Whatcom Symphony opens season Oct. 11 with James Ehnes

Violinist James Ehnes is guest soloist at Whatcom Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert, Oct. 11 at Mount Baker Theatre.
Violinist James Ehnes is guest soloist at Whatcom Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert, Oct. 11 at Mount Baker Theatre. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Music director Yaniv Attar says Whatcom Symphony Orchestra opens its 2015-16 season, its 40th, “with a bang” at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, at Mount Baker Theatre.

“This season is definitely about celebration of 40 years of music making here in Bellingham, and I think every concert in our season will reflect that,” he says.

Sunday’s program includes Leonard Bernstein’s overture to “Candide,” in a salute to the 25th anniversary of Bernstein’s death; Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, featuring international touring musician James Ehnes, who, Attar says, is one of the finest living violinists.

“I think the Bernstein is a wonderful way to open the season in a very festive way,” says Attar, now in his third year conducting the symphony.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is one of the most recognized pieces in classical music — the one that begins with “duh duh duh DUH,” “so we are really opening with a bang,” Attar says.

Ed Rutschman presents a pre-concert lecture at 2 p.m. in the theater’s Encore Room. Admission to the lecture is free, but seating is limited.

Here’s what’s coming up later in the season.

On Nov. 2, the symphony will perform a world premier by Sean Hickey, written for the symphony’s 40th anniversary. The work is called “Hitherto” and Attar says it’s “terrific.” The concert also features Bruch’s Double Concerto for Viola and Clarinet, with guests Morgan Katz on clarinet and Dimitri Murrath on viola. The concert also includes excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet “Romeo and Juliet.”

“This year is our 40th, but 400 years of Shakespeare, so this is a great way to honor that,” Attar says.

The holiday concert is Dec. 6, with the symphony collaborating with Bellingham Children’s Choir, directed by David Post, and a local jazz group (details to come).

March 6 is the “Harmony from Discord,” concert, the first in a three-year program of composers from the Holocaust.

In May, the program features music with Spanish and Latin American flavor, with Piazzola’s “The Four Seasons in Buenos Aires.”

The orchestra’s last concert, next June, features two works that Attar calls “two titans:” Alesio Bax plays the Emperor Concerto by Beethoven — “so we begin the season with a Beethoven violin concerto and close with Beethoven piano concerto,” Attar says — and Mahler’s First Symphony, which is nicknamed “Titan.”

The symphony continues its school outreach programs throughout the year, and a free family concert in April at Mount Baker Theatre.

A season extra: Seattle Rock Orchestra returns for a second year, performing “The Magic of Motown” on Feb. 13.

“This season has everything,” Attar says, “amazing soloists, familiar and unfamiliar music, new discoveries, and a world premier.”

Whatcom Symphony Orchestra’s “A Royal Opening”

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11

Where: Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.

Cost: $44 and $49

Details: 360-734-6080, mountbakertheatre.com, whatcomsymphony.com