Houston Symphony Announces 2020–21 Season

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Houston Symphony Announces 2020–21 Season

Houston Symphony Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and CEO/Executive Director John Mangum, holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, announced the details of the 2020-21 season, Orozco-Estrada's seventh as music director. Orozco-Estrada and the Houston Symphony enter the next decade of music-making with works by Beethoven, in honor of his 250th birthday celebration; new music from contemporary composers; Symphony Specials with pianists Lang Lang and Leif Ove Andsnes; solo performances from Concertmaster Yoonshin Song and other Houston Symphony musicians; and a new, three-year Artistic Partnership with legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman.

"I'm excited about what we'll do together in the coming season and the guest soloists and conductors the orchestra will work with throughout the year," shared Orozco-Estrada. "My programs celebrate the remarkable talents of our Houston Symphony musicians throughout the season, including Concertmaster Yoonshin Song in her first full season with us. We welcome back to Houston some of the greatest artists of our time, Lang Lang and Hilary Hahn, as well as Itzhak Perlman, who joins us for his first of three years as the Houston Symphony's Artistic Partner. We celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth in a series of programs, including the Ninth Symphony and Missa Solemnis, featuring our magnificent Houston Symphony Chorus."

"The new season promises incredible concert experiences from our Houston Symphony every week. Our artistic leadership is as strong as it has ever been, and our talented musicians will continue to reach new artistic heights on the Jones Hall stage with Andrés, Steven Reineke, and our new artistic partner, the legendary Itzhak Perlman," said Mangum. "The diversity of programming, guest artists, and projects reflects the energy and creativity of our Greater Houston community, and I, for one, can't wait for the new season to begin."

Celebrating his seventh season as Music Director, Orozco-Estrada and the Houston Symphony continue their commitment to exploring a wide-range of repertoire, including new and rarely-performed works as well as in-depth explorations of Mahler and Shostakovich.

The 2020-21 Robert Cizik Family Classical Series begins with Orozco-Estrada conducting the opening subscription concert, Sept. 18-20, featuring Richard Strauss' heroic, autobiographical tone poem, Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) and Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 with cellist Alisa Weilerstein. The following week, Sept. 26 & 27, Orozco-Estrada conducts the Houston Symphony Chorus, the orchestra, and a starry cast of vocalists in the German oratorio The Book with Seven Seals by Franz Schmidt. The piece features returning artists Nicholas Brownlee (bass-baritone) as Stimme des Herrn (Voice of God), Kelley O' Conner (mezzo-soprano), and debuting artists Christian Elsner (tenor) as Johannes (St. John), Meghan Kasanders (soprano), Maximilian Schmitt (tenor), and Jan Martiník (bass) in the towering work that recounts themes from the biblical Book of Revelation.

Orozco-Estrada continues his comprehensive interpretation of Mahler's works in Andrés Conducts Mahler 9 Nov. 7 & 8. The composer's final completed work, this emotional masterpiece showcases the orchestra's virtuosity and musicality. The following weekend, Nov. 13-15, Orozco-Estrada welcomes Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn back to Houston to perform Dvořák's Violin Concerto. In continuing with his multi-season exploration of Shostakovich's symphonies, Orozco-Estrada conducts the orchestra in the composer's powerful Symphony No. 4, a work that was initially unperformable as a result of Soviet censorship, Nov. 13-15.

Legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman serves as Artistic Partner for the 2020-21 Robert Cizik Family Classical Season and performs in three Special programs. The Houston Symphony is thrilled to have Perlman as its first ever Artistic Partner. Throughout his three-year engagement, Perlman will serve in a variety of roles, reflecting his many talents: as concerto performer, recitalist, conductor, educator, and storyteller.

"It is an honor to be invited to serve in this role with the Houston Symphony," shared Perlman, "every time I return, it is like being with family. I am looking forward to our close work together over the next three seasons."

In his inaugural season, Perlman conducts and plays the Opening Night concert on Sept. 17 in a program including Beethoven's Romances for Violin and Orchestra. On Feb. 18, Perlman and Rohan De Silva, his longtime pianist and collaborator, perform a one-night-only recital. In his final Special performance of the season, Perlman conducts the Houston Symphony Chorus, orchestra, and guest vocal soloists in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Choral on May 22 & 23.

