EDMOND — Armstrong Auditorium's 2012-13 concert series will be international in scope, with musical ensembles from Russia, China, Germany and Scotland appearing along with performers from Cuba, Brazil, Germany and the United States.
While the organization's concert series dates back to 1998, with many of its performances presented in a field house, Armstrong Auditorium inaugurated its state-of-the-art, 823-seat concert hall in September 2010.
The first season in the new hall featured 10 concerts, ranging from a solo piano recital and a Philippine dance troupe to orchestras from Poland and London's famed Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Season two boasted 16 concerts but this year's series will once again feature 10 concerts.
“One thing we've learned is that people really do enjoy the arts here, but there's only so much they can subscribe to or get involved with,” said marketing director Shane Granger. “We'd rather leave people wanting more than flooding the market with too many options. We think a 10-concert season will be a good balance for us and for our audiences.”
The season opens Nov. 1 with a solo recital by Nathan Gunn, an American baritone who performs regularly at the Metropolitan Opera. His lengthy resume includes the title roles in “Billy Budd,” “Eugene Onegin,” “The Barber of Seville” and “Hamlet.” Gunn's Armstrong recital will feature Mahler's “Songs of a Wayfarer” and Schumann's “Dichterliebe,” along with selections by Ives, Barber and Arlen.
Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis will perform Nov. 15. His wide-ranging credits include stints as music director of The Tonight Show, appearances with his brother Wynton's quintet, collaborations with Sting and the Grateful Dead, and solo engagements with symphony orchestras. Marsalis and his quartet will present works from their upcoming recording.
The season resumes Jan. 28 and 29 with programs featuring the Russian National Ballet Theatre. Founded in Moscow in the late 1980s, this celebrated company boasts some of the foremost dancers from Russia, Ukraine, Latvia and Poland. On Jan. 28, the Russian National Ballet will present “Cinderella,” followed on Jan. 29 with performances of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Chopiniana.”
German pianist Alexandre Schimpf will perform in recital Feb. 4.
The emerging artist has taken top prizes at the German Music Competition, the Vienna Beethoven Piano Competition and, most recently, the Cleveland International Piano Competition. Schimpf will play works by Mozart, Debussy, Ravel and Kapustin.
The Bands of the Scots Guards and Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch will share their distinctive sounds in a concert on Feb. 17. Both groups date back to the 18th century and regularly perform throughout the United Kingdom in addition to international tours.
The China National Symphony Orchestra will perform Feb. 28.
Founded as the Central Philharmonic Orchestra of China in 1956, the noted ensemble was restructured and renamed in 1996. Xincao Li has served as principal resident conductor of the Chinese orchestra since 1999.
The program will feature the “Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47” by Sibelius, a movement of Xia Guan's “Earth Requiem” and Rachmaninoff's “Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27.” Xi Chen will be the soloist in the Sibelius.
Oklahoma native Byron Berline and his band will perform April 7. Berline was based in Los Angeles for 26 years before returning to Oklahoma in 1995. The Oklahoma fiddler has worked with many of the industry greats, from the Byrds and the Eagles to Alabama and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Berline and company will offer an evening of bluegrass and western swing.
Cuba native and clarinetist Paquito d'Rivera will be joined by Brazilian guitarists Sergio and Odair Assad for an April 16 concert. The trio will perform Latin classical music with a dash of jazz.
Closing the season April 29 will be the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. Founded in 1988, the quintet tours regularly in addition to their work with one of Europe's finest orchestras. The celebrated ensemble will perform quintets by Anton Reicha, Pavel Haas, Johan Kvandal and Joseph Vohuslav Foerster.
“Since our legacy goes back to the Ambassador Auditorium in Southern California, we're modeling our series after that,” Granger said. “We have a sophisticated audience that appreciates top-notch programming so we're trying to bring that standard of excellence to Oklahoma.”