The Philadelphia Orchestra season, which opens on Wednesday with guest conductor Stéphane Denève and runs through Aug. 24 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, usually presents artists who have either never been to the area before or visit only occasionally. But the concert on Thursday is more like a homecoming for composer Richard Danielpour and conductor Keith Lockhart.
“I’ve been coming to Saratoga Springs for 30 years, ever since 1983 when I was at Yaddo,” Danielpour said. “The first piece I ever heard at SPAC was Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for the New York City Ballet.”
The concert on Thursday will feature the world premiere of his own serenade, which SPAC commissioned for the orchestra, and will include some quotes of the Tchaikovsky piece as a bit of nostalgia, Danielpour said. Because the concert is being billed as the “150th Anniversary of the Race Course Concert,” he was also asked to include some references to racing.
“The third movement is a ‘Day at the Races’ but I was more interested in celebrating the whole city and not just the race track,” he said. “So my first movement is ‘Hats Off,’ like the event they hold to celebrate the arts, and my second movement is ‘Healing Waters’ to commemorate the mineral springs.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays through Aug. 24
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
HOW MUCH: $80-$32. Lawn: $24. Kids 12 and under, free on lawn. Students, 25 percent discount
MORE INFO: 584-9330, www.spac.org
This is his fourth commission for the orchestra, Danielpour said. The others are his Violin Concerto, which Chantal Juillet performed in 2000 at SPAC, “Songs of Solitude” (2004) and “Woman’s Life” (2010).
For Lockhart, who has been the Boston Pops’ music director since 1995, coming to SPAC will bring back favorite memories, even as it’s his SPAC debut.
“I’m from Poughkeepsie and grew up at SPAC,” Lockhart said. “I don’t have any family in the area now but they were retired IBMers. As for the orchestra, this is not my first time with the Philadelphia. I’ve conducted them at the Mann Center [the orchestra’s summer home in Philadelphia].”
It will, however, be the first time since 1988 that he’s worked with Danielpour.
“I’m very excited to be doing his new piece,” he said.
Lockhart said he had “total input” into what to program as long as it was built around the Danielpour piece and a racing theme.
“The Boston Pops had done the 100th anniversary at Keeneland [a Kentucky race track] two years ago, so I had a lot of ideas from that,” he said.
Besides Franz von Suppè’s “Overture to the Light Cavalry,” he chose Morton Gould’s “Saratoga Quickstep,” four dance episodes from Copland’s “Rodeo,” Rossini’s Overture to “William Tell,” John Williams’ “Dartmoor 1912” from the 2011 film “War Horse,” and footage from the film “The Horse” with narrator, which Lockhart said was a beautiful film.
Lockhart also contacted Randy Newman, who did the score for the 2003 film “Seabiscuit.”
“He hadn’t published the music but he agreed to put a suite together,” Lockhart said.
The program may seem a bit on the light side, but that’s good for a summer concert.
“I do little pops outside of the Pops,” he said. “Why do it if I have Boston?”
Instead, Lockhart prefers to balance his Pops season with either guest conducting or serving as music director for an orchestra’s regular season. In 2009, he ended his 11-year tenure with the Utah Symphony, which included its first European tour in 20 years and its merger with the Utah Opera. In 2010, he became the BBC Concert Orchestra’s seventh principal conductor, and since 2007 has been the artistic director for Brevard Music Center in North Carolina, which he had attended as a teenager in the 1970s.
“I seem to be going all the time, but I really don’t go out as much as I used to because I have a family now,” Lockhart said laughing. “But the Pops has only two seasons: May through July 4 and Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Even with tours and single concerts, I can fit other spots into this. The BBC is a wonderful band and very versatile and Brevard is a magical, wonderful place that gives me the chance to give back.”
Besides, he added, London was easier to get to than Salt Lake City.
Intrigued by next piece
As a composer, Danielpour is busier than most.
“I had four premieres in four cities: Rome, Mannheim [Germany], Vienna and Paris,” he said in early June after spending five weeks in Europe to be at each concert. “This summer at SPAC, it will be my seventh world premiere. That’s a record for me.”
While he’s happy the music is out there being heard and shared, Danielpour said what he loves the most is meeting people he wouldn’t usually meet. That’s because most of the time he’s tied up either teaching at the Manhattan School of Music or Curtis Institute, or going it alone in his studio composing. To date, he’s written 150 pieces in 32 years of composing.
“That’s my livelihood, and with the commissions I can continue to do what I’m doing,” he said.
Danielpour may be a fan of his own music, he said, but a composer must compose.
“I’m most intrigued by the next piece,” he said, which will be a clarinet concerto for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra’s principal clarinetist Anthony McGill, who gave an impressive recital last spring as part of Union College’s music series.
The orchestra’s schedule continues Wednesday through Aug. 24 and will feature such artists as violinists Gil Shaham (Wednesday) and Sarah Chang (Aug. 16); cellists Yo-Yo Ma (Aug. 10) and Johannes Moser (Aug. 22); pops night with conductor Steven Reineke; and a Bernstein spectacular with his daughter Jamie and New York City Ballet dancers (Aug. 9). A showing of the 1940 Disney classic film “Fantasia” with live music will be Aug. 23.