Telling of his excitement at the prospects of leading 15 concerts and participating in the planning for the entirety of the 139th season [complete listing HERE], BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons sums up his retrospective and forward-looking fifth term thus:
“The list of composers, soloists, and guest conductors for 2019–20 is so impressive and extensive that I could never acknowledge them all adequately in this short message. We are very happy with the balance we have achieved between presenting many artists in their first appearances with the BSO and honoring some of our most beloved relationships with return appearances.
“An absolute dream come true is the chance to bring my two orchestras together for joint performances as part of the Boston Symphony/Gewandhausorchester Leipzig Alliance. In addition to sharing a deep musical heritage and co-commissioning several new works that speak to the future of our field, next season both orchestras are collaborating on stage for three performances, representing an absolutely unique event in the classical music world.
“I could not be prouder of my beautiful BSO and the talented engineering team who have received four Grammys in the last four years since the start of our Shostakovich cycle on the Deutsche Grammophon label. We’re thrilled to continue that cycle in the coming season with Symphonies Nos. 2 and 12. For another season highlight, we are especially fortunate to have Jonas Kaufmann with us again, and Emily Magee in her BSO debut, for concert performances of Act III from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.”
Fourteen new works—including seven world and American premieres—by composers, including Michael Gandolfi, Galina Grigorjeva, Helen Grime, HK Gruber, Betsy Jolas, Eric Nathan, and Anna Thorvaldsdottir testify to the orchestra’s commitment to the music of the present and future. Nelsons will continue to demonstrate his passionate commitment to opera, the Boston Symphony/Gewandhaus Orchestra Alliance, and the BSO’s Grammy Award-winning Shostakovich cycle. A performance of Act III from Tristan und Isolde, with Jonas Kaufmann and Emily Magee in the title roles; performances of Shostakovich’s Symphonies Nos. 2 (To October) and 12 (The Year 1917); and a two-week residency by the Gewandhaus Orchestra, including joint concerts with the BSO and GHO performing works by Strauss, Haydn, Schoenberg, and Scriabin figure large among the many season highlights . And yes, touchstones of standard repertoire from Bartók, Dvořák, Mahler, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, and Strauss will be in evidence.
Soloists Leif Ove Andsnes, Yefim Bronfman, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Mitsuko Uchida, Yuja Wang, Augustin Hadelich, and Daniel Lozakovich, as well as BSO principal cello Blaise Déjardin will make concerto appearances. Nelsons will lead the BSO on its first tour of Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai they will give another three-concert series at Carnegie Hall. on November 18, April 14, and April 15.
Lucas and Arthur Jussen, the young Dutch duo-pianists will feature as soloists in works of Poulenc and Beethoven, on a program that also includes the world premiere of Eric Nathan’s BSO-commissioned Concerto for Orchestra, under the direction of Andris Nelsons. André Raphel makes his subscription debut leading Uri Caine’s The Passion of Octavius Catto, featuring multifaceted vocalist Barbara Walker in her BSO debut and the specially formed BSO Gospel Choir on a program that also includes works by Coleridge-Taylor and Still. BSO Assistant Conductor Yu-An Chang, also making his subscription debut, leads the world premiere of a new work commissioned by the BSO from Chihchun Chi-Sun Lee, as well as works by Mozart and Tchaikovsky. In his BSO debut, Constantinos Carydis leads Periklis Koukos’ In Memoriam Y. A. Papaioannu and works by Beethoven and Prokofiev.
