The era of the guest conductor continues in the BSO’s 132nd season, with 17 conductors presiding over 26 concerts. BSO principal players and sections also once again will perform in a conductor-less program. Artistic Administrator Tony Fogg has put together a season with a fine variety of repertoire and soloists.
In a reprise before the regular season starts, Bramwell Tovey conducts a special concert performance of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (Sept. 27-29). Itzahk Perlman will make his conducting debut with the BSO in the non-subscription opening concert, appearing in the dual roles of soloist and conductor in an all-Beethoven concert on September 22 nd. BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink closes the season with music of Brahms, Schubert, and Mahler (April 25-30 and May 2-4). In between, Charles Dutoit, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, and Daniele Gatti lead three programs each, and Christoph von Dohnányi leads two. Vladimir Jurowski makes his BSO debut leading Mendelssohn and Shostakovich (Oct. 11-13), Andris Nelsons makes his subscription series debut with music of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky (Jan. 31-Feb. 5), and Stéphane Denève returns to Symphony Hall for the third consecutive season (program TBA, Nov. 29-Dec. 1). Composer-conductors Thomas Adès (Nov. 15-17) and Oliver Knussen (April 12-13) lead programs including music of their own; an impressive list of other 20th-century and contemporary composers includes works by Henri Dutilleux, James MacMillan, Kaija Saariaho, Roberrto Sierra, and Augusta Read Thomas. Pianist-conductor Christian Zacharias is showcased in music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (Nov. 23-27). Other returnees to the Symphony Hall podium include Christoph Eschenbach, Giancarlo Guerrero, and Juanjo Mena, as well as New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert and BSO Assistant Conductor Marcelo Lehninger.
The BSO press office provided this week-by-week summary:
ITZHAK PERLMAN LEADS THE BSO AS CONDUCTOR AND SOLOIST IN ALL-BEETHOVEN PROGRAM SEPTEMBER 22
Legendary Israeli-born violinist Itzhak Perlman joins the Boston Symphony Orchestra as both soloist and conductor on September 22 to begin the 2012-13 season with an all-Beethoven Opening Night at Symphony. The program begins with the composer’s lyrical early Romances No. 1 and 2 for violin and orchestra, dating from 1798-1802, and concludes with the dance-infused Symphony No. 7—dating from about a decade after the Romances—which the composer himself acknowledged as one of his finest works.
BRAMWELL TOVEY CONDUCTS CONCERT PERFORMANCES OF GERSHWIN’S PORGY AND BESS
Reprising one of the highlights of Tanglewood 2011, English conductor Bramwell Tovey, the BSO, a distinguished cast of soloists—headlined by Alfred Walker and Laquita Mitchell in the title roles—and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus present concert performances of George Gershwin’s great American masterpiece, the blues-and-jazz-inflected Porgy and Bess, a view of African-American life in the South Carolina fishing community of Catfish Row during the 1920s. Described by the composer as an “American folk opera,” Porgy and Bess premiered on Broadway in 1935 and only slowly gained traction in the traditional world of opera. Three quarters of a century later, it has assumed its rightful place among the greatest works of America’s music.
JOSHUA BELL JOINS BSO AND CONDUCTOR MARCELO LEHNINGER FOR BERNSTEIN’S SERENADE (AFTER PLATO’S “SYMPOSIUM”) OCTOBER 4-6
Acclaimed for his previous Boston Symphony performances at both Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall, the young BSO assistant conductor Marcelo Lehninger leads an October 4-6 program pairing the Romantic with the ruminative. American violinist Joshua Bell is soloist in Bernstein’s five-movement Serenade—a violin concerto in all but name—inspired by Plato’s immortal dialogue on the nature and value of love, Symposium. Also on the program are two audience favorites: Tchaikovsky’s emotionally charged fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet, and Dvořák’s bucolic Symphony No. 8, written a few years before the composer’s famous visit to the United States. On October 9, in place of Joshua Bell, the Hawthorne String Quartet, made up of four BSO members, is featured in the multi-faceted Concerto for String Quartet and Wind Orchestra (1930) of Ervin Schulhoff, a gifted Czech composer-pianist whose music reflects influences ranging from Baroque and dance-based- musical forms to blues and jazz, and whose life was cut short during World War II.