The Symphony's relationship with Perlman began in 1967 under former Music Director André Previn. In 2016, Perlman performed during the Jones Hall 50th anniversary concert. Recently, Perlman conducted and performed as soloist with the Houston Symphony during the 2018-19 season.

The Houston Symphony celebrates Beethoven's 250th birthday during the 2020-21 Robert Cizik Family Classical Series and with several Symphony Specials. Orozco-Estrada conducts a one-night-only performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 and Piano Concerto No. 2 with superstar pianist Lang Lang on Sept. 24. In another Special performance, returning guest conductor Fabien Gabel leads the Symphony in Beethoven's most famous masterpiece, his Symphony No. 5 on Mar. 3. The program also features the return of renowned pianist Leif Ove Andsnes to the Houston Symphony. Later that week, Gabel conducts Beethoven's joyful Symphony No. 6, Pastoral and his Piano Concerto No. 4 with pianist Alexandra Dariescu Mar. 5-7. To close out the Classical Series, Orozco-Estrada conducts Beethoven's sacred masterpiece, his Missa Solemnis, for the first time with the Houston Symphony May 14-16. The technically demanding choral work features a cast of guest vocal soloists, the Houston Symphony Chorus, and the orchestra. The following weekend, May 22 & 23, Perlman conducts Beethoven's last symphony, his Symphony No. 9, Choral.

Performing Korngold's Cello Concerto and Milhaud's Cello Concerto No. 1, Houston Symphony Principal Cello Brinton Averil Smith is a featured soloist in the program Prokofiev's "Romeo & Juliet" Jan. 29-31. Apr. 30-May 2, Houston Symphony Associate Principal Timpani and Percussionist Matthew Strauss and renowned guest percussionist Svet Stoyanov perform the world premiere of the Double Percussion Concerto, a Houston Symphony commission, by Jennifer Higdon, one of the United States' leading contemporary composers. On the same program, guest conductor Robert Spano revisits Rainbow Body by Christopher Theofanidis, another Houston Symphony commission that has had great success since its 2000 premiere. For the first time since her appointment as concertmaster, Yoonshin Song takes center stage in Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 on May 8 & 9 under the direction of Orozco-Estrada. During the weekend's program, May 7-9, Orozco-Estrada highlights members and sections of the orchestra in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Four Winds, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, and brass music selections by Gabrieli.

Under the direction of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber, the Houston Symphony Chorus is featured throughout the 2020-21 Classical Series in Schmidt's The Book with Seven Seals, and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Symphony No. 9, Choral. On Easter weekend, April 2 & 3, Baroque music scholar and conductor Jane Glover leads the Houston Symphony and Chorus in two of Bach's sacred choral masterpieces: his Easter Oratorio and Magnificat. Joining the orchestra and chorus are returning guest artists Yulia Van Doren (soprano), Elizabeth DeShong (mezzo-soprano), Hadleigh Adams (baritone), and debuting tenor Jonas Hacker.

The 2020-21 Robert Cizik Family Classical Series sees the return appearances of prominent female violinists including Elina Vähälä in Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, Hilary Hahn in Dvořák's Violin Concerto, Midori in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, and Simone Lamsma in three works by Ravel, Chausson, and Dutilleux; virtuoso pianists including George Li in Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, Alexandra Dariescu in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, and Lise de la Salle in Chopin's Piano Concerto No.2; cellist Alisa Weilerstein in Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No.1; and vocalists including soprano Yulia Van Doren, mezzo-sopranos Kelley O'Connor and Elizabeth DeShong, tenor Chad Shelton, and bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee. Making their Houston Symphony debuts are violinists Carolin Widmann in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, and Viktoria Mullova in Sibelius's Violin Concerto; soprano Meghan Kasanders; mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges; tenors Christian Elsner, Maximilian Schmitt, and Jonas Hacker; and bass Jan Martiník. Star pianists Lang Lang and Leif Ove Andsnes also return as guest artists in two Symphony Specials.

