BSO March Programs Span Musical Genres And Traditions, Honor Legacies Of Wayne Shorter And Serge Koussevitzky

The eventful month begins with the multi-disciplinary Music of the Midnight Sun Festival, celebrating Nordic music.

By: Feb. 20, 2024
BSO March Programs Span Musical Genres And Traditions, Honor Legacies Of Wayne Shorter And Serge Koussevitzky
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This March, the Boston Symphony Orchestra will present a range of innovative programs that link music with the sciences and humanities, champion the legacies of groundbreaking classical and jazz icons, and introduce dynamic new works to Symphony Hall audiences.

Music of the Midnight Sun (Feb. 28–March 10)

The Boston Symphony Orchestra announces its Music of the Midnight Sun Festival, February 28–March 10. The two-week celebration of Nordic composers, conductors, and artists highlights the music, culture, and folk traditions of Finland, Denmark, and Norway. The festival offers two weekends of BSO programs with guest conductors John Storgårds (Feb. 29–March 2) and Dima Slobodeniouk (March 7–9). Storgårds conducts a program spotlighting the music and culture of his native Finland, including the festival's namesake Midnight Sun Variations by Finnish composer Outi Tarkiainen, the BSO debut of Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto in BSO's first-ever performance of Danish composer Carl Nielsen's 1911 Violin Concerto, and three of Jean Sibelius's tone poems based on Finnish legends. The following weekend, Slobodeniouk leads a fully staged performance of the familiar and much-loved Peer Gynt by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and composer Edvard Grieg, adapted and directed by acclaimed playwright Bill Barclay in an expanded staging from the BSO's 2017 performances (for videos of the 2017 production and Barclay's artist statement, click here). Soprano Georgia Jarman makes her BSO debut as Solveig, Peer's love interest, sharing the stage with actors from Concert Theatre Works and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. These two weekends of performances are bookended by a free performance with Finnish-American violinist and vocalist Sara Pajunen and friends (February 28) and a program of Nordic chamber music with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players (March 10) that includes works by Nielsen, Andriessen, and Anna Thorvaldsdottir. 

Reflecting the BSO's commitment to advancing the humanities, festival events offered in conjunction with the Tanglewood Learning Institute include a series of panel discussions and pre-concert talks that bring the diverse perspectives of researchers, composers, and scholars in conversation with Nordic music. On February 28, co-executive producer at NOVA Julia Cort moderates Light, Loneliness, and Creativity, a free panel on the dynamic interplay between light and creativity and their combined impact on our emotional health. On March 7–9, BSO Director of Program Publications Robert Kirzinger will moderate Peer Gynt and the Nordic Imagination, exploring the origins of Peer Gynt in Norwegian folklore and its cultural influence. For more details on panels and talks, including the full list of panelists and their affiliations, see the complete program details below.  

During the two-week-long festival and before all BSO performances, traditional Finnish Glögi (warm mulled wine and spirits) will be offered for bar service. Patrons will also be treated to special lighting in the concert hall, designed to evoke the aurora borealis. In support of the Midnight Sun Festival, the Boston Public Library curated a Nordic literature reading list. Click here to see it.

Celebrating the Symphonic Legacy of 

Wayne Shorter (March 21 & 23)

On March 21 and 23, the BSO will present an all-Wayne Shorter program, honoring the musical genius of the jazz innovator, composer, bandleader, and saxophonist who passed away in March 2023. These performances feature five longtime Shorter collaborators and jazz legends in their BSO debuts: vocalist and bassist Esperanza Spalding, conductor Clark Rundell, pianist Leo Genovese, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and saxophonist Dayna Stephens. Five-time Grammy Award winner spalding wrote the libretto for Shorter's 2022 opera ...(Iphigenia), one of the six pieces the BSO will perform, which was premiered in Boston in 2021 and is based on the ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides. Other programmatic highlights include the mesmerizing Gaia, another longform jazz-orchestral work with a vocal part by spalding, and an orchestral arrangement of Orbits, which won Shorter a Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo in 2014, nearly 50 years after he first recorded the piece with Miles Davis.

"Celebrating the Symphonic Legacy of Wayne Shorter" continues the rich history of the BSO and Boston Pops spotlighting jazz compositions and performers that have included Wynton Marsalis, Gunther Schuller, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Victor Wooten, Benny Goodman, and, in last October's Opening Night at Symphony, the Aaron Diehl Trio. That tradition continues in the 2024 Spring Pops Season with a season-opening performance by multitalented artist Harry Connick Jr. (May 10 & 11) and the latest installment of the beloved Roots of Jazz series headlined by saxophonist Branford Marsalis and with the debut of pianist Jesus Molina (May 22 and 23). 

Kousssevitzky150 Composition Premieres

March brings the American premieres of two of the season's four Koussevitzky150 compositions, commissioned by the BSO in honor of the sesquicentennial of legendary former BSO Music Director Serge Koussevitzky. Eminent English conductor Sir Mark Elder joins to lead the U.S. premiere of Elena Langer's The Dong with a Luminous Nose, for cello, chorus, and orchestra, featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the BSO's principal cellist Blaise Déjardin as soloist (March 14–16). Jointly commissioned with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in March 2023, the whimsical piece draws inspiration from Edward Lear's romantic “nonsense poem,” and is programmed with two other works inspired by folklore, the ballet score of Maurice Ravel's Mother Goose and Antonín Dvořák's The Noonday Witch, as well as Leoš Janáček's energetic Sinfonietta.

Two weeks later (March 28–30), celebrated Venezuelan conductor Domingo Hindoyan makes his BSO debut leading the American premiere of Roberto Sierra's Sinfonía No. 6, Reflexión urbana, a BSO co-commissioned work that highlights the climate crisis. Hindoyan frequently champions Sierra's music and recorded the electric Sinfonía No. 6 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, where he is Chief Conductor, in 2023. Sierra's piece is followed by two great Romantic masterpieces; Edward Elgar's regal Cello Concerto, performed by Pablo Ferrández in his BSO debut, and Dvořák's majestic Symphony No. 7.

Additional Koussevitzky150 pieces in the BSO's 2023–24 season include two monumental works commissioned by the former Music Director: Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-symphonie (April 11–14) with acclaimed piano soloist Yuja Wang, who won a 2024 Grammy Award for the Best Classical Instrumental Solo, and Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 4 (April 25–27). The celebration continues this summer at Tanglewood with a full weekend of music Koussevitzky commissioned or premiered and a companion Tanglewood Learning Institute presentation “The Legacy of Serge Koussevitzky” (July 26–28). 

Tickets for the 2023–24 BSO season on sale through, or by calling 888-266-1200, or by visiting The Symphony Hall Box Office.


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