Houston Symphony Announces 2017-2018 Season, Names Jimmy Lopez Composer-In-Residence

The Houston Symphony and Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada announced today details of the 2017-18 season, which marks Orozco-Estrada's fourth year as music director. Highlights of the season include the appointment of Peruvian-born composer Jimmy López as the Houston Symphony's new Composer-in-Residence and the introduction of Ars Electronica Futurelab's musical visualization of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, an immersive concert experience directed by acclaimed choreographer Klaus Obermaier. The season also features the continuation of the Rachmaninoff piano concerto cycle with world-class pianist Denis Kozhukhin, a project that is being recorded for commercial release by Dutch label Pentatone.

In the 2017-18 season, Orozco-Estrada continues his tradition of exploring timeless orchestral masterpieces by major composers Gustav Mahler, Charles Ives and Dmitri Shostakovich as well as presenting an extraordinary roster of established and rising guest artists. Orozco-Estrada's partnership with Composer-in-Residence Jimmy López kicks off with a newly commissioned Violin Concerto, a piece he is composing for Spanish violinist Leticia Moreno and the Houston Symphony. Leading American composer John Corigliano is highlighted with a performance of Conjurer for Percussionist, Strings and Brass, to be performed by Scottish percussion virtuoso Colin Currie.

As part of Orozco-Estrada's commitment to multimedia collaborations and the integration of technology in the concert hall, the Houston Symphony will introduce a bold, multisensory stereoscopic dance and music project, never seen in an American concert hall, which offers audiences an interactive way to experience Stravinsky's famous Rite of Spring. Orozco-Estrada is teaming up with acclaimed artistic director and choreographer Klaus Obermaier and Ars Electronica Futurelab to transfer dancer Yuka Oishi into a virtual three-dimensional space through the use of state-of-the-art stereo cameras and a complex computer system. Obermaier's staging of Rite of Spring was premiered in 2006 with the Bruckner Orchester Linz and has since captivated audiences across Asia, Europe and Mexico. Orozco-Estrada worked with Obermaier's dance and music project in 2012 while leading the Tonkünstler Orchestra.

Principal Clarinet Mark Nuccio is a featured soloist this season, performing Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, often said to be the most perfect composition Mozart ever wrote and one of the greatest of the clarinet repertoire. This will be the first time Houston audiences will hear Nuccio as a concerto soloist since his appointment as Principal Clarinet of the Houston Symphony at the beginning of the 2015-16 season. Nuccio's addition is one of many important appointments Orozco-Estrada has made since being named Music Director Designate during the 2013-14 centennial season.

"The last few years at the Houston Symphony have been an exhilarating ride for all of us; from planning and embarking upon an amazing centennial celebration to finding our Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and a new Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke," said Mark C. Hanson, Executive Director and CEO, Margaret Alkek Williams Chair. "This season, I'm most excited about the continuation of our Rachmaninoff piano concerto cycle with Denis Kozhukhin and the important centennial celebrations of Ella Fitzgerald on the POPS side and Leonard Bernstein on the classical side. I also look forward to welcoming back acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn in a performance of Bernstein's Serenade for Violin and Orchestra."


Peruvian-born, California-based, award-winning composer Jimmy López joins the Houston Symphony during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons as the Symphony's new Composer-in-Residence. Described as "one of the most admired among the younger generation of South American composers" (Chicago Tribune) and "one of the most interesting young composers anywhere today" (Chicago Sun-Times), López will play an integral role both onstage and in the community. Details about his involvement with Houston's youth will be released at a later date.

Known for his unique working relationship with conductors, musicians and soloists, López has had his works performed by leading orchestras around the world. His music has been heard in venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House; and at the Tanglewood, Aspen, Darmstadt and Donaueschingen Music Festivals. His first operaBel Canto, commissioned by the Lyric Opera Chicago, premiered Dec. 7, 2015, to wide critical acclaim and was recently broadcast nationwide on PBS' Great Performances.

López' América Salvaje, a symphonic poem that blends South American and European musical traditions, was performed by the Houston Symphony under the direction of Orozco-Estrada Sept. 18, 2016, during the Symphony's annual Fiesta Sinfónica program. Orozco-Estrada selected López as the Symphony's new Composer-in-Residence because he believes the composer's music is fresh, original and has wide audience appeal.


