Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Celebrates 125th Anniversary

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Music Director Louis Langrée announced details of the much-anticipated 125th Anniversary Season beginning in September at Music Hall. The 2019-20 season welcomes acclaimed guest artists including Renée Fleming, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Artist-in-Residence Guy Braunstein and Grammy winner Isabel Leonard, among others. The season includes performances of Beethoven's legendary Akademie program, a fully staged production of Ravel's opera, L'Enfant et les sortilèges, seven CSO commissions, five world premieres, three U.S. premieres, as well as an experimental new concert series titled CSO Proof. The 125th Anniversary Season marks the launch of new initiatives both on and off the stage that build on the CSO's legacy. Leading up to the season, the Orchestra presents CSO Look Around, a first-of-its-kind event celebrating community, diversity, and inclusivity on August 3.

"The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is proud of its history and extraordinary 125-year legacy," said Music Director Louis Langrée. "We are fortunate to be able to draw on this history for inspiration as we work to create the future of music in Cincinnati and continue looking forward to the next 125 years."

Founded by 15 women under the leadership of future First Lady of the United States Helen Herron Taft, the CSO presented its debut concert on January 17, 1895.

"This coming season reflects the Orchestra's artistry as well as a commitment to pulling the art form forward, fulfilling our mission to seek and share inspiration, and advancing our vision to better engage broader audiences and our wider community," said CSO President Jonathan Martin.

The CSO season is presented by Western & Southern Financial Group.


Prior to the start of the season, the Orchestra presents CSO Look Around, a first-of-its-kind event celebrating community, diversity, and inclusivity with the Orchestra as the centerpiece. The event culminates in a new musical work created by Shara Nova, Mark DeChiazza with collaborators Siri Imani and 30 artists and groups from the Cincinnati region with collaborators in and around Washington Park on Saturday, August 3. The project has so far involved 30 different community organizations.

"I can think of no better way to kick off this celebratory season than to bring people together through music in the spirit of seeking and sharing inspiration," said Mr. Langrée.

CSO Look Around is supported by P&G and the Jackie and Roy Sweeney Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.


The 125th Anniversary season commences September 20 and 21 at Music Hall. Mr. Langrée opens the program with Richard Strauss' Don Juan, which Strauss himself conducted during his first visit to Cincinnati in 1904, and closes with the composer's An Alpine Symphony, a massive symphonic work that had its U.S. premiere with the CSO in 1916. Between the two Strauss pieces is the U.S. premiere of Cincinnati-native Bryce Dessner's Concerto for Two Pianos featuring Katia and Marielle Labèque.


Acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming returns to Cincinnati to celebrate the Orchestra's 125th anniversary with unique programs on January 10 and 11, 2020.

Mr. Langrée conducts Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs with Ms. Fleming on January 10. The program also includes the CSO performing Lili Boulanger's Of a Spring Morning, August Holmès' La Nuit et l'Amour, and the Cincinnati debut of Behzod Abduraimov performing Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto.

For the January 11 Anniversary Gala Concert, also conducted by Mr. Langrée, Ms. Fleming will sing Richard Strauss' Liebeshymnus, Morgen, and Cäcilie. The celebratory program also includes the Boulanger and Rachmaninoff from the previous night's concert, but then closes with Ms. Fleming performing popular favorites from Broadway and film with Mr. Langrée and the CSO.

Ms. Fleming's appearance is made possible by the Harold C. Schott Foundation/Francie and Tom Hiltz, Trustees and the concert weekend is sponsored by Messer Construction.


For the CSO's actual 125th-birthday weekend of January 18 and 19, 2020, Mr. Langrée conducts a concert program honoring the Orchestra's legacy of music making. The concert opens with a world premiere commission by retired CSO Principal Bassoon William Winstead, who performed in the Orchestra for 31 years. Next is Exil! composed by legendary violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, who served as CSO Music Director from 1918 to 1922. That work leads to Duke Ellington's New World A-Comin', which the CSO recorded with Mr. Ellington in 1970. Pianist Aaron Diehl will make his CSO debut in the Ellington work.

George Gershwin has not performed with the CSO since 1929, but thanks to a piano roll he created in 1925, the CSO will again accompany the late composer and pianist in his iconic Rhapsody in Blue using that captured performance for the 125th Anniversary Celebration concerts.

The 125th-Anniversary Celebration concerts close with Mr. Langrée conducting pieces that explore creation: Daniel Bjarnason's Collider, which the CSO commissioned and premiered at the 2015 MusicNOW Festival, and Scriabin's Prometheus: Poem of Fire. Poem of Fire includes the realization of Scriabin's imagined instrument, the clavier à lumières, or "keyboard of light," thanks to a newly commissioned video installation by acclaimed artist Tal Rosner. Vadym Kholodenko will also make his CSO debut performing the Scriabin.


In the final season of the CSO's three-year Beethoven Revolution exploring all nine of the composer's symphonies, Mr. Langrée leads the CSO in a recreation of the legendary Akademie concert, held in Vienna in December, 1808. The most important performance in Beethoven's lifetime, the concert featured the premieres of his Fifth and Sixth symphonies as well as the Fourth Piano Concerto with the composer himself at the keyboard.

