The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) has published an article previewing the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra's 2016-17 season, its fourth under music director Brett Mitchell:
Nothing flashy about the number 31, but the 31st season of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra is special nonetheless.
During its fourth year under music director Brett Mitchell, associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, the distinguished pre-professional ensemble will take several giant steps forward in the form of a world premiere, two other contemporary works, and first-time performances of symphonies by Bruckner and Prokofiev.
"It's such a wonderful opportunity to keep building on this culture," said Mitchell before the 2016-17 season announcement Wednesday. "Three years isn't time enough to do anything."
They'll be getting a lot done this year, that's for sure. So sophisticated are the three programs COYO has planned, one might even confuse them with those of the main Cleveland Orchestra.
Up first, on Friday, Nov. 18, is a weighty night of two firsts: the group's first Bruckner (Symphony No. 4) and the premiere of "Fountains of Youth," by Roger Briggs, Mitchell's former teacher at Western Washington University.
"To have that lineage is a beautiful, special thing," Mitchell explained. "His [Briggs'] was one of the first modern voices to enter to my ear. I wish I had the words to describe the honor of this, how touched I am."
As for the Bruckner, Mitchell said it was Cleveland Orchestra music director Franz Welser-Möst who gave him the idea, and the nerve. After publicly praising COYO at its season finale this year, Mitchell said the conductor and Bruckner expert gave his blessing to the group taking on the Fourth.
"Once he said that, having that vote of support, that was really what gave us the confidence to move forward," Mitchell said, noting that Bruckner "has always been a foreign language to me. But these are my colleagues now, and we get to take this journey together."
More new territory awaits on the second program, on Sunday, Feb. 19. Then, in addition to Debussy's "Nocturnes" and the Poulenc Gloria with the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus, the group will perform "Sea-Blue Circuitry," a work by American composer Mason Bates.
Think of that as further evidence that when it comes to the music of his homeland today, Mitchell is serious.
"It's a core part of who I am," Mitchell said. "For me, it is never lip service. We are a contemporary American orchestra, and we should be playing contemporary American music."
The final program, on Friday, May 12, takes COYO in both directions simultaneously.
On the one hand, the group will undertake its first Prokofiev Symphony (the widely-beloved Fifth). On the other, another contemporary American work: Joan Tower's "Made in America."
All in a night's work for a group striving every year to do and be more.
"It's a huge, huge season for us," Mitchell said, adding that "this is what we in COYO do now."