In addition to Orozco-Estrada's conducting appearances, the 2020-21 Season welcomes back conductors Fabien Gabel, former Houston Symphony Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, Juraj Valčuha, Jane Glover, and Robert Spano. Making their Houston Symphony Classical Series debuts are Xian Zhang, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Enrique Mazzola, Bertrand de Billy, Paolo Bortolameolli, and Lionel Bringuier.

The 2020-21 Classical Series is generously supported by a title sponsorship gift from the Robert Cizik Family. Their investment allows the Symphony to bring conductors and soloists of the highest international caliber to our classical programs. The 2020-21 Robert Cizik Family Classical Series 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; a position endowed in perpetuity by The Cullen Foundation.

The Margaret Alkek Williams Sound + Vision programs provide an enhanced concert experience by featuring surtitles, lighting, video, dance, and/or use of in-hall screens, among other visual aesthetics. The programs are intended to bring more clarity and help tell the stories of music being performed.

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 Herzstein Charitable Foundation.

In his fourth season, Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke leads the Houston Symphony's POPS Series featuring Broadway-style music, movies on the big screen, and music from iconic artists like Billy Joel and trumpeter Louis Armstrong.

"The Houston Symphony is so incredibly versatile that I can throw any genre of music at them and they always sound amazing," said Reineke. "With nostalgic hits from Alan Menken, one of the most decorated composers ever, to returning favorites like Pink Martini and Michael Cavanaugh, I want audience members to relax, have fun, and trust that no matter who's on stage, they're going to have a great time. I can't wait to lead the orchestra in my fourth season!"

The Houston Symphony and Reineke open the POPS Series with Once Upon a Time: Alan Menken's Broadway Sept. 4-6. A celebration of the music by eight-time Academy Award-winning and eleven-time Grammy Award-winning composer Alan Menken, best known for his scores and songs during the Disney Renaissance era. Reineke is joined by Broadway vocalists: Matt Doyle and Krystina Alabado. The program will feature hits from musicals like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors, Aladdin, Newsies, and more.

Michael Krajewski, former Principal POPS conductor, returns on Oct. 30, 31 & Nov. 1 in a symphonic tribute program celebrating some of classic rock's biggest anthems. Vocalists Shem von Schroeck, Micah Wilshire, and Lori Zabka join Krajewski and the orchestra to perform the greatest hits from The Doobie Bros., Fleetwood Mac, Styx, and many more.

Reineke and the Houston Symphony continue their film with live orchestra presentations of the critically acclaimed Star Wars movie franchise with "Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi"-in Concert on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 27-29. Adults and kids of all ages will experience the blockbuster film like never-before on a big screen above the orchestra in sync with a live performance of John Williams' award-winning score.

For the holidays, the orchestra and Houston Symphony Chorus perform classic holiday songs in the festive, family-friendly program, Very Merry Pops Dec. 18-20. Former Houston Symphony Principal POPS Conductor Michael Krajewski returns for the holiday program alongside vocalist Rodney Ingram from Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera.

To open the second half of the POPS Series, Reineke and the orchestra pay tribute to the famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong in Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Songbook Jan. 8-10. Jazz trumpeter and vocalist Byron Stripling celebrates Louis Armstrong's music with some of his most memorable songs like "What a Wonderful Word," "Basin Street Blues," "Mack the Knife," "Hello Dolly," and more.

Feb. 13 & 14, the Houston Symphony premieres a new multi-sensory way to experience classical music along with Austin-based artist and dancer Topher Sipes in Virtual Reality in Concert: Music Illustrated. The first full-length orchestra concert of its kind, the cutting-edge program uses Google's Tilt Brush technology to create life-size 3D images via virtual reality in real time onstage, choreographed to music. Sipes creates unique digital artworks in virtual reality, which audience members will get to take home on their devices as souvenirs of this family-friendly event.

Also returning to perform with the Houston Symphony is Pink Martini. Known for its multi-lingual repertoire, this eclectic ensemble regularly performs in concert halls and with orchestras around the nation. Houston audiences will enjoy a musical evening that combines an array of genres like classical, Latin, jazz, and classic pop music Mar. 19-21.