On February 29 and March 1 of 2020, the Orchestra performs the Akademie concert program in its entirety. Each performance will be divided by a dinner break and audience members will be given the opportunity to dine in the Music Hall Ballroom, which will be transformed into a Viennese Biergarten.

Joining Mr. Langrée and the CSO are: the May Festival Chorus under the direction of Robert Porco performing Beethoven's Gloria and Sanctus from Mass in C and the Choral Fantasy; soprano Dorothea Röschmann making her CSO debut with Ah! Perfido; and pianist Inon Barnatan performing the Piano Concerto No. 4, Improvised Fantasia and the Choral Fantasy.

The Akademie concert weekend is supported by Mace Justice.


On February 7 and 8, 2020, Mr. Langrée conducts Ravel's fantastical opera, L'Enfant et les sortilèges, in James Bonas and Grégoire Pont's imaginative and colorful production utilizing video animation and the Orchestra on stage. Soprano Isabel Leonard, who won a Grammy for singing this lead role, makes her CSO debut. The production also features artists from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. The program opens with Jean-Yves Thibaudet performing Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 5, Egyptian.


The 125th Anniversary Season comes to a close on May 16 and 17, 2020, with Mr. Langrée conducting a world premiere commission by composer Julia Adolphe and Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, the women of the May Festival Chorus and the Cincinnati Boychoir. The CSO performed the U.S. premiere of Mahler's Third Symphony at the 1914 May Festival


New for the 2019-20 season is CSO Proof, a new three-concert series presented in the reconfigured, vast backstage space at Music Hall. This series seeks to more intimately connect artists and listeners in fresh and compelling ways. The series features different curators and elements of theater and dance that will add new dimensions of color and texture to the concert experience.

In the inaugural season of CSO Proof, the Orchestra is collaborating with a number of curators including: pianist/composer Timo Andres, visual artist Frédéric Nauczyciel and Cincinnati's own Contemporary Art Center, as well as choreographer Rosie Herrera. These collaborators offer new perspectives and bring an experimental aesthetic to the live orchestral experience.

"For an orchestra to evolve, it must innovate," said Mr. Martin. "That doesn't mean we cease performing timeless masterpieces of the orchestral canon; that music is fundamental to what we do and who we are, yet at the same time, we must take advantage of the extraordinary breadth of new, eclectic artistic talent and deploy it in a way that better engages the community we serve, and in doing that, draw inspiration from that community."

CSO Proof is supported by Tom and Molly Garber.


The CSO has always drawn inspiration by commissioning and performing new music. In the first 125 years, 325 works received their U.S. or world premieres given by the Orchestra. For the 125th anniversary season, the CSO performs commissions from a diverse array of composers including Christopher Rouse, Julia Wolfe, Gabriella Smith, Sebastian Currier, Julia Adolphe, Caroline Shaw and William Winstead. All in all, there are seven CSO commissions, five world premieres and three pieces having U.S. premieres.

Commissions have been made possible by Dianne and J. David Rosenberg, Ann and Harry Santen, Irwin and Melinda Simon, and Classical Movements' Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program.


The CSO welcomes Guy Braunstein as the 2019-20 Artist-in-Residence. The youngest person ever to be appointed Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2000, Mr. Braunstein held that position for twelve years before leaving to pursue his international solo career.

In addition to a host of education and community engagement activities in Cincinnati, Mr. Braunstein performs as the violin soloist on Lalo's Symphonie espagnole with Mr. Langrée conducting on October 18 and 19, and then will serve as both the guest conductor and leader for concerts on April 25 and 26, 2020. The program includes George Walker's Lyric for Strings, the U.S. premiere of Ohad Ben-Ari's Forgiveness and Hope, Schoenberg's Transfigured Night, and Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony.


There is a tradition in Cincinnati of collaborating with established artists and rising stars from around the world, and for the 2019-20 season, the list of returning guest artists includes: Anne-Sophie Mutter performing Beethoven's Violin Concerto, Gil Shaham performing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, Emanuel Ax performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20, and musical futurists S? Percussion performing a suite from Lully's comedy ballet, Le Bourgerois gentilhomme as well as David Lang's man made. These are just a few of the remarkable guest artists the CSO is collaborating with in the 2019-20 season.


The CSO welcomes back returning guest conductors including May Festival Music Director Laureate James Conlon, Simone Young, former CSO Associate Conductor Keitaro Harada, Peter Oundjian, and Xian Zhang during the 19-20 season.


Among the season's CSO subscription debuts are guest conductor Eun Sun Kim, who made her U.S. concert debut in May of 2018 leading a May Festival performance of the Verdi Requiem. On September 28 and 29 she conducts the world premiere of a piece by Gabriella Smith, Beethoven's Violin Concerto with Anne-Sophie Mutter, and Brahms' Symphony No. 4.

