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BSO Announces Subscription Season

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Today’s announcement of the BSO’s 144th season raises expectations for many scores of both new and reawakened interests, as well as accommodating desires for a goodly provisioning of comfortable warhorses. The complete calendar is HERE. Though I would always regard any of Beethoven’s symphonies as welcome at any time, it’s somewhat surprising to see that the 2025 season includes all nine. That’s happened here only four of five times before, and only once consecutively—by Serge Koussevitzky in March 1927. 

We had no Mahler this season, but the coming one promises his enormous and inscrutable Eighth Symphony; this year’s Stravinsky lacuna will be remedied with the Violin Concerto, Symphony of Psalms, and Symphony in Three Movements, as well as the familiarly thrilling Firebird Suite. HIs first opera. Die tote Stadt (1920), instantly established the 23-year-old prodigy Wolfgang Korngold. Its many fine moments, such as the immortal “Marietta’s Lied,” convey the emotional wallop of his later Hollywood scores. 

A Grieg-Sibelius event, all warhorses except the Sib Seventh, comes in November. Executive director Chad Smith’s first complete season schedules embraces: plentiful Ravel and Tchaikovsky, including the latter’s less-often-heard Francesca da Rimini; copious Shostakovich, to help Andris Nelsons fill out his namesake cycle; some fine Haydn and Mozart to match Beethoven, one Schubert, the charming Rossinian Sixth Symphony; one Berlioz (Waverley); one Schumann (Piano Concerto with Jonathan Biss, welcome back!); and some lesser-known Russian works, including Rachmaninoff’s striking Symphony No. 3 (his best); and a lovely ancestor, The Enchanted Lake by Anatol Liadov.

Among recently composed works, Tania León is back again with a new commission; Kevin Puts, Carlos Simon, Hannah Kendall, Chen Yi, Adolphus Hailstork, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Gabriela Ortíz likewise, mostly with topical or political pieces; and it’s good that there’s at least one Boston composer represented, Michael Gandolfi, with a work for organ and orchestra (heard here once before), paired with an old BSO favorite, the Saint-Saëns Third Symphony. And the roster of visiting conductors seems intriguing and even stimulating. And important soloists there are aplenty.

We now defer to the BSO press office.

In celebration of Andris Nelsons’s tenth anniversary as music director, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 2024–25 season delves deeper into the popular programmatic themes from Nelsons’ first decade with the orchestra and offers Symphony Hall audiences an exceptional variety of music in wide-ranging styles. Nelsons’s ongoing dedication to vocal, American, and contemporary music—and the BSO’s Grammy Award-winning Shostakovich cycle—are featured front and center, among other highlights. The 2024–25 season also marks the debut of Carlos Simon as its Deborah and Philip Edmundson Composer Chair, a three-season position in which the composer and educator will contribute several new works to the BSO’s repertoire, work together with Nelsons to curate concert programs, and lead educational and outreach initiatives. 

The three distinct concerts planned for Opening Weekend (Sept. 19–21) offer programs designed to engage and excite a broad range of audiences, from Thursday’s BSO Fundraising Gala featuring superstar soloists and premiering a new commission by Simon to Friday’s Boston Pops concert with Cirque de la Symphonie to Saturday’s free Concert for the City planned in collaboration with community partners.  

Throughout the season, the orchestra will draw connections across a broad range of disciplines as part of its commitment to the newly established Humanities Institute. With focuses on the music of Ludwig van Beethoven and 20th-century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, the Humanities Institute will serve to contextualize the BSO’s musical programming while building on the BSO’s history as an orchestra of ideas, augmenting the work of the Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI) through collaborations with other organizations to strengthen community connections and welcome new audiences.  

Partnering with the BSO for these concerts and initiatives will be some of the great solo performers of our time, including appearances by sopranos Renée Fleming and Christine Goerke; pianists Inon Barnatan, Jonathan Biss, Jan Lisiecki, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Sergio Tiempo, and Mitsuko Uchida; organist Olivier Latry; cellists Alban Gerhardt and Yo-Yo Ma; violinists Isabelle Faust, Baiba Skride, and Frank Peter Zimmermann, among many others. 