Opening Night

The Houston Symphony launches the 2017-18 season in style, in the company of Grammy Award- winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, one of the world's leading opera singers and a native Texan. Graham's roles span four centuries, from the title role in Monteverdi's Poppea to Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, a part written for her. The evening begins with a champagne reception at The Corinthian followed by the Opening Night Concert at Jones Hall featuring Graham and guest conductor Gustavo Gimeno. Following the concert, the celebration continues at The Corinthian with dinner by Jackson and Company and sensational entertainment. The Opening Night Concert at Jones Hall and Gala at The Corinthian are generously supported by ConocoPhillips, the lead concert sponsor and corporate gala underwriter.

Premier Masterworks for a Premier City

This season, the orchestra continues its journey through Mahler's works with Symphony No. 4. The Houston Symphony champions the music of the Americas with Ives' Symphony No. 3, The Camp Meeting. Featuring atmospheric movement titles like "Old Folks Gatherin" and "Children's Day," this iconic symphony paints a picture of life in America at the dawn of the 20th century. Orozco-Estrada continues his electric performances of music by Shostakovich with the Russian master's Symphony No. 11, The Year 1905, which the Houston Symphony premiered in the United States less than a year after it was written in 1957. Former Music Director Leopold Stokowski and the Houston Symphony recorded the masterpiece for commercial release and it remains, according to critics, one of the definitive accounts of this work.

Cycle of Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos

World-class pianist Denis Kozhukhin returns twice in the 2017-18 season to continue the Houston Symphony's cycle of all four Rachmaninoff piano concertos as well as his ever-popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Orozco-Estrada, Kozhukhin and the orchestra will complete the cycle in the fall of 2018 with Piano Concerto No. 1, which will culminate in a commercial recording release of the five piano works on the Dutch Pentatone label.

The Houston Symphony's recording and electronic media initiatives are supported by The Wortham Foundation, Inc., Bobby & Phoebe Tudor, Mr. John Neighbors, Mr. Jay Steinfeld & Mrs. Barbara Winthrop and Stephen & Mariglyn Glenn.

Leonard Bernstein's Centennial Celebration

In 2018, the Houston Symphony celebrates Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday over the course of three weekends. A prolific composer, conductor, educator and humanitarian, Bernstein is regarded as an American icon known for his life-affirming works. He pioneered music that echoes through generations, and his many contributions to the orchestral, choral, opera, dance and chamber music repertoire have been championed by fans around the globe. Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn will join the Houston Symphony in this celebration performing Bernstein's Serenade for Violin and Orchestra.

Distinguished Conductors/Artists

The classical season includes return appearances by violin virtuosos James Ehnes and Augustin Hadelich as well as pianists Jonathan Biss, Kirill Gerstein, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Emanuel Ax. Making their Houston Symphony debuts are violinists Leticia Moreno, Simone Lamsma and Benjamin Beilman as well as pianist Evgeni Bozhanov.Dynamic cellist Johannes Moser will return with Haydn's graceful Cello Concerto No. 1, and percussionist Colin Currie will join the orchestra for the third time in Corigliano's Conjurer.

Vocalists making their debuts this season are soprano Mojca Erdmann, countertenor Daniel Taylor, tenor Samuel Levine, baritones Nicholas Brownlee and Russell Braun, and bass Alex Rosen. Returning vocalists include sopranos Yulia Van Doren and Nicole Heaston and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham.

In addition to Orozco-Estrada's conducting appearances during the subscription season, 2017-18 will feature the return of five distinguished conductors: Matthew Halls, Ludovic Morlot, Fabien Gabel, Andrey Boreyko and Juraj Val?uha. Making their Houston Symphony debuts are Gustavo Gimeno, Vassily Sinaisky, Paul Agnew, Omer Meir Wellber and Bramwell Tovey.

Concert Enhancement

The Houston Symphony's "Margaret Alkek Williams Sound + Vision" series returns this upcoming season to provide an enhanced concert experience featuring lighting, video, dance and the use of in-hall screens at select concerts.

This season's "Sound + Vision" series includes the following concerts: Mahler & Dvok in September, Mozart's Jupiter Symphony in October, Kirill Gerstein Plays Brahms in January, Ravel's Daphnis and Chloé in February, and A German Requiem and Emanuel Ax Plus the Rite of Spring in May. Additional "Sound + Vision" experiences may be added over the course of the season.

The "Margaret Alkek Williams Sound + Vision" series is supported in part by The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts. Video enhancements for the Houston Symphony are made possible through a grant from the Albert and Ethel Herztein Charitable Foundation.