On Memorial Day weekend, May 28-30, Reineke closes out the 2019−20 POPS Series with the program, This Land Is Your Land. Broadway vocalists Jessica and Santino Fontana join the Houston Symphony Chorus and orchestra to celebrate Memorial Day with the patriotic and traditional songs that shaped America. The program features folk music, protest songs, classic musical theater, jazz, and patriotic favorites like "America the Beautiful."

On four Saturday mornings throughout each season, the Symphony welcomes families and children of all ages to the Houston Symphony BBVA Family Series. This season, the four-concert series features an array of themed performances and fun-for-all activities at Jones Hall, a popular destination designed for kid-friendly cultural and educational experiences.

"Music plays such an important role in building family bonds. Our hope is that these concerts spark joy, curiosity, and imagination for every member of the family" said Franz. "We have four great concerts in 2020-21, and I'm grateful to BBVA for making it all possible."

Just in time for spooky season, the BBVA Family Series commences on Oct. 31 with a Halloween party and concert, Ghosts, Ghouls & Goblins. Under the direction of Robert Franz, the Symphony performs music from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and In the Hall of the Mountain King. Activities include an onstage costume parade and trick-or-treating throughout Jones Hall.

To celebrate the holiday season, How the Grinch Stole Christmas invites families and kids of all-ages to Dr. Seuss's wonderful and festive world with the classic story of the green grouch. Guest conductor Lucas Waldin conducts a lively medley featuring music from the iconic How the Grinch Stole Christmas! TV special on Dec. 19.

Franz opens the second half of the BBVA Family Series with Wild Symphony on Jan. 9. The concert takes families on a musical trip through the animal kingdom. Wild Symphony will pair music and illustration.

Closing out the 2020−21 BBVA Family Series is "Star Wars" and Beyond!, Apr. 17, based on the blockbuster films. Franz and the Symphony will take the whole family on a flight across the galaxy featuring excerpts from John Williams' famous scores, including the iconic "Imperial March." Families are encouraged to dress-up as their favorite Star Wars characters.

Houston Symphony BBVA Family Series performances include free, interactive lobby activities, such as an Instrument Petting Zoo, which encourages children to try out orchestral instruments 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. Franz always dresses for the occasion, so children and parents are also encouraged to wear costumes that match the concert's theme.

The Opening Night Concert welcomes classical superstar violinist musician and Houston Symphony Artistic Partner Itzhak Perlman on Sept. 12, 2020, in a program including Beethoven's Romances for Violin and Orchestra. Perlman joins the special occasion as conductor and soloist for the evening's glamorous event. Following the concert, the celebration continues at the Corinthian and sensational entertainment. The Opening Night Concert and Gala, chaired by Sippi and Ajay Khurana, are generously supported by ConocoPhillips, the lead concert sponsor and corporate gala underwriter for the 34th year.

The Houston Symphony, Houston Symphony Chorus, and guest soloists come together Dec. 11−13, 2020 to perform Handel's oratorio masterpiece Messiah in a unique and extravagant production. The special performance of Sir Eugene Goossens's 1956 orchestration of Handel's Messiah-dubbed by some the "super-sized" Messiah-is conducted by guest conductor Rossen Milanov, who makes his Houston Symphony debut. Returning tenor Chad Shelton, soprano Angela Meade, and bass Morris Robinson are joined by debuting mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges.

Subscribers of the 2020−21 season get first access to Symphony Specials like Opening Night with Itzhak Perlman, Lang Lang Plays Beethoven, Andsnes Plays Grieg + Beethoven 5, and the Bank of America Summer Sound Series performances, as well as newly-announced performances throughout the season, including the Houston Symphony's most-in-demand concerts.

Season tickets for the 2020-21 season, including the Classical, POPS, and BBVA Family Series, are on sale now. Subscriber benefits include presale access to Symphony Specials and free ticket exchanges. Single tickets for fall and spring concert tickets will go on sale at a later date. For more information or to purchase, visit houstonsymphony.org, or call the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center at 713.224.7575, Monday−Saturday, 12−6 p.m.

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