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Celebrity Series celebrates 75 years with ambitious season

From left: Mark Morris’s dance group, Jazz saxman Sonny Rollins, and conductor Gustavo Dudamel will participate in the Celebrity Series of Boston’s 75th anniversary celebration.

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times; Molly Riley/Reuters/file 2011; Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

From left: Mark Morris’s dance group, Jazz saxman Sonny Rollins, and conductor Gustavo Dudamel will participate in the Celebrity Series of Boston’s 75th anniversary celebration.

Celebrity Series of Boston has big plans for its 2013-14 season, commemorating 75 years of arts programming with 75 performances. It starts in September with a rare outdoor project offering people the chance to tinkle the ivories on street corners around the city, and it ends in May with dancing in the streets.

The two public projects bookending the season are a way of saying thank you to Boston for its support over the years, says Celebrity Series president and executive director Gary Dunning. “Street Pianos Boston” (Sept. 27-Oct. 14) uses artist Luke Jerram’s “Play Me I’m Yours” concept, placing 75 specially painted pianos around the city for passersby to play. “It’s about activating space and using music as a catalyst for shared experience,” Dunning says. “Whether it’s [by] a 10-year-old child or an accomplished pianist, music can arrest people out of their busy lives. It’s easy to imagine Boston will come alive with this.”

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The season finale (May 16-18) is Montreal choreographer Sylvain Émard’s “Le Grand Continental,” which aims to amass 200 volunteer dancers of all ages for a 30-minute piece in Copley Square, followed by a public dance party. “We’re looking for people who love to dance for the sheer physical joy of it, bringing together a community that wouldn’t otherwise exist,” Dunning says.

In between is a season filled with debuts and premieres. Expanded dance offerings include the East Coast premiere of Handel’s opera “Acis & Galatea” by the Mark Morris Dance Group (May 15-18), a Celebrity Series co-commission also featuring the Handel and Haydn Society Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus. French/Brazilian hip-hop troupe Compagnie Käfig (Feb. 7-9) and China’s TAO Dance Theater (Feb. 27-28) make Boston debuts, as does Wendy Whelan’s “Restless Creature” (March 28-29), in which the New York City Ballet principal dancer performs in duets by choreographer-dancers Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (May 1-4) and Paul Taylor Dance Company (Nov. 1-3) make welcome returns, and the National Circus of Australia, Circus Oz, brings its family-friendly “From the Ground Up” (Feb. 19-23).

The Celebrity Series debut by tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins (Sept. 28), part of the 2013 Beantown Jazz Festival, reflects a Celebrity Series effort to expand its jazz offerings, Dunning says. Other jazz highlights include “Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration,” featuring Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and Chorale le Chateau (Oct. 27), a star-studded 80th-birthday celebration concert for saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter (Nov. 24), and Jason Moran’s “Fats Waller Dance Party” (April 4), a tribute to the jazz pianist. The Luciana Souza Trio (Jan. 25); Newport Jazz Festival: NOW 60 (Feb. 13); DeJohnette, Lovano, Spalding, Genovese Quartet (March 6); Vijay Iyer Trio with special guest Robert Pinsky/POEMJAZZ (March 14); and Maria Schneider Orchestra (April 26) round out the category.

Two classical orchestras will perform: the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta (March 19), and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra led by Gustavo Dudamel (March 23). A three-part series curated by pianist Marc-André Hamelin called “The Art of the Piano” also honors Celebrity Series founder Aaron Richmond, a concert pianist himself. Beginning with a solo recital featuring a premiere of Hamelin’s new “Barcarolle” (Dec. 8), the series continues in a duo recital with Emanuel Ax (April 13) and a chamber concert with clarinetist Martin Fröst and violinist Anthony Marwood (May 2). The program includes Bartok’s “Contrasts,” a nod to Celebrity Series history — one of the earliest performances featured Bartok on piano, with violinist Joseph Szigeti and clarinetist Benny Goodman.

The season includes piano recitals by Yuja Wang (Oct. 18), András Schiff (Nov. 1), Benjamin Grosvenor (Nov. 5), Kirill Gerstein (Jan. 31), Cédric Tiberghien (Feb. 19), and Evgeny Kissin (March 16). Other instrumental recitalists include cellist Yo-Yo Ma (March 21) and violinists Joshua Bell (Nov. 17), Leonidas Kavakos (Feb. 23), and Christian Tetzlaff (March 30). In one adventurous recital, cross-genre mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile adds Bach sonatas and partitas to his repertoire of contemporary stylings (Oct. 20). Cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han tackle Beethoven’s Complete Sonatas for Piano and Cello (Oct. 27).

In addition to a concert by the Danish String Quartet (Nov. 13), France’s Quatuor Ebène (Feb. 28) and Jerusalem String Quartet (March 29) make their Boston debuts. The Takács Quartet plays Bartók’s six string quartets over two concerts (March 20, April 11). A concert by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and Opus 1 with clarinetist David Shifrin features a Celebrity Series co-commission by composer Lowell Liebermann (Jan. 28). Béla Fleck’s Banjo Summit (Oct. 10) and “The Assad Family — A Brazilian Songbook” (April 5) add to the mix. Rob Kapilow’s “What Makes It Great?” series welcomes Rebecca Luker and Michael Winther for a Harold Arlen tribute (Nov. 3), and the Gryphon Trio helps Kapilow illuminate Mendelssohn’s Trio in D minor (Jan. 24).

Vocal performances include Deborah Voigt’s recital (April 27) and her autobiographical evening of songs and stories, “Voigt Lessons” (Nov. 21-22); bass-baritone Gerald Finley (Feb. 7) and soprano Natalie Dessay (March 8) in Boston recital debuts; Brian Stokes Mitchell’s “Simply Broadway” (Jan. 23); tenor Nicholas Phan (April 17), Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky (May 10), and Sweet Honey in the Rock (March 23).

There will be two spoken word events. In “Reinventing Radio,” host Ira Glass reflects on his show “This American Life” (March 9). “Maus” creator Art Spiegelman wonders “What the %@&*! Happened to Comics?” (May 9).

Karen Campbell can be reached at karencampbell4@rcn.com.
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