Boston Symphony Orchestra Announces its 2020-21 Season

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Boston Symphony Orchestra Announces its 2020-21 Season

The 2020-21 Boston Symphony Orchestra season, September 16-May 1, has been specially programmed to offer the BSO's most devoted audiences and newcomers alike a fascinating and wide-ranging spectrum of musical styles and periods-awe-inspiring works with an extraordinary potential to move us through their thrilling beauty, power, and brilliance. The BSO's Andris Nelsons-led Beethoven 250th celebration-a complete cycle of the composer's nine symphonies-will open the season on September 16, with Lang Lang performing Piano Concerto No. 2 on a program with Symphony No. 1. In another major moment of the season, Mr. Nelsons will lead concert performances of Shostakovich's landmark opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, continuing his and the orchestra's ongoing Shostakovich performance and Grammy Award-winning recording cycle, and reaffirming Mr. Nelsons' commitment to an opera presentation each season at Symphony Hall. These two major highlights of the BSO 2020-21 season will be accompanied by specially curated programs designed to go beyond the music-making with multi-layered perspectives that tell the fascinating stories behind the works being performed.

Fourteen works by major composers of our time and 27 artists making debuts receive a special emphasis and bring a dimension of newness and discovery into many of the programs that make up the 2020-21 BSO season. Works to be spotlighted include a world premiere by American composer Julia Adolphe, the American premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina's Prologue, for orchestra, and the reprise of a work recently premiered by the BSO, Kevin Puts's The Brightness of Light, with Renée Fleming and Rod Gilfry, all under the direction of Andris Nelsons. Adding an enhanced dramatic layer to the season will be the presentation of many large-scale works-some of which will receive special multimedia treatments-including the Nelsons-led performances of Scriabin's Prometheus, The Poem of Fire, to close the 2020-21 season April 29-May 1, and a recent work by Julia Wolfe, Her Story, written in commemoration of the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

BSO Programs with Music Director Andris Nelsons

Leading 14 of 24 weeks of BSO programming in 2020-21, Andris Nelsons opens the season on September 16 with the launch of the BSO's Beethoven 250th celebration-a complete cycle of the composer's nine symphonies performed in order on consecutive programs for the first time since Serge Koussevitzky did so in March 1927. This special Beethoven symphony cycle will take place over a two-and-half-week period, beginning with the Opening Night program of Symphony No. 1 and Piano Concerto No. 2 with Lang Lang on September 16, and ending on October 3 with Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9, the latter featuring an acclaimed roster of soloists and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in the Ode to Joy finale, as part of the TFC's 50th anniversary celebration in the 2020-21 season. Additional major works throughout the season under the direction of Mr. Nelsons include Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and Petrushka, Mahler's Fifth Symphony, and six works by Richard Strauss, among them Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Romance for cello and orchestra with Yo-Yo Ma, and Four Last Songs, with Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen in her BSO debut. In addition to Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, the BSO and Mr. Nelsons will continue their Grammy-Award winning recording and performance cycle with Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 3 and 13, Babi Yar, featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Click here for a complete listing of Mr. Nelsons' programs with the BSO.

BSO Titled Conductors-Thomas Adès, Anna Rakitina, and Thomas Wilkins-and Special Guest Artists

Thomas Adès, BSO Artistic Partner, leads a reprise of his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with Kirill Gerstein, following its highly acclaimed world premiere performances in 2019 and the subsequent live recording release from those performances on Deutsche Grammophon in March. Anna Rakitina, BSO Assistant Conductor in her Symphony Hall debut, leads music of Thomas Adès, Rachmaninoff, and Elgar, and Thomas Wilkins, BSO Artistic Advisor for Education and Community Engagement, leads works by Ellington, Gershwin, and Still in celebration of the Harlem Renaissance. Guest conductors include Giancarlo Guerrero (Górecki Symphony No. 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs); Alan Gilbert (Nielsen Symphony No. 3); and Herbert Blomstedt (Sibelius and Mendelssohn). The BSO 2020-21 season also boasts appearances by some of the most popular guest artists of our time, including Mitsuko Uchida, who will begin a three-year cycle of the five Beethoven piano concertos with the BSO and Mr. Nelsons, starting with the First and Third concertos. Other preeminent guest artists include pianists Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Rudolf Buchbinder, Paul Lewis, and Daniil Trifonov; violinists Augustin Hadelich and Gil Shaham, and vocalists Kristine Opolais, Brandon Jovanovich, and Sir Willard White.