Quote from Chad Smith, Julian and Eunice Cohen BSO President and CEO:

“We have a lot to celebrate this season. The 2024–25 season is the eleventh with our Music Director Andris Nelsons—a tenure that we were thrilled to extend in January. It’s also our first season with our newly-appointed Composer Chair Carlos Simon, whose work has already been a wild success with our audiences in the U.S. and abroad. And it’s our first full season since we reaffirmed our commitment to the community in Boston and the Berkshires—and made a new pledge to avail ourselves of the unbelievable academic, artistic, cultural, and economic resources that surround both of our campuses—with our new Humanities Institute.”

“All of these elements will be reflected in this season’s programming, beginning immediately with our Opening Weekend. From the Opening Fundraising Gala where Andris and the BSO will premiere the first composition of Carlos’s residency, alongside established and emerging guest stars; to the Cirque de la Symphonie concert, where Keith Lockhart will lead the Boston Pops in a program that will delight the young and young at heart; to the free Concert for the City, where Andris, Keith, and our Youth and Family Concerts Conductor Thomas Wilkins will perform a special program in collaboration with our partners throughout the community—there’s truly going to be something for everyone.”

Quote from Andris Nelsons, Ray and Maria Stata BSO Music Director and Head of Conducting at Tanglewood: 

“My first ten seasons as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra have been among the most joyous of my musical career, and I could not be happier about the connections that continue to evolve and deepen within the BSO and between our musicians and our devoted listeners. In this upcoming 2024–25 Season, we are excited to present and discover a range of new works alongside repertoire deeply beloved by the orchestra. The orchestra and I pledge our absolute commitment to sharing our love of music-making with our dear audiences.” 

“This season brings so much to nourish our senses, spirits, souls, and hearts, including Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s extraordinarily beautiful opera Die tote Stadt and Gustav Mahler’s colossal Eighth Symphony. The Boston Symphony Orchestra last performed the Mahler at Symphony Hall 20 years ago, and it is thrilling to bring all these musical forces—orchestra, choruses, eight soloists, organ—together again. 

“We are also proud to honor the works of Ludwig van Beethoven through performances of the complete symphonies, presented chronologically in consecutive programs, as under BSO Music Director Serge Koussevitzky in March 1927. 

“Dmitri Shostakovich’s works reflect the deep complexities and abysses of human existence—from anguish and darkness to joy and hope—and his music resonates strongly with us and our times. After presenting the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk earlier this year, the BSO’s Shostakovich recording project—for which the brilliant musicians and recording team have won four Grammys—is nearing its completion. Nonetheless, the journey of discovery and rediscovery always continues, and I am looking forward to our Shostakovich programs at the end of the coming season, followed by a European tour and our participation in the wonderful and ambitious Shostakovich Festival in Leipzig together with the Gewandhausorchester in May 2025. 

“This season I am also happy to honor some of our most beloved relationships with return appearances by Renée Fleming, Christine Goerke, Yo-Yo Ma, Baiba Skride, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Mitsuko Uchida, and so many other wonderful artists. We are also excited to present several artist debuts and new works by gifted composers, such as Tania León, Aleksandra Vrebalov, and our new Composer Chair, Carlos Simon. We very much look forward to our continued collaborations with Carlos these next three seasons as we welcome him to the BSO family. This shared musical journey during this 2024–25 season is extremely meaningful to all of us, and so important for bringing our entire community together—our loyal subscribers, as well as many new concertgoers we are always sincerely joyful to welcome to Symphony Hall.” 

Quote from Carlos Simon, Deborah and Philip Edmundson Composer Chair:

“It’s truly a privilege to begin the 2024–25 season as the BSO’s inaugural Deborah and Philip Edmundson Composer Chair and become part of the Symphony’s long history of music making. I am so looking forward to opening the season with a world premiere commission to celebrate Andris Nelsons’ tenth year anniversary with the orchestra.”

 

13 Comments »

13 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. There is much to anticipate; I am disappointed about no Bruckner.

