The Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, will play Beethoven’s Ninth at the Cal Performances gala in September. Photo: Nohely Oliveros
The Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, will play Beethoven’s Ninth at the Cal Performances gala in September. Photo: Nohely Oliveros

A gala outdoors performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a novel mixture of Olivier Messaien and Berkeley photographer Deborah O’Grady, a rare visit from Paris’ Ensemble Intercontemporain, and Twyla Tharp’s 50th anniversary tour are among the highlights for Cal Performances 2015-16 season, which was announced this week.

The season marks the launch of Berkeley RADICAL (Research and Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts, Learning), a new framework in which artists will engage with Cal Performances through commissioning, creation, presentation, documentation and dissemination; with the university’s community of scholars and students; and with the Bay Area public.

Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela kick off Berkeley RADICAL with a week-long residency centered around performances of Beethoven’s final three symphonies. The Ninth Symphony will be performed at a gala performance at the Greek Theatre on Friday, Sept. 25.

“I can’t think of a better way to launch Berkeley RADICAL than with this music, this conductor and this orchestra,” said Matías Tarnopolsky, executive and artistic director of Cal Performances.

Twyla Tharp celebrates 50 years of choreography at Cal Performances in Zellerbach Hall in October. Photo: Richard Avedon)

Berkeley RADICAL events are grouped in three strands: the natural world, “ReVisions” and ZellerBACH. The natural world includes a January performance of Messaien’s “Des Canyons aux Etoiles” by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, with a visual essay by O’Grady. Messaien wrote his work after visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument in 1973. Tarnopolsky pointed out that the national parks system was inspired by a 1915 conference at UC Berkeley.

ReVisions looks at new approaches to performance, including Matthias Pintscher and the Ensemble Intercontemporain with a premier of UC Berkeley composer Edmund Campion’s “Cluster X,” with video by Kurt Hentschläger. ZellerBACH includes — no surprise — Johann Sebastien Bach by numerous artists.

“You can never have enough Bach,” Tarnopolsky said.

Among the other highlights of the season are the innovative theater troupe Rude Mechanicals performing “Stop Hitting Yourself,” choreographer Trajal Harrell’s dance-theater work, “The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai,” a recital by soprano Renée Fleming, violinist Gil Shaham playing Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, Berkeley favorite Kent Nagano with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Brentano Quartet and the Danish String Quartet, as well as Cal Performances regulars the Takács Quartet and the Kronos Quartet.

Sarah Koenig, the creator of the Serial podcast, will be speaking about “binge-worthy journalism,” together with her co-creator, Julie Snyder in March. Wynton Marsalis is returning with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in September. Senegalese great Youssou N’Dour will be performing in November, and the Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club will be visiting Zellerbach Hall in their Adiós Tour in October.

Full details of the season are available on the Cal Performances website.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...