IN HIS BSO DEBUT, VLADIMIR JUROWSKI LEADS SHOSTAKOVICH’S SYMPHONY NO. 4 AND MENDELSSOHN’S VIOLIN CONCERTO FEATURING ARABELLA STEINBACHER OCTOBER 11-13
Making his Boston Symphony debut, Vladimir Jurowski, principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, leads the BSO October 11-13 with German violinist Arabella Steinbacher as soloist in Mendelssohn’s sparkling Violin Concerto. Though the concerto is now a familiar repertoire staple, its solo-violin opening and three movements flowing together without pause were quite unusual for their time. The program concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, a dark but powerfully majestic work the composer finished in 1936. He withdrew the work prior to its premiere due to fears of official condemnation, writing instead the universally acclaimed, heroic Fifth the following year. The Fourth waited another quarter-century for its first performance.
CHARLES DUTOIT, NIKOLAI LUGANSKY, AND SOLOISTS FROM THE ORCHESTRA IN DEBUSSY, MARTIN, AND RACHMANINOFF OCTOBER 18-23
Acclaimed conductor Charles Dutoit leads the orchestra October 18-23 in a program overflowing with virtuosity. Soloist Nikolai Lugansky makes his BSO debut in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a massive and daunting work that tests every aspect of a pianist’s skill. Not to be outdone, the orchestra’s first-chair wind players step to the front of the stage to demonstrate the BSO’s own resident virtuosity in Frank Martin’s mid-20th-century Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra. Rounding out the program are Debussy’s Fanfares and Symphonic Fragments from The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, from the composer’s incidental music to Gabriele d’Annunzio’s mystery play of the same name.
CONDUCTOR DUTOIT RETURNS OCTOBER 25-27 FOR OPERATIC DOUBLE-BILL OF STRAVINSKY AND RAVEL
Charles Dutoit takes the podium for a second week October 25-27, leading the BSO, an international cast of vocal soloists, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in a compelling operatic double bill pairing Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortileges (The Child and the Magic Spells). Stravinsky’s 1914 opera The Nightingale—begun before but completed after his famous trio of ballets for Sergei Diaghilev—is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about a Chinese emperor and two nightingales—one real, the other mechanical. Completed in 1925, Ravel’s one-act opera L’Enfant et les sortilèges—the story of a child movingly taught the meaning of love and affection—is infused with whimsy and magic.
JUANJO MENA LEADS AMERICAN PREMIERE OF SAARIAHO’S CIRCLE MAP NOVEMBER 1-6
Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, leads the BSO’s November 1-6 program, including the American premiere of influential Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s Circle Map, for orchestra and electronics, a BSO co-commission here receiving its American premiere. Violinist Gil Shaham, a frequent guest with the orchestra, joins the BSO for Benjamin Britten’s rarely performed Violin Concerto, and the program concludes with Dvořák’s darkly majestic Symphony No. 7, which bespeaks both his love for his native Bohemia and the influence of his mentor, Johannes Brahms.
CONDUCTOR GIANCARLO GUERRERO AND PIANIST DANIIL TRIVONOV COLLABORATE NOVEMBER 8-10 IN TCHAIKOVSKY’S PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1, ON A PROGRAM WITH MUSIC OF PROKOFIEV AND SIERRA
At the heart of the BSO’s November 8-10 program—led by Costa Rican conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, music director of the Nashville Symphony, and featuring Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov in his BSO debut—are two powerhouse Russian works: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, a fan-favorite and repertoire staple, and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, described as a “hymn to free and happy Man,” which the composer wrote in 1944 amidst the chaos of World War II. Puerto Rican-born composer Roberto Sierra’s colorful Fandangos for orchestra (2000) opens the program.