27 Debuts and 13 Composers of our Time

The 2020-21 BSO season will see the debuts of 27 guest artists, including the BSO debut of Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov (Shostakovich Symphony No. 13, Babi Yar); Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta (Martinu Cello Concerto No. 1); American soprano Amanda Majeski (Beethoven Symphony No. 9); and Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä, (works of Sibelius and Brett Dean); as well as the Symphony Hall subscription debut of American/Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan (Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2). In addition to Julia Adolphe, Sofia Gubaidulina, Kevin Puts,Thomas Adès, and Julia Wolfe, referenced above, other composers to be featured in 2020-21 include Victoria Borisova-Ollas, Brett Dean, Bernard Rands, and Outi Tarkiainen. In addition, Andris Nelsons will lead works by Detlev Glanert, Brian Raphael Nabors, Arvo Pärt, and Joan Tower.

Casual Fridays and Discounted Ticket Programs; BSO Community Chamber Concerts, and BSO Youth and Family Concerts

"Casual Fridays" will continue in 2020-21 with Friday-evening programs designed to make concerts more affordable and accessible, including free pre- and post-concert receptions for all concertgoers, and an opportunity for audience members to hear from BSO musicians who introduce the program from the Symphony Hall stage. This popular series also features a special section for Conductor-Cam seating, which allows patrons in that section to view the conductor from the orchestra's perspective, as well as ConcertCue, which presents contextual program notes and images on concertgoers' mobile devices in real-time during the musical performance. In addition, the BSO's highly successful $25 tickets for patrons under the age of 40, College Card, High School Card, and Rush Ticket programs-all offering significantly discounted tickets for concertgoers-will continue in the 2020-21 season.

The BSO will present another season of Community Chamber Concerts featuring members of the BSO performing in various community venues throughout Greater Boston and beyond; these programs frequently also include performances by young local musicians. In addition, "Trading Stages," recently introduced and continuing in 2020-21, invites student groups from host communities to perform at BSO events at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood throughout the year (details of both programs will be announced at a later date). The BSO will also present its annual Youth and Family Concert Series, featuring three programs throughout the 2020-21 BSO season, including a program led by BSO Artistic Advisor for Education and Community Engagement Thomas Wilkins. This series will also include two programs featuring the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras: Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with conductor Adrian Slywotsky and a program featuring magician Matt Roberts, led by conductor Marta Zurad.

Additional Information About the Ongoing COVID-19 Health Crisis

Patrons can contact the BSO's Customer Service Department at or 617-266-1200 any time to register questions they might have related to programming, ticket purchasing, or the organization's adherence to official recommendations about COVID-19 in relation to its fall programming. For the most up-to-date information about the orchestra's performance schedule patrons can visit The Boston Symphony Orchestra will always hold the health and well-being of its audience, musicians, staff, guest artists, and the entire BSO community as the highest priority in its decision-making regarding the organization's performance and event schedule.

In honor of Greater Boston's essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis, the Boston Symphony Orchestra will offer special complimentary concert nights and a season-long 50% ticket discount offer (subject to ticket availability). Further details on these offers will be available at in the coming months.


The BSO offers multiple programs in the 2020-21 season to mark the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven's birth, beginning with an all-Beethoven Opening Night concert (9/16). Renowned pianist Lang Lang returns to Symphony Hall for the Piano Concerto No. 2 on a program that opens with the Symphony No. 1. The next two-and-a-half weeks are devoted to performances led by Mr. Nelsons of all the Beethoven symphonies performed in order: Nos. 1 and 2, plus The Consecration of the House overture (9/17), Nos. 2 and 3 (9/19&22), Nos. 4 and 5 (9/24&25), Nos. 6 and 7 (9/26&29), and Nos. 8 and 9 (10/1,2,3). The performances of the Ninth Symphony feature soloists Amanda Majeski, Tamara Mumford, Pavel Cernoch, and Kwangchul Youn, along with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, James Burton, conductor. Beethoven holds a special place in the hearts of the BSO community, as his is the only composer name to be found in Symphony Hall, inscribed in the central position of the stage's proscenium arch. When the concert hall was being designed and constructed, the directors intended to memorialize the names of great composers in plaques lining the proscenium arch and balconies' fronts. In the end, however, the only composer they could all agree upon was Beethoven, whose name appears in the central position at the top of the proscenium, symbolically overseeing all performances taking place on the Symphony Hall stage.