Houston Symphony Chorus

The Houston Symphony will feature the Houston Symphony Chorus in three classical programs in 2017-18, two of which will be led by Orozco-Estrada. Choral masterpieces featured this season are Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalmsled by guest conductor Bramwell Tovey, Dvo?ák's Te Deum, featuring Mojca Erdmann and Nicholas Brownlee; and Brahms' A German Requiem, featuring baritone Russell Braun and soprano Nicole Heaston, an active concert and recital soloist and a regular guest at opera houses throughout the United States.

The Houston Symphony Chorus will also be featured in premier performances of Handel's Messiah and Very Merry Pops, both of which are true Houston holiday traditions. In her fourth season as Director of the Chorus, Dr. Betsy Cook Weber, a professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Houston's Moores School of Music, prepares the all-volunteer chorus for all performances.

The classical season is endowed by The Wortham Foundation, Inc. in memory of Gus S. and Lyndall F. Wortham. Orozco-Estrada is the fourth music director to hold the Roy and Lillie Cullen Chair; this position is endowed in perpetuity by The Cullen Foundation.


Steven Reineke's Inaugural Season as Principal POPS Conductor
Steven Reineke, Music Director of The New York Pops, Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center and Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, joins the orchestra as its new Principal POPS Conductor in 2017-18. Also a talented composer and arranger, Reineke is known for creating his own concert themes and collaborating with high-profile talent from the stage and screen.

"I'm really excited to begin my first full season as Principal POPS Conductor of the outstanding Houston Symphony. I'm looking forward to entertaining Houston audiences and doing it alongside this incredibly versatile orchestra," said Reineke. "What we do is very special. It's happening live, and it will never happen again in another time or space just like it does that night. That makes it unique and is one of those great things we have to offer here in Houston."

Reineke's musicianship, sophisticated style and energetic approach to each concert weekend, along with his ability to connect with audiences, are all important parts of the upcoming season. Reineke said, "When audiences enter Jones Hall, I want them to leave everything at the door and get lost in the moment. My hope is that when they leave, they feel totally rejuvenated."

The 2017-18 BBVA Compass POPS season will feature a diverse array of musical options from pop music, film scores, the Broadway stage and the American Songbook, in addition to top-tier talent and brilliant professional orchestrations. BBVA Compass has generously sponsored POPS at the Houston Symphony for nine seasons, in addition to its leadership support of our Education & Community programs.

2017-18 BBVA Compass POPS Highlights

Reineke's inaugural season kicks off with a celebration of Ella Fitzgerald's 100th birthday. Female powerhouse vocalists Montego Glover (Tony nominee), Capathia Jenkins and N'Kenge will join Reineke and the orchestra to pay tribute to music from Fitzgerald's generation, including music from Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, but with a heavy focus on Fitzgerald. The orchestra will perform many of the original arrangements composer Nelson Riddle composed for her.

The 2017-18 BBVA Compass POPS season continues with the celebration of an iconic decade for music, highlighting the sounds of the 80s influenced by soft rock, unforgettable dance beats and glam metal. Vocalists Nicole Parker(Mad TV) and Aaron Finley (Broadway's Kinky Boots) join guest conductor Stuart Chafetz in Totally 80s to perform nostalgic favorites.

The season's next program, Broadway Today, features a sampling of music from Stephen Sondheim's musicalCompany to Current Productions including music from some of the biggest, longest-running shows on Broadway such as Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Cabaret and LES MISERABLES as well as newer productions like The Book of Mormon, Rent, Bullets over Broadway and Honeymoon in Vegas. Guest vocalist Betsy Wolfe will debut with the orchestra in this program before starring as Elsa on the Broadway version of Disney's Frozen.

The Houston Symphony celebrates the holidays with multitalented actress and singer Megan Hilty (NBC's Smash; Broadway's Wicked) who joins the orchestra and the Houston Symphony Chorus in the annual Very Merry Popsextravaganza. In addition to holiday favorites, the program will feature special arrangements from Hilty's new holiday album, A Merry Little Christmas. This season's Very Merry Pops is a brand-new show developed for Hilty to be performed not only at Jones Hall but also at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The second half of the POPS season begins with the screening of select scenes from Disney's Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 on a giant screen above the orchestra while the Houston Symphony performs the music live. A crowning achievement in the history of animation, the film is an imaginative celebration of great orchestral music, with Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, Stravinsky's The Firebird and, of course, The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Join the Houston Symphony on a fantastical journey as we explore the magic of Disney.

The 90th Annual Academy Awards is March 4, and to celebrate, Steven has assembled some of the Oscars' best original songs for a stunning, star-studded evening. The glamorous evening will pay tribute to more than 80 years of cinematic sounds featuring best original songs interspersed with Academy Award-winning film scores from composers like Erich Korngold, Max Steiner, James Horner and John Williams. The Oscars Best Original Songs program will feature vocalists Ashley Brown and Ryan Silverman.