COMPOSER/CONDUCTOR THOMAS ADÈS, SOPRANO DAWN UPSHAW, AND PIANIST KIRILL GERSTEIN JOIN BSO NOVEMBER 15-17
English conductor Thomas Adès, who is also renowned as a composer and pianist, takes the podium November 15-17 to lead the BSO in a program including his own composition In Seven Days, for piano and orchestra, featuring soloist Kirill Gerstein. Gerstein also performs Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1, a brief yet brilliant early work dating from the composer’s student years at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Framing the program are two works by Sibelius—his mystical tone poem for soprano and orchestra Luonnotar, a musical take on the Finnish creation story, featuring American soprano Dawn Upshaw, and his poetic, fantasia-like Symphony No. 6.
CHRISTIAN ZACHARIAS LEADS HAYDN, MOZART, AND BEETHOVEN NOVEMBER 23-27
Christian Zacharias displays both his podium and keyboard skills in an all-Classical program November 23-27. Featuring the three great masters of the Austro-German Classical style, the concerts begin with Haydn’s Symphony No. 76, a typically inventive work from 1782. The program continues with Mr. Zacharias at the keyboard for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 18, from 1784, the year he became friends with Haydn in Vienna. For the second half of the program, the BSO plays its first-ever performances of Beethoven’s complete ballet score to The Creatures of Prometheus, dating from 1801.
STÉPHANE DENÈVE AND JEAN-YVES THIBAUDET JOIN BSO IN A PROGRAM FOR FRANCOPHILES NOVEMBER 29 – DECEMBER 1
Returning to the BSO podium for the third consecutive season, French conductor Stéphane Denève, chief conductor designate of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, leads the BSO in a trio of works by composers from his native country: Berlioz’s dynamic overture to the unfinished early opera Les Francs-juges, Albert Roussel’s Suite No. 2 from his 1930 ballet Bacchus et Ariane, and Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 5, Egyptian, with fellow Frenchman Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist. Also on the program are the Three Interludes from The Sacrifice, Scottish contemporary composer James MacMillan’s 2006 opera on a story from The Mabinogion, an ancient collection of Welsh folktales.
ALAN GILBERT AND VIOLINIST LISA BATIASHVILI BEGIN THE NEW YEAR JANUARY 10-15
In-demand young violinist Lisa Batiashvili is featured in Tchaikovsky’s ultra-Romantic Violin Concerto at the heart of a January 10-15 program conducted by New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert, who also also leads the BSO in three 20th-century works: Dutilleux’s Métaboles for Orchestra, in which the composer endeavors to “present one or several ideas in a different order and from different angles, until, by successive stages, they are made to change character completely”; Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, the first major work the composer wrote after moving to the United States in 1939; and Ravel’s remarkable musical deconstruction of dance, La Valse.
DANIELE GATTI MARKS VERDI BICENTENNIAL WITH THE COMPOSER’S REQUIEM JANUARY 17-19
To mark the bicentennial of the composer’s birth in 1813, the Italian conductor Daniele Gatti, music director of the Orchestre National de France, leads the BSO in three performances of Verdi’s Requiem January 17-19 with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and four vocal soloists all making their BSO debuts: soprano Fiorenza Cedolins, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, tenor Fabio Sartori, and bass Carlo Colombara. One of the greatest of all works for orchestra, soloists, and chorus, Verdi’s massive, theatrical Requiem was completed in 1874, dedicated to the memory of the great Italian poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni—a personal hero of Verdi’s—and premiered on the first anniversary of Manzoni’s death.
CHARLES DUTOIT RETURNS JANUARY 24-26, JOINED BY PIANIST STEPHEN HOUGH
Conductor Charles Dutoit returns for his third week of concerts of the season January 24-26 leading a program featuring virtuoso English pianist Stephen Hough in Liszt’s pyrotechnic Piano Concerto No. 1. The program begins with Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Weber—which translates material from works by Carl Maria von Weber into a virtuoso showpiece for orchestra—and concludes with music from Prokofiev’s sweeping and colorful ballet score Romeo and Juliet.