In addition to these debuts, the BSO welcomes back Susanna Mälkki, who leads the American premiere of a new work for piano and orchestra by Dieter Ammann, with Andreas Haefliger as soloist, as well as music by Fauré, Debussy, and Messiaen; Sir András Schiff, who makes his first BSO appearances as conductor/pianist in a program of works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Bartók; former BSO assistant/associate conductor Marcelo Lehninger who, in his BSO guest conducting debut, leads a Beethoven/Tchaikovsky program with pianist Nelson Freire; and Christoph von Dohnányi who conducts works by Haydn, Ligeti, and Tchaikovsky to bring the 2019–20 season to a close. In addition, BSO Artistic Partner Thomas Adès returns to the BSO podium to lead works by Stravinsky and his own Lieux Retrouvés.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra/Gewandhausorchester Leipzig alliance, curated by Andris Nelsons, breaks new ground this year with the first-ever joint BSO/GHO concerts, taking place at Symphony Hall during the third “Leipzig Week in Boston.” In this third year of the BSO/GHO Alliance, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig itself comes to Boston in late October and early November for two programs of its own, as well as two joint concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, all under the direction of Andris Nelsons. These joint concerts bring together the BSO and GHO feature Olivier Latry in performances of Richard Strauss’ Festive Prelude for organ and orchestra, and BSO wind principals John Ferrillo and Richard Svoboda and GHO string principals Frank-Michael Erben and Christian Giger in Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante in B-flat for oboe, bassoon, violin, and cello; these concerts will also include Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy. This program will also be performed on November 1, at 6 p.m., minus the Schoenberg, for the 2019–20 BSO season gala, followed by a festive dinner celebration throughout Symphony Hall.
In addition, during “Leipzig Week,” Maestro Nelsons, who also serves as artistic leader of the GHO, conducts two performances with that ensemble: a non-subscription concert on October 27 at 3 p.m., in collaboration with Boston’s Celebrity Series, featuring Brahms’ Double Concerto with violinist Leonidas Kavakos and cellist Gautier Capuçon and Schubert’s Great Symphony in C; and a subscription concert on October 29 featuring Mr. Capuçon in Schumann’s Cello Concerto on a Leipzig-themed program also including Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony and music of Mahler and Wagner.
Unprecedented in the classical music world, the BSO/GHO Alliance is a five-year multidimensional collaboration (2018–22) designed to explore each ensemble’s unique world of music-making and the great traditions and historic accomplishments that have influenced their reputations as two of the world’s great orchestras; this special alliance was launched with the first “Leipzig Week in Boston” in February 2018. As the central figure in bringing the BSO and GHO together, Andris Nelsons, who is also Kapellmeister of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, is intricately involved in the planning and implementation of all the programming initiatives of the BSO/GHO Alliance, which was announced in September 2015.
Furthering his personal commitment to the operatic repertoire and to featuring a major opera presentation in each BSO subscription season, Andris Nelsons leads concert performances of Act III of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde on April 9 and 11, following upon the notable success of performances of Act II in 2018. Emily Magee, making her BSO debut as Isolde, and Jonas Kaufmann, returning as Tristan, head a distinguished cast that also includes Michelle DeYoung (Brangäne), Kostas Smoriginas (Kurwenal), and Günther Groissböck (King Marke).
Highlighting the season are premieres of three BSO/GHO Alliance co-commissions, all to be led by Andris Nelsons. The first, Betsy Jolas’ Letters from Bachville, receives its world premiere performances in the concerts of November 7–12, in a concert also featuring Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with Mitsuko Uchida as soloist and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12, The Year 1917, to be recorded live for the BSO’s ongoing Shostakovich cycle (also marking the first BSO subscription performances of this work). The world premiere of Latvian composer Arturs Maskats’ “My River runs to thee…” (Homage to Emily Dickinson), the second of the three BSO/GHO Alliance co-commissions, is part of the subscription program of November 21–26, which also includes Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Daniel Lozakovich making his subscription series debut, and Galina Grifojeva’s On Leaving for unaccompanied choir featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which also participates in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 2, To October, to be recorded live for the orchestra’s ongoing project for Deutsche Grammophon. The final BSO/GHO Alliance co-commission to be presented in 2019–20 is the American premiere of HK Gruber’s Short Stories from the Vienna Woods, which is part of the subscription program of April 2-4, also featuring Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F with soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3. On October 3–5, Mr. Nelsons leads James Lee III’s Sukkot Through Orion’s Nebula, the first work by this American composer to be performed by the BSO. Also on that program are Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with pianist Yuja Wang as soloist, and music [for the same reason noted earlier] from Smetana’s patriotic salute to his Bohemian homeland, Má Vlast.
The opening subscription concerts, September 19–21, initiate the season’s presentation of new works with the world premiere of Eric Nathan’s Concerto for Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Nelsons on a program also including Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos with Dutch duo-pianists Lucas and Arthur Jussen in their BSO debut, as well as Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy featuring Arthur Jussen, Vocal Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus; the TFC also sings in Poulenc’s Gloria (premiered by the BSO in 1961) alongside soprano Nicole Cabell.