In March 2018, Grammy Award-winning artist Chris Botti returns to the Houston Symphony to share the stage with his electrifying band members and the orchestra. Botti, one of the most celebrated contemporary musicians today, will deliver a night of exquisite music that includes high-quality arrangements and orchestrations.

In April 2018, the orchestra gives a nod to the King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley. The Houston Symphony welcomes back former Principal POPS Conductor Michael Krajewski for this program that will feature fully-orchestrated arrangements of Elvis' biggest hits. Krajewski and the orchestra will be joined by clarinetist-pianist Dave Bennett (last seen in A Tribute to Benny Goodman) and Allison Blackwell (Disney's The Lion King). This program reflects not only Elvis' enormous popularity, but his incredible artistry and musicianship.

The Houston Symphony ends the 2017-18 BBVA Compass POPS season with a One-Hit Wonders program showcasing familiar songs from artists of the past century who disappeared but nonetheless left a mark on radio air play and in everyone's hearts. The show-stopping Storm Large from Pink Martini returns to Houston to help audiences reminisce on these unforgettable hits.


On select Saturday mornings throughout each season, the Houston Symphony presents its Family Series, a popular cultural destination designed for families and children. The four-concert series features educational, fun-for-all performances led by Associate Conductor Robert Franz who will celebrate his 10th season with the orchestra in 2017-18.

"One thing that makes this city so special is this incredible orchestra and how open these musicians are to a completely diverse palette of music," said Franz. "I love how seriously the musicians take their role as leaders in the community in both an artistic and cultural sense. Over the last decade, more than 1,000 students have performed onstage with the Houston Symphony. These artistic experiences along with the connection to classical music is really vital not only for the future of the organization but for the lives of these young people."

The first Family concert of the season, Hook'd: Pirates in Concert, will set sail with a program of heroic music, including a medley from Pirates of the Caribbean and a selection from The Flying Dutchman. To celebrate the holiday season, A Grinch Christmas invites families to Dr. Seuss' wonderful world of Whoville as local high school singers join the orchestra to present the classic story of the grouchy character. In 2018, Principal Tuba Dave Kirk will introduce the adventures of Tubby the Tuba and his orchestra friends, including Peepo the Piccolo, during Be Our Guest, which will teach the audience that things are not always as they seem. Concluding the Family Series will be ¡Fiesta!, during which the orchestra will take audiences south of the border for a colorful, cultural celebration that highlights the vibrant sounds of the Americas.

Family programs include interactive lobby activities, such as an Instrument Petting Zoo - which encourages children to touch and play orchestral instruments - theme-related music and craft activities. These activities take place one-hour before the 10 a.m. concerts and one-hour following the 11:30 a.m. concerts. Concertgoers are also encouraged to dress in costumes that align with the concert's theme. Franz' appearances are generously sponsored by Ms. Marie Taylor Bosarge.


Reineke and the Houston Symphony are premiering a brand-new orchestra show created for Houston-native bandThe Suffers at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion June 17, 2017. With an eclectic approach to blues, soul, country, Caribbean, Cajun and hip-hop, the band brings a fresh approach to what they have coined Gulf Coast Soul. With a year that included performances for NPR's Tiny Desk, Newport Folk Fest, Austin City Limits Music Festival and The Late Show, the band has delivered more than 150 stirring performances of its Signature Sound to thousands of new and old fans alike. The Suffers will be taking the main stage of Super Bowl LIVE in downtown Houston on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, as part of the weeklong festivities leading up to the big game.

The Houston Symphony's Opening Night Concert on Sept. 9, 2017, features native Texan Susan Graham who has been praised by critics for her voice and eloquent interpretation of French song repertoire and contemporary music. The program will feature arias from her signature stage roles and favorites show tunes.

On Sept. 25, 2017, NPR veteran Garrison Keillor returns to Houston for the first time since stepping down from A Prairie Home Companion after 42 seasons. Keillor will bring his trademark storytelling and candid comedy to the Jones Hall stage, engaging audiences with his unique blend of humor, charisma and wisdom. The orchestra will not appear on the program.

On Halloween weekend, the orchestra will perform the bone-chilling score of the 1960 American horror film Psychowhile the film is projected on a giant screen at Jones Hall. Psycho?Film with Live Orchestra will feature the orchestra performing Bernard Herrmann's iconic score in its entirety Oct. 27, 2017.

