc’s glorious “Gloria,” featuring the chorus and soprano soloist Ah Young Hong.

Two of the five official Pops concerts will be dedicated to movie music, famous classical works that have been used by filmmakers as well as a score by living composer Michael Shapiro written to accompany the 1931 movie “Frankenstein” (which will be screened at the concert) and music from “The Godfather.”

Another Pops show will be devoted to country music legends. One will pay tribute to the one-and-only Louis Armstrong.

As it has done for two seasons now, core players from the symphony will populate the stage in the Simons Center Recital Hall for two Magnetic South concerts that showcase contemporary music. That series is organized by College of Charleston composer Yiorgos Vassilandonakis.

Young Person’s Concerts are planned for November and January, and the CSO’s third National Young Artists Competition will decide its winner in April.

There’s more: plans for a performance of “The Nutcracker” and Handel’s Messiah; a Mardi Gras show; and a New Year’s Eve concert.

For more about the programming, including dates and ticket availability, go to www.charlestonsymphony.com or call 723-7528, ext. 110.

Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at www.facebook.com/aparkerwriter.