Spanish guest conductor Gustavo Gimeno makes his CSO debut on October 25 and 26 leading performances de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain with pianist Ingrid Fliter and Dvo?ák's New World Symphony. The concert program opens with the U.S. premiere of Francisco Coll's Hidd'n Blue.

Guest conductor Thomas Wilkins makes his CSO subscription debut with concerts on November 15 and 16. He leads a program highlighting music by African American composers including Adolphus Hailstork's An American Port of Call, James Lee III's Sukkot Through Orion's Nebula, and Florence Price's Piano Concerto in One Movement featuring pianist Louis Schwizgebel, also making his CSO debut. The concert closes with William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 and Duke Ellington's Harlem.

Chilean guest conductor Paolo Bortolameolli, who currently serves as Assistant Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, makes his CSO debut leading a performance of Schumann's Paradise and the Peri with the May Festival Chorus on December 19.

Cellist Alban Gerhardt makes his CSO debut performing the Cincinnati premiere of Unsuk Chin's Cello Concerto on January 24 and 25, 2020, with Simone Young conducting.

There is a trio of debuts for the March 13 and 14, 2020, Baroque concert program including guest conductor Jonathan Cohen, lute player Thomas Dunford performing Vivaldi's Lute Concerto, and soprano Joélle Harvey singing Handel's Delirio Amoroso. The program also includes Zelenka's Sinfonia à 8 concertanti.

Venezuelan pianist Sergio Tiempo makes his CSO debut performing Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini on April 17 and 18, 2020, with guest conductor Xian Zhang, and flutist Philippe Bernold makes his CSO debut performing Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp with harpist Emmanuel Ceysson on May 8 and 9, 2020. Mr. Langrée leads those performances.

Debuts through the CSO Proof series also include guest conductor André de Ridder, cellist Inbal Segev and choreographer John Heginbotham for the "American Perspective" program on November 22, curated by Timo Andres.

Aforementioned debuts include Guy Braunstein, Behzod Abduraimov, Aaron Diehl, Vadym Kholodenko, Isabel Leonard, Rosie Herrera and Dorothea Röschmann.

Classical Roots: On Friday, March 6, 2020, the CSO's annual celebration of African-American musical heritage, featuring the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir, returns to Music Hall. Additional details will be announced at a later date.

Cincinnati Pops: The CSO also performs and presents a subscription series as the Cincinnati Pops under the direction of John Morris Russell. Details for the Pops season will be announced February 15.

Sustaining Support

The CSO gratefully acknowledges support from the Louise Dieterle Nippert Musical Arts Fund of the Greenacres Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, and the tens of thousands of people who give generously to ArtsWave, the Greater Cincinnati region's local arts agency and the nation's first and largest community campaign for the arts.

Subscription and Ticket Information

Season tickets (subscriptions) go on sale beginning Thursday, January 24, 2019. As an anniversary gift to all subscribers in the 2019-20 season, the CSO is including one free bonus concert with each regular season ticket package. Package prices start at under $80. For additional details, visit

Single tickets for the 19-20 season go on sale to the general public July 30, 2019. Single tickets start at $15 for most concerts. As part of the CSO's ongoing commitment to access, single ticket discounts are available for first-time attendees, students, groups, military, and senior citizens.


Several public parking options are available surrounding Music Hall, which is located on the Cincinnati Bell Connector line. Subscribers may purchase guaranteed parking in advance for $15 per concert, and leadership donors to the Orchestra Fund receive free nearby parking for each performance. Valet services will also be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more details visit The CSO encourages ridesharing & public transit.

About Louis Langrée

The French conductor Louis Langrée serves as Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in New York. He has worked with many other orchestras around the world including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Orchestre de Paris, Metropolitan Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, Wiener Philharmoniker, NHK Symphony, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Santa Cecilia in Rome, Sao Paulo, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Budapest Festival orchestras. Festival appearances have included Wiener Festwochen, Salzburg Mozartwoche and Whitsun, BBC Proms and Glyndebourne Festival Opera. He has held positions as Music Director of the Orchestre de Picardie (1993-98) and Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège (2001-06). Louis Langrée's recordings have received several awards from Gramophone and Midem Classical, and the CSO's Concertos for Orchestra received two Grammy nominations. He was appointed Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2006 and Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 2014.

About the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

The CSO is one of America's finest and most versatile ensembles. With a rich tradition that dates back 124 years, the internationally acclaimed CSO has performed the American premieres of works by the likes of Debussy, Mahler, Ravel and Bartók, and commissioned important compositions that have since become mainstays of the classical repertoire including Aaron Copland's iconic Fanfare for the Common Man. With new commissions and groundbreaking initiatives like CSO Proof, CSO Look Around, LUMENOCITY and the MusicNOW Festival collaboration, the Orchestra is committed to being a place of experimentation. As Cincinnati's ambassador, the Orchestra has toured extensively, most recently to Asia and Europe in 2017, and sold millions of recordings around the globe. As Cincinnati's own, the Orchestra is committed to the community and elevates the City's vibrant cultural scene not only through CSO and Cincinnati Pops performances, but also by serving as the official orchestra for the Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati May Festival and Cincinnati Opera.

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