A Houston favorite each holiday season, four guest soloists will join the orchestra and the Houston Symphony Chorus in a performance of Handel's Messiah Dec. 14-17, 2017. The timeless arias and choruses of the Baroque masterwork will be led by guest conductor Paul Agnew.


Returning for a second season, the National Geographic Live speaker series presented by the Houston Symphony will continue to bring audiences exciting National Geographic speakers to discuss their adventures in the field. Each program features compelling tales from some of the world's most remote locations, showcases the world's natural beauty and includes an audience Q&A session. The 2017-18 presentations, held on three select Tuesday evenings throughout the season, are Ocean Soul, Beauty and the Bizarre and Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous. Featured speakers include underwater photojournalist Brian Skerry, insect photographer Anand Varma and paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim. The National Geographic Live speaker series is generously supported in part by theMach Family Audience Development Fund. The orchestra will not appear on these programs.


The Houston Symphony is proud to present its seventh Sugar Land Series in 2017-18, reaching the vibrant Fort Bend County community and expanding the geographic reach of the orchestra. This season's four-event series includes two concerts at Sugar Land Baptist Church featuring the full orchestra and guest conductors Matthew Halls (Mozart's Jupiter Symphony) and Paul Agnew (Handel's Messiah) in October and December 2017 respectively, in addition to a Houston Symphony chamber music performance and a season kick-off event featuring a special performance by musicians.

The Symphony's longstanding presenting partnership with The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands continues in June 2017 with homegrown octet The Suffers, an American soul band known for fusing the different cultures and musical styles present around the Gulf Coast and the city of Houston, including Cajun, Caribbean, Mexican and more. The Houston Symphony's performances at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion are supported in part by the George P. & Cynthia Mitchell Summer Concerts Fund.

The ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights Series returns to Miller Outdoor Theatre with four free concerts in June and a July 4 Star Spangled Salute performance featuring patriotic music and a fireworks display. An additional performance, Symphonic Spooktacular, will be held at Miller Outdoor Theatre Oct. 15, 2017. The Houston Symphony's Miller Outdoor Theatre performances, which often introduce rising guest artists to Houston audiences while expanding the reach of the orchestra in the community, are endowed by The Brown Foundation, Inc. in memory of Hanni and Stewart Orton.

The Ima Hogg Competition, a prestigious international, multi-instrument competition for young musicians, is one of the few nationwide competitions annually open to all standard orchestral instruments and piano. The competition has launched young musicians' careers as performing artists, with past winners having earned countless national and international awards worldwide as well as prestigious positions in major orchestras. First- and second-place winners are awarded the opportunity to rehearse and perform with the Houston Symphony in front of large audiences. The finals, held June 3, 2017, will be broadcast live on Houston Public Media's News 88.7. This season's Ima Hogg Competition, chaired by Barbara McCelvey, will be held at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music.

The Houston Symphony will present the fifth annual Day of Music Saturday, July 8, 2017. The free, daylong event features dozens of performers representing Houston's diverse musical landscape. The wide variety of musical ensembles in this year's program includes choral groups, Tejano bands, Jazz, blues and rock artists and groups. The event features the orchestra twice and children's activities such as face painting, crafts and the Symphony's ever-popular Instrument Petting Zoo. Generous support for Day of Music comes from The Melbern and Susanne M. Glasscock Foundation.

Continuing the tradition that started in 1992, the Houston Symphony will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with its annual Fiesta Sinfónica concert Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, at Jones Hall. Supported by Chevron, the program will be led by Gustavo Gimeno.

Support from the Houston Symphony's corporate, foundation and government partners allow the orchestra to reach new artistic heights in music, education and community engagement. The Houston Symphony 2017-18 partners include BBVA Compass, Houston Methodist (Official Health Care Provider), United Airlines (Official Airline), and media partners ABC-13 (Official Television Partner) and Houston Public Media (Media Partner). Series support comes from Bank of America, Shell, Rand Group and Frost Bank.

Ticket Information

Season tickets for the 2017-18 Season, including the Classical, POPS, Family and Sugar Land series, are on sale now. Single tickets for fall and spring concert tickets will go on at a later date. For more information or to purchase, visithoustonsymphony.org or call the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center at (713) 224-7575, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2016-17 season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its third season with Music Director Andrés Orozco- Estrada, and continues its second century as one of America's leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $33.9 million, the full-time ensemble of 87 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony's four Community-Embedded Musicians offer more than 900 community-based performances each year, reaching thousands of people in Greater Houston. For tickets and more information, please visit www.houstonsymphony.org or call (713) 224-7575.

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