Throughout the season Maestro Nelsons collaborates with notable instrumental and vocal soloists. Violinist Augustin Hadelich returns to Symphony Hall September 26–October 1 for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto on a program with Strauss’ Symphonia domestica, the latter work to be recorded as part of the BSO’s ongoing series of Strauss recordings. On November 14, 15, and 16, returning pianist Leif Ove Andsnes performs Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Austrian soprano Genia Kühmeier, in her BSO debut, is featured in Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. Yefim Bronfman returns for three subscription concerts in January, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 on January 28 on a program with Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony arranged by Rudolf Barshai (a work new to the BSO repertoire) and Dvořák’s New World Symphony; the Shostakovich and Dvořák works can also be heard in an all-orchestral concert, January 23–25, with Barber’s Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance filling out the program. On January 30 and 31, Mr. Bronfman is soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 on a program with two BSO signature works: Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2. In his final subscription concerts of the season on April 17, Andris Nelsons leads Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, on a program with Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto, featuring BSO principal cello Blaise Déjardin, who was appointed BSO principal cello in spring 2018, in his first concerto appearance with the orchestra; these two works plus Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2 will make up the program for a concert on April 18.
Highlights of Guest Conductor and Artistic Partner Concerts
Returning to the BSO stage after too-long absences are Sir András Schiff, making his first BSO appearances in the dual role of conductor-soloist with a program of Bach’s Piano Concerto in F minor (BWV 1056), Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto, Brahms’ Haydn Variations, and Bartók’s Dance Suite, October 17–19; Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki with a program of Fauré’s Pavane, Debussy’s La Mer, Messiaen’s “Alleluia on the trumpet, alleluia on the cymbal” from L’Ascension, and the American premiere of a BSO-commissioned work for piano and orchestra by Swiss composer Dieter Ammann, featuring Andreas Haefliger as soloist, October 24–26; and the long-awaited return of Christoph von Dohnányi, who closes the season (April 30–May 2) with Haydn’s Symphony No. 12, Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony, and Ligeti’s Double Concerto for Flute and Oboe with BSO principals Elizabeth Rowe and John Ferrillo as soloists.
Christian Zacharias returns as conductor and pianist for a program of Brahms’ Serenade No. 2 and Schumann’s Introduction and Allegro appassionato for piano and orchestra and Symphony No. 4 on November 29 and 30. The Brazilian-born, former BSO assistant/associate conductor (2010–15) Marcelo Lehninger returns with a program featuring renowned Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and closing with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, January 2–4. French conductor Alain Altinoglu returns for a January 9–14 program featuring the BSO debut of French organist Thierry Escaich as soloist in Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, String Orchestra, and Timpani and Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony. And in his first BSO appearance since the 2016 Tanglewood season, Pinchas Zukerman is conductor and violin soloist for a February 21–25 program that includes Strauss’ Serenade for Winds, Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 (La passione), and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K.216.
In addition, Giancarlo Guerrero is back to lead Helen Grime’s BSO-commissioned Limina, Walton’s Cello Concerto with soloist Johannes Moser, and Duruflé’s Requiem with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, February 27–29. From March 5–7, Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu leads music by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition winner Seong-Jin Cho in his BSO debut, and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.
Thomas Adès, who has recently extended his role as the BSO’s Deborah and Philip Edmundson Artistic Partner through August 2021, returns to the BSO podium March 26–28 for a program bookended by music of Stravinsky—the Pulcinella Suite and Perséphone for speaker, tenor, chorus—plus Adès’ own Lieux retrouvés for cello and orchestra with soloist Steven Isserlis, who premiered the work in 2009. For this program, Adès and the orchestra are also joined by tenor Edgardas Montvidas and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for the seldom-performed Perséphone, Stravinsky’s 1935 mélodrame telling the story of the Greek goddess of spring.
On April 17, following that night’s Casual Friday BSO concert, to celebrate the Tanglewood Festival Chorus’ 50th anniversary, TFC conductor James Burton leads selections from Rachmaninoff’s a cappella choral work All-Night Vigil.