ANDRIS NELSONS AND BAIBA SKRIDE JOIN THE BSO FOR SHOSTAKOVICH AND TCHAIKOVSKY JANUARY 31-FEBRUARY 5
Latvian conductor and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra music director Andris Nelsons, who has conducted the BSO at Carnegie Hall, makes his subscription series debut January 13-February 5, joined by the exciting young Latvian violinist Baiba Skride. Ms. Skride makes her BSO debut as soloist in Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, written in the late 1940s but only premiered in 1955 after Stalin’s death helped relax the constraints on artistic expression in the USSR. The second half of the program is devoted to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, the second of his well-known last three symphonies, all representing musical takes by the composer on the subject of fate.
CHRISTOPH VON DOHNÁNYI LEADS THREE REPERTOIRE STAPLES FEBRUARY 7-12
The eminent German conductor Christoph von Dohnányi leads three masterpieces from the heart of the orchestral repertoire February 7-12. The program begins with Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Haydn, a prime example of theme-and-variations form that happens also to be Brahms’s earliest orchestral masterpiece. French violinist Renaud Capuçon, in his BSO subscription series debut, then joins the orchestra for Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, a pinnacle of the concerto repertoire, and uniquely Sibelian in atmosphere. The program concludes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, a work needing no introduction.
DOHNÁNYI RETURNS WITH PIANIST RADU LUPU FOR MOZART AND BRUCKNER FEBRUARY 14-16
In three concerts February 14-16, revered Romanian pianist Radu Lupu—known for his individual interpretations of the great masterpieces of the piano repertoire—joins Christoph von Dohnányi and the orchestra for Mozart’s elegantly soft-spoken Piano Concerto No. 23, completed in 1786 when Mozart was at the height of his popularity in Vienna. Also on the program—Bruckner’s expansive Symphony No. 4, Romantic, marked by the soaring grandeur and long-breathed melodies so characteristic of that composer.
RAFAEL FRÜHBECK DE BURGOS LEADS MUSIC FOR VOICES AND ORCHESTRA BY STRAVINSKY AND HAYDN FEBRUARY 21-26
Veteran BSO conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos joins the BSO February 21-26 for two very different works for orchestra and voices: the complete music from Stravinsky’s 1919 ballet Pulcinella—an early example, reinterpreting Baroque music, of the composer’s neoclassical style, and named for a character from Italian commedia dell’arte—and Haydn’s Mass in Time of War, composed in 1796 during the series of European wars following the French Revolution. These concerts feature the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, soprano Alexandra Coku, mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, tenor Matthew Polenzani, and, in his BSO debut, bass Ildebrando D’Arcangelo.
LANG LANG JOINS FRÜHBECK DE BURGOS FOR RACHMANINOFF’S PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2 FEBRUARY 28-MARCH 2
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos again takes the podium February 28-March 2 for a program featuring the sensational Chinese pianist Lang Lang, making his BSO subscription series debut in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a prime example of the composer’s Russian-tinged Romanticism. Kicking off the program is Hindemith’s Konzertmusik for Strings and Brass, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky and the BSO on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1931. Bartók’s ingeniously kaleidoscopic Concerto for Orchestra, a Koussevitzky commission premiered by the BSO in 1944, brings the concert to a close. On April 2, Frühbeck de Burgos and the orchestra repeat the works by Hindemith and Bartók, but this time in a program featuring American pianist Garrick Ohlsson in Rachmaninoff’s ever-popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
CHRISTOPH ESCHENBACH, LYNN HARRELL, AND BSO COLLABORATE IN WORLD PREMIERE OF AUGUSTA READ THOMAS’S CELLO CONCERTO NO. 3 MARCH 14-16
A new BSO-commissioned work receives its world premiere performances March 14-16 when Lynn Harrell is the featured soloist in American composer Augusta Read Thomas’s Cello Concerto No. 3. Conducted by National Symphony Orchestra music director Christoph Eschenbach, the program also includes Saint-Saëns’s sonorous Symphony No. 3, his so-called Organ Symphony, featuring French organist Olivier Latry in his BSO debut, as well as Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Jupiter, the composer’s final work in the genre and a pinnacle of the Classical style.
