By Kelly Smith


The Florida Orchestra’s season just wrapped up in May, but the anticipation already is building for the debut of Michael Francis as music director in the fall. He will lead the orchestra’s premier Tampa Bay Times Masterworks series, conducting nine of 14 concerts. This is what the orchestra is all about: classical masterpieces you love, performed with passion. Combined with pre-concert conversations about the music, there’s no better quality time for the whole family, with free Classical Kids tickets for ages 5-18. Here are some Masterworks series highlights:

Opening Night: Rachmaninoffs Piano Concerto No. 3 (Friday-Sunday, October 2-4): The lush yet powerful concerto is respected as one of the most challenging in the repertoire, performed by Valentina Lisitsa. Also on the program is Copland’s Symphony No. 3, the essential American masterpiece.

Vivaldis The Four Seasons (Friday-Sunday, October 23-25): The popular work that everybody can hum will be led by Lara St. John, who started playing the violin at age 2, debuted as a soloist with an orchestra at age 4 and entered the Curtis Institute of Music at age 13.

The Bells & Pictures (Friday-Sunday, November 6-8): Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem, goes from the “the jingling and the tinkling” to the “moaning and the groaning” of the bells, featuring the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. Then let your imagination run wild with images conjured by Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Handels Messiah (Friday-Sunday, December 4-6): Hallelujah, it’s the perfect way to start the holiday season. The full, jubilant layers build up enough joy to last straight through New Year’s and features the Master Chorale.

Brahms: A German Requiem (Saturday and Sunday, March 12-13): In addition to Brahm’s large-scale work for chorus and orchestra, the program features The Florida Orchestra’s own principal English horn, Jeffrey Stephenson, in MacMillan’s The Worlds Ransoming.

The Firebird Suite (Friday-Sunday, April 15-17): This dynamic concert showcases Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer playing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, along with Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Faure’s Dolly Suite and the incendiary Stravinsky’s Firebird.

Beethovens Eroica Symphony (Friday-Sunday, April 29-May 1): Ranks right up there as one of Beethoven’s most popular symphonies. It originally was composed to honor Napoleon, but an angry Beethoven scratched that out when Napoleon declared himself emperor in 1804.

Series subscriptions are on sale now. Single tickets are available Monday, August 10. Get tickets at  or 727-892-3337 and 800-662-7286. The orchestra regularly performs at the Straz Center in Tampa, Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

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