Making his subscription series debut, BSO Assistant Conductor Yu-An Chang leads the world premiere of a BSO-commissioned work from Taiwanese-American composer Chihchun Chi-sun Lee, Mozart’s C major piano concerto, K.503, with Austrian pianist Till Fellner, and Tchaikovsky’s rarely performed Symphony No. 3, Polish, January 16–21. From March 19–21, acclaimed conductor André Raphel makes his subscription series debut with a program of Coleridge-Taylor, Still, and Uri Caine featuring the BSO debuts of the Uri Caine Trio and vocalist Barbara Walker, along with the BSO Gospel Chorus. Being performed for the first time by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in this program, Caine’s Passion of Octavius Catto (2014) is an oratorio about the Reconstruction-era civil rights leader and African-American educator who was murdered in Philadelphia on Election Day, 1871.
Elsewhere in the season, Russian-born conductor Dima Slobodeniou makes his subscription series debut in an October 10–12 program presenting Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony and Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk in Elgar’s Cello Concerto. The young Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis makes his BSO debut in an April 23–28 program featuring the welcome return of soloist Midori in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, closing with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, and including Kodály’s Dances of Galánta and Greek composer Periklis Koukos’ In Memoriam Y.A. Papaioannu.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Andris Nelsons perform a single concert at Carnegie Hall on Monday, November 18, 2019: Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes is soloist in Grieg’s Piano Concerto, which is paired with Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, featuring Austrian soprano Genia Kühmeier. On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, Nelsons leads the orchestra in the New York premiere of HK Gruber’s Short Stories from the Vienna Woods (a BSO co-commission), Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3, and Gershwin’s Concerto in F with French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. On Wednesday, April 15, Nelsons closes the BSO’s two-night residency at Carnegie Hall with a concert performance of Act III of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, starring tenor Jonas Kaufmann and soprano Emily Magee in the title roles. Also featured in the cast are Michelle DeYoung as Brangäne, Kostas Smoriginas as Kurwenal, and Günther Groissböck as King Marke.
The Boston Symphony Chamber Players open their 2019–20 season of four Sunday afternoon concerts at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall on October 20 with guest harpsichordist Paolo Bordignon performing in Elliott Carter’s Sonata for flute, oboe, cello, and harpsichord and Falla’s Concerto for harpsichord, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, and cello. The program also includes Stravinsky’s Octet for Winds; Virgil Thomson’s Sonata da Chiesa for clarinet, horn, trumpet, and viola; and Sofia Gubaidulina’s Etudes for double bass. Pianist David Deveau joins the Chamber Players on January 19 for a Czech and Viennese program of Schulhoff’s Concertino for flute, viola, and double bass; selections from Gyorgy Kurtág’s Signs, Games, and Messages for two violins; Martinů’s Nonet for winds and strings; Reinecke’s Trio in A minor for oboe, horn, and piano; and Brahms’ Trio in A minor for clarinet, cello, and piano. On March 22, the Chamber Players and guest pianist Randall Hodgkinson present works by contemporary composers Kevin Puts (Seven Seascapes for flute, horn, violin, viola, cello, double bass, and piano) and Eric Nathan (Why Old Places Matter for oboe, horn, and piano). The program also includes Smyth’s Variations on “Bonny Sweet Robin” (Ophelia’s Song) for flute, oboe, and piano and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 2 in B-flat, Op 87. To close the Boston Symphony Chamber Players 2019–20 season on April 26, the ensemble performs the world premiere of a new BSO-commissioned work for voices and ensemble by Michael Gandolfi (featuring baritone John Brancy), as well as Britten’s Sinfonietta, Op. 1; Dahl’s Allegro and Arioso for wind quintet; and Mozart’s arrangement for string trio of selected Bach preludes and fugues.
Subscriptions for the BSO’s 2019–20 season will be available on Friday, March 29, at 10 a.m., by calling the BSO Subscription Office at 888-266-7575 or online through the BSO’s website (HERE). Single tickets, ranging from $30 to $148, go on sale Monday, August 5, at 10 a.m. Tickets may be purchased by phone through SymphonyCharge (617-266-1200 or 888-266-1200), online through the BSO’s website (www.bso.org), or in person at the Symphony Hall Box Office (301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston). There is a $6.50 service fee for all tickets purchased online or by phone through SymphonyCharge.
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