Also in October, Mr. Nelsons leads a program featuring the Love Scene from Strauss's Feuersnot, Detlev Glanert's Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra with BSO principal Thomas Rolfs as soloist, and Kevin Puts's The Brightness of Light with soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Rod Gilfrey (10/8,9,10). The following week Mr. Nelsons leads the American premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina's Prologue, for orchestra (a BSO co-commission) and, continuing the orchestra's ongoing Shostakovich cycle, the Symphony No. 13, Babi Yar, featuring bass Ildar Abdrazakov and the tenor and bass sections of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and New England Conservatory Chorus (10/15,16,17,20). To round out his October concerts, Mr. Nelsons leads the BSO in Haydn's Symphony No. 26, Lamentatione, Britten's Violin Concerto with Augustin Hadelich as soloist, and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (10/22,23,24).

Mr. Nelsons returns to the podium in January 2021 for a concert featuring Brian Raphael Nabors's Pulse, Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Daniil Trifonov as soloist, and Holst's The Planets with women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (1/7,8,9,12). The following week Rudolf Buchbinder is soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor on a program also featuring Mahler's Symphony No. 5 (1/14,15,16,19). For his final January concerts, Mr. Nelsons leads Haydn's Te Deum featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 2 with Gil Shaham as soloist, and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 3, The First of May, which also features the chorus and continues the Andris Nelsons/BSO Shostakovich project (1/21,22,23).

In mid-March Andris Nelsons returns with multiple programs to close the BSO's 2020-21 season, beginning with an all-Strauss program (Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, the Symphonic Fantasy from Die Frau ohne Schatten, and, with soprano Lise Davidsen, the Four Last Songs) that continues the orchestra's exploration of the composer's works (3/18,19,20,23). A special Sunday non-subscription matinee concert (3/21) features Yo-Yo Ma performing Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1 and Strauss's Romance for cello and orchestra on a program with the Symphonic Fantasy from Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten and his Death and Transfiguration. The final March program opens with the world premiere of a new work, a BSO co-commission, by young American composer Julia Adolphe and continues with Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 with Paul Lewis as soloist, and Dvorák's Symphony No. 7 (3/25 &26).

April brings the now annual BSO opera performance led by Mr. Nelsons. The most ambitious single endeavor in the BSO and Andris Nelsons' multi-year Shostakovich survey, the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was also an immense undertaking for its twenty-four-year-old composer. Celebrated soprano Kristine Opolais sings the leading role in this dark portrayal of Katarina Izmailova, the oppressed, ambitious, and ultimately murderous wife of a provincial merchant. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk became a worldwide sensation following its 1934 premiere, but it also led to the first major crisis between Shostakovich and Joseph Stalin's oppressive regime. The enormous cast also includes Brandon Jovanovich as Sergei, Sergei Skorokhodov as Zinovy Izmailov, Vladimir Vaneyev as Boris Izmailov, and Sir Willard White as the Old Convict. Following a mid-April repeat of the Adolphe-Mozart-Dvorák program (4/16-17), the penultimate program of the season includes Joan Tower's Chamber Dance, and a pair of Beethoven piano concertos, Nos. 1 and 3, with soloist Mitsuko Uchida (4/22,23,24,27). The season-closing concerts feature an all-Russian program of works composed during the period 1909-11: Stravinsky's Petrushka, Liadov's The Enchanted Lake and Kikimora, and Scriabin's Prometheus, The Poem of Fire, for piano, chorus, color organ, and orchestra, the latter featuring Yefim Bronfman as piano soloist and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (4/29&30;5/1). The unusual Scriabin work also calls upon the talents of Anna Gawboy for lighting research and Justin Townsend as lighting designer for the color organ, an instrument designed specifically for performances of this tone poem.

Ticket Information:

Subscriptions on Sale on May 11; Single Tickets on sale August
Subscriptions for the BSO's 2020-21 season will be available on May 11 at 10 a.m., by calling the BSO Subscription Office at 888-266-7575 or online through the BSO's website. Single tickets, starting at $30, will go on sale in August. Tickets may be purchased by phone through SymphonyCharge (617-266-1200 or 888-266-1200), online through the BSO's website, 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.

American Express, MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club, and Discover (in person or by mail) and cash (in person only) are all accepted at the Symphony Hall Box Office. Gift certificates are available in any amount and may be used toward the purchase of tickets (subject to availability) to any Boston Symphony Orchestra or Boston Pops performance at Symphony Hall or Tanglewood. Gift certificates may also be used at the Symphony Shop to purchase merchandise.

Patrons with disabilities can access Symphony Hall through the Massachusetts Avenue lobby or the Cohen Wing on Huntington Avenue. An access service center, accessible restrooms, and elevators are available inside the Cohen Wing entrance. For ticket information, call the Access Services Administrator at 617-638-9431 or TDD/TTY 617-638-9289.

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