Princeton University Concerts looks to build off of its 125th anniversary season

The "Up Close" series, a highlight of the Princeton University Concerts' season, returns to the university this fall.ANDREW WILKINSON FOR PRINCETON UNIVERSITY CONCERTS
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The "Up Close" series, a highlight of the Princeton University Concerts' season, returns to the university this fall.ANDREW WILKINSON FOR PRINCETON UNIVERSITY CONCERTS

After concluding its 125th anniversary season this past April, Princeton University Concerts (PUC) looks to continue bringing classical music to the patrons of Mercer County.

The PUC announced the lineup for its 2019-20 season.

Like past seasons, PUC is bringing back some of its traditional series, as well as introducing some new ways for audiences to enjoy classical music as well.

With its “Classic Concert Series,” “Up Close” series, “All in the Family” series and “Richardson Chamber Players” series, PUC aims to bring listeners classical music through platforms which they have been accustomed to for the past half-decade.

“I think what you see overall from the season is a couple things. We have the usual traditional things that have been a part of PUC’s series for 125 years,” said Princeton University Concerts Director Marna Seltzer. “We’ve got the concert classic series, which is our eight Thursday night concerts that’s always there, and an eclectic mix of upcoming musicians who are making debuts, then more established musicians who most people know.”

Three new concerts this season will be added under the new “Icons of Song” series, which will take place from October through April.

“It pairs three extraordinary singers with extraordinary pianists, which are out of the usual realm for those performers,” Seltzer said.

The PUC is also planning on teaming up with the Princeton Glee Club to bring Ensemble Basiani to the university. The Georgian State Vocal Ensemble comes with a completely different tradition of singing, according to Seltzer.

Returning for another season will also be the “Up Close” series, which is a very intimate hour-long experience that puts the audience on stage with the performers. Seltzer stated that this year’s series will focus on artists who improvise. The series will feature three performances from November through April.

“The Vision String Quartet is a fantastic quartet from France who play both classical and jazz, both equally well. They are going to show that in those concerts in pairs. One is at 6 p.m., the other at 9. So, one will be classical, the other jazz,” she said. “Gabriella Montero is a terrific Venezuelan pianist who is known for a lot of things, but one of the things that she does that is sort of unusual is that she has an uncanny ability to take requests from the audience of traditional classical music and riff on the spot. And Conrad Tao, who is also a young, upcoming pianist is collaborating with Caleb Teicher, who is a terrific tap dancer. He will be improvising in the moment to the music that [Tao] plays. Those three concerts focus more on the improvisational side of music, which interestingly enough seems to be making its way into classical music more and more.”

Seltzer also made it a point to say that a big aspect of the season will deal with extending the understanding of classical music through the audiences’ experiences.

“The other part of the series that has been growing for the last couple of years is definitely something that has solidified itself during the anniversary season with all of the residency work that we did, was that it became very clear that having programs outside of the concert hall that could deepen people’s experience to the music and could give them different ways of thinking about the music were very crucial,” she said.

To keep the extension of understanding going, PUC plans on continuing its talks at the Princeton Public Library, its films with the Princeton Garden Theatre, the pre-concert talks as well as the late-night chamber jam.

Part of the concert series that has not been officially announced yet, but that will be built into the 2019-20 season, is something that Seltzer called “cross disciplinary engagement” with scholars on the campus of Princeton University.

“We’re hoping that in some of the warmup spots, where we traditionally would have a pre-concert talk, those would be dual conversations from two professors from two different backgrounds and use the music as a touchstone point,” she said.

One thing that Seltzer touched on as well was the ease that PUC offers for those in the area who want to see a classical, professional performance.

“I feel like a lot of the things, whether it’s free live music meditation or having all of these other ways to engage with the music or going to a talk, it’s all about access,” Seltzer said. “PUC is really unique in that ticket prices are extraordinarily low. That has been part of our charter since we began, and it really hasn’t changed. I really think it sets us apart from other arts organizations in town. Not only could you walk in for free to see Bobby McFerrin last year, but the top ticket price was [not much]. If you subscribe, you can go to all of our concerts for around $20 each, which is really incredible. So many of these artists are going from Carnegie Hall to being in New York City the night before or after and the ticket prices are astronomically more. I think that access and finding ways for people to make their own relevant connection to classical music is still a really important part to what we do.”

Princeton University Concerts’ 2019-20 season begins on Thursday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. with a performance from The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. For more information regarding the upcoming season, tickets for this performance or any other upcoming performances, visit www.princetonuniversityconcerts.org, or call 609-258-2800.