    Comment by William Keller — April 4, 2024 at 3:38 pm

  2. I’m excited to hear the Mahler and the three Stravinsky pieces. But I’m also disappointed that there is no Bruckner. Nelsons seems to have decided that the Gewandhaus is his Bruckner orchestra, the BSO his Shostakovich orchestra–can’t each play, perhaps, half as much of both? And the three Shostakovich symphonies are not “filling out his cycle,” since they’ve all been performed here and recorded in the past few years, and next season’s Shostakovich concerti were both done, I believe, this season.

    Comment by Rob — April 4, 2024 at 3:55 pm

  3. I absolutely concur on my TREMENDOUS disappointment in the BSO for not programming any Bruckner at any point in 2024, the year of the 200th anniversary of Bruckner’s birth. Sorry, BSO – but shame on you for ignoring Bruckner in this of all years. I’m confident this is not an oversight. We have not heard Bruckner’s 8th in Boston from the BSO in 25 or so years (since Haitink’s lackluster performance in 1998, which was not one of his high points in Boston), nor Bruckner’s 5th since Seiji did it in 1992. Either of those symphonies would have been not only appropriate but hugely welcome instead of the “usual suspects” of Bruckner’s 4th, 7th, or 9th (which the Boston Philharmonic is thankfully performing later this month).

    Whatever happened to Andris Nelsons’ stated promise that he would perform one Bruckner symphony each season?

    And if the BSO’s decision-makers are not programming Bruckner due to lack of ticket sales for Bruckner concerts, there’s a simple solution: Program one of the Bruckner symphonies on the 2nd half of the program, and on the first half, program Yo-Yo Ma playing any cello concerto he feels like playing. As everyone knows, all the concerts in such a cycle would instantly sell out – box office problem solved!

    Overall I liked the programming for the season and thought it better than average. I was REALLY happy to see Herbert Blomstedt will be back in February 2025 (at the age of 97 – and hopefully he has another 10 good years left). I’d like to share a personal anecdote. In 1992 I was driving cross-country from the west coast to Boston, largely relying on radio for music. I stopped in Billings MT to visit a friend, and then continued the journey east. As I was crossing the Bighorn Mountains in MT, I lost radio transmission except for one station which came in clearly, the local public radio station which happened to be playing Brahms’ 1st symphony – which I was fortunate to catch from near the beginning. I was riveted by the live performance I was hearing. It wasn’t routine, it was fiery, tender, completely engaged, and had me unusually in its thrall. I kept thinking to myself, who could this be? It was clearly a recent performance because it did not have vintage sound, plus it was live, and the orchestra was outstanding. I suspected it was a European orchestra – perhaps the BPO with Abbado. But I was clueless until I heard the announcer indicate afterwards, “That was Brahms’ 1st symphony, with Herbert Blomstedt conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in a live performance from XXXX” (I don’t remember the year). There was nothing routine about that performance, and it was exceptional. I considered it a gift from above.

    I was personally quite pleased to see the BSO finally bringing back Michael Gandolfi’s extraordinary organ concerto, “Ascending Light.” For those who missed it when it was premiered in 2015, it generated a thunderous response from the audience–and totally deserved. When was the last time anyone can recall any new work being played in Symphony Hall that got that sort of response? (OK, Julia Wolfe’s “Her Story” also did since then – and also totally deserved; but the point is, that kind of response is rare and in this case the audience got it right. I’m glad the BSO is giving Gandolfi’s wonderful piece a second hearing).

    It’s too late for the BSO to do anything about completely ignoring the 200th anniversary of Bruckner’s birth. Let’s hope that in the 2025-2026 season, we hear the welcome return of Bruckner – and hopefully the 8th or the 5th. And I’d welcome hearing either of those works performed by another conductor than Andris Nelsons. As much as I love Nelsons as a conductor, it seems to me his Bruckner is not on the level of a lot of other music that he does well. (Suggestions: I heard Hannu Lintu perform Bruckner 5 live in Iceland and it was an out-of-body experience; Juanjo Mena does Bruckner 6 really well. Really, I’d welcome any seasoned conductor (i.e. someone in their 50s or older) performing Bruckner and hopefully one of the lesser-performed symphonies (how about B8, B5, B2, or even B1?).