DANIELE GATTI, MICHELLE DEYOUNG, AND THE BSO MARK WAGNER BICENTENNIAL MARCH 21-26
Daniele Gatti, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, and the BSO celebrate the bicentennial of Wagner’s birth with music from four of the composer’s operas—the ethereal Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin; the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, a twenty-minute distillation of Wagner’s four-hour paean to love; orchestral excerpts from Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), the final opera of Wagner’s gargantuan Ring cycle; and vocal and orchestral excerpts from his great final opera, Parsifal, whose title character attains spiritual transcendence as a Knight of the Holy Grail. Also on the program is Wagner’s chamber-musical Siegfried Idyll, composed as an intimate birthday present for his wife Cosima in 1869.
GATTI LEADS MAHLER’S SYMPHONY NO. 3 MARCH 28-30
For his third program of the season, March 28-30, Daniele Gatti conducts Mahler’s multi-faceted and emotionally wide-ranging Symphony No. 3, a work notable for its length, difficulty, and overwhelming cumulative impact. For this performance, the expanded ranks of the BSO are joined by the eminent Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and the boys of the PALS Children’s Chorus. Across its nearly 100-minute length, the broad musical canvas of Mahler’s Third Symphony incorporates a full range musical and emotional expression, moving through rousing fanfares, tender lyricism, and melancholy to the height of exaltation.
COMPOSER/CONDUCTOR OLIVER KNUSSEN LEADS PROGRAM FEATURING HIS OWN WORKS
The distinguished British composer/conductor Oliver Knussen leads music of his own in two concerts April 12 and 13. For his Violin Concerto (2002)—of which Knussen writes that “At times the violinist resembles a tightrope walker progressing along a (decidedly unstable) high wire strung across the span that separates the opening and closing sounds of the piece”—he and the BSO are joined by veteran virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman as soloist, for whom the piece was written. Then, English soprano Claire Booth takes center stage for Knussen’s 1992 Whitman Settings, for soprano and orchestra. The program opens with the Symphony No. 10 by the little-known Russian composer Nikolai Miaskovsky (who wrote twenty-six symphonies in all), and closes with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in a rarely heard orchestration by Leopold Stokowski.
WORKS FOR INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE ORCHESTRA ALLOW BSO MUSICIANS TO SHINE
Following the great success of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s “members-only” concerts in January 2012, the individual sections of the orchestra again take the stage conductor-less, April 18-23, to play Britten’s Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury, Mozart’s Serenade No. 11 in E-flat for winds, K.375, Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings, and Tippett’s Praeludium for brass, bells, and percussion. The full ensemble then joins forces for Britten’s well-known Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, which—in keeping with the program’s overall spirit—shines a spotlight on each section of the orchestra in turn.
BSO CONDUCTOR EMERITUS BERNARD HAITINK LEADS SCHUBERT AND MAHLER APRIL 25-30
BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink—who was the Boston Symphony’s principal guest conductor from 1995 to 2004—takes the helm for the last two weeks of the season, beginning April 25-30 with symphonies of Schubert and Mahler. First comes the teenaged Schubert’s Symphony No. 5, a bracingly youthful work suggestive of Haydn and Mozart, composed in just a few weeks in the summer of 1816. After intermission, Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling joins Haitink and the orchestra for Mahler’s mellifluous Symphony No. 4, a musical journey from earth to heaven that’s also the last of Mahler’s symphonies to use words from the folk poetry collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Youth’s Magic Horn).
BSO BRINGS SEASON TO A CLOSE WITH BRAHMS AND SCHUBERT MAY 2-4
Bernard Haitink returns to the podium May 2-4 to lead the BSO’s final concerts of its 2012-13 subscription season. To start the program, the compelling Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider is featured in Brahms’s soaring Violin Concerto. Mr. Haitink and the orchestra then end the season in grand fashion with Schubert’s Symphony in C, The Great—the composer’s ultimate symphony (in both senses of the word: it is his biggest and last word in the genre)—famously praised for its “heavenly length” by Robert Schumann, who observed also that it “transports us into a world we cannot recall ever having been before.”