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The Las Vegas Philharmonic turns 21 this season, which starts with ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’

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Cabrera, right, and the Phil kick off their season on September 7.
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The Las Vegas Philharmonic opens its new season on September 7 with Pictures at an Exhibition, featuring works by Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Anna Clyne. The Weekly chatted with music director and conductor Donato Cabrera about the upcoming season.

Tell us about the Phil’s 21st season.I joke that we’re all grown up. We’re legal in Vegas now. Watch out! (laughs). It’s exciting. We start with “Masquerade” by Anna Clyne and end with three Latin American dances by Gabriela Lena Frank. The season is bookended by two living female composers, which I’m very excited about. It’s something that you’ll start to see more of—music by diverse composers.

How do you choose which pieces to do during the season? It takes a few months to come up with a season of 10 concerts. So the big-picture things, like we need to showcase diversity, because you know, it’s not just dead white European males who wrote music. Or there are things we haven’t played in a while or we’ve never played before. Or taking continuing journeys—I’m slowly going through all the Beethoven symphonies, so by the end of, I’m thinking 2021, I will have gone through all [nine]. I’m doing that with all of the Brahms symphonic works, all the Dvořák. There are these multiple journeys that the audience, the orchestra and myself are taking together over the course of many years. So I’m keeping track of that.

What other factors come into play? What type of solo instruments [to highlight]. It’s so easy to just have violin concertos and piano concertos. But there are a lot of other instruments out there. It’s nice to hear a flute concerto every now and again, or a cello concerto or a horn concerto. It’s trying to mix and match between the things that we’re familiar with but reaching out for the lesser-known things as well.

What do Vegas audiences get excited about? They’ve gotten really excited about the film things we’ve done, [like] the music of John Williams when we did Psycho. We’re doing the music of Danny Elfman in November. We’re already seeing pretty strong ticket sales for that. In general, I would say Las Vegas audiences are excited about whatever we give them information on. So if I walk out onstage and I tell them a little bit about what they’re about to hear, or the composer will talk about the piece ... if they feel like they’re part of the journey, they will be as excited, if not more so, about something they had never heard before, as opposed to something they have heard their whole lives.

You’re coming up on six years as director. How do you keep it fresh? Artists are lucky in general, because when you approach a piece, whether you’re starting a new painting or you’re revisiting a symphony by Beethoven for the second or third time, you’re always discovering something new, because you have changed. There’s nothing stale about what we do, because we are constantly evolving personally.

LAS VEGAS PHILHARMONIC: PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION September 7, 7:30 p.m., $30-$110. Smith Center's Reynolds Hall, 702-749-2000.

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