    Comment by Mogulmeister — April 6, 2024 at 4:02 am

  4. With all the weeping and wailing about no Bruckner, I should chime in that the BSO is also studiously ignoring the 150th of Charles Ives. I don’t think anyone would seriously argue that Bruckner was Austria’s greatest composer, though there’s a good case to be made that Ives was America’s greatest (so far).

    Comment by Vance Koven — April 6, 2024 at 12:46 pm

  5. It’s Arnold Schoenberg’s 150th as well. You’d think maybe ….

    Comment by David Moran — April 6, 2024 at 2:56 pm

  6. Vance, with all due respect, *I* would argue that Bruckner was indeed Austria’s greatest composer. And not by a small margin. Several friends in Austria have told me that it’s a fact in Germany & Austria — not even open to discussion — that Bruckner is the 2nd-greatest composer of symphonies after Beethoven. I’m not going to argue that point myself – I love them both, although Bruckner’s music personally means a whole lot more to me. But whose symphonies would you rank higher than Bruckner that’s Austrian? Schubert??? Certainly Mozart would be a candidate…but Mozart’s symphonies overall are no threat to Bruckner’s, even if many consider Mozart’s operas the best of his compositions.

    I’ll never forget a joke one of my professors told us in college in a German history course right near the start. He said this nearly verbatim: “You have to hand it to the Austrians – they’ve managed to convince the world that Beethoven was Austrian, and Hitler was German.”

    Comment by Mogulmeister — April 6, 2024 at 3:56 pm

  7. Despite omissions, looking forward to next season.
    However, pressing questions remain about principal musicians MIA – Tamara Smirnova, Martinson, Ansell, Svoboda.
    And the most pressing question of all – who will be the next concertmaster. And while we are at it, who is in the running?

    Comment by Cecilia — April 7, 2024 at 7:35 pm

  8. It is debatable whether Mozart was Austrian, but Haydn was, and Schubert, and Mahler. “My composer is greater than your composer” is not a very entertaining game, but to assert that Bruckner was indisputably a greater composer of symphonies than Haydn, Schubert, or Mahler, and that this opinion is universally held by all Austrians and Germans, is rather immoderate. I might even say absurd. It’s a good thing Mozart wasn’t Austrian, or I would be tempted to say ridiculous.

    Comment by SamW — April 8, 2024 at 10:32 am

  9. Mogulmeister — are you really telling us that Bruckner means more to you than Beethoven? Am I reading you right?

    Comment by Ashley — April 8, 2024 at 2:20 pm

  10. Yes, Ashley. Bruckner’s symphonies overwhelm me. And this is after listening to all of them continuously for 35+ years (the only one I consider to not be a masterpiece is #3 – a noble failure to my ears). Obviously Bruckner owes a huge debt to Beethoven (and Schubert), and that’s not to say I don’t love Beethoven’s great symphonies as well and listen to them regularly (particularly 6,7,9) and also my favorite Schubert symphonies too (5,8,9). But I find nearly all of Bruckner’s symphonies profoundly moving, and deeply transcendent. It’s difficult for me to think of Bruckner’s symphonies as anything less than the pinnacle of the symphonic literature.

    Comment by Mogulmeister — April 9, 2024 at 9:44 pm

  11. De gustibus non est disputandum…good discussion here. Glad we have this blog as a forum for it.

    Comment by Bill Blake — April 10, 2024 at 6:32 pm

  12. I think Haydn leaned Hungarian in his culture, not that the predecessor to the Austro-Hungarian Empire was the best place to get clarity on that subject.

    Comment by SD Gagliano — April 14, 2024 at 8:03 pm

  13. Haydn was born to Austrian parents in Rohrau, a small town on the Austrian side of the Leitha, which separated Austria from Hungary. At five he went to live with a cousin in Hainburg, a larger town nearby, also in Austria, and at the age of eight became a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. It wasn’t until he was twenty-nine that he moved to Eisenstadt to work for the Esterházy family. Prior to that he spent some time as a kapellmeister at a small court in Bohemia, so he was Czech before he was Hungarian, but Austrian before (and after) that. He also made a couple of famous visits to London, so I suppose he was English as well. He died in Vienna. His musical culture was Viennese above all, though of course he added Hungarian touches while he was at Eisenstadt and Esterháza.

    Comment by SamW — April 16, 2024 at 8:04 am

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