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San Diego Symphony announces 2020-2021 season: ‘We will all come back together’

"An orchestra belongs on stage, making music for the audience," says San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare, who is eagerly looking forward to the symphony's 2020-21 season.
(Photo by Nancee E. Lewis)

Orchestra’s 2020-21 season will feature Inon Barnatan, Patti Lupone, Dianne Reeves, Garrick Ohlsson and many more

In the wake of the coronavirus bringing the performing arts world to a virtual standstill, it would be completely understandable if the San Diego Symphony decided to postpone the announcement of its 2020-21 season.

Understandable, but unthinkable, stressed San Diego Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer.

“We feel compelled to announce it,” she said.

“We all need to be reminded that this will pass, and that we will all come back together, more eagerly than ever. You can’t stop the collective desire to come together and make and share music and art. So we are compelled to get this new season announced and give our audiences something to look forward to. Because, when we can leave our homes and come together again, it will be more meaningful than ever.

“I think it will be a poignant moment. In January, when we were finishing putting this season together, we couldn’t imagine what this moment would be like. But it does make it all the more impactful to announce our season now.”

In a separate interview, San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare strongly seconded Gilmer’s sentiments.

“Every single day, we see so much news about the pandemic,” he said, “and we are in a state of limbo because of the condition we are in and the uncertainty of what will happen.

“So it’s very good to go beyond that, and to say: ‘OK, we know we will pass through this, and — hopefully sooner than later — we can continue with our lives and have the normal things that we use to have.’ An orchestra belongs on stage, making music for the audience.”

Earlier this month, the symphony’s March through May 2 performances were canceled because of the coronavirus. The remaining 2020 spring schedule of 10 concerts is set to resume May 8 and conclude May 29.

In the meantime, construction continues on The Shell, the symphony’s $42 million, year-round outdoor concert venue. It is scheduled to open, with Payare conducting the orchestra, on July 10 at Embarcadero Marina Park South.

Gemma New, a native of New Zealand, will conduct the San Diego Symphony Jan. 23 and Jan. 24 as part of the orchestra's upcoming 2020/2021 season.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Bigger, broader musical journey

By any standards, the upcoming 2020-21 season is one of the most ambitious in memory for the 82-piece orchestra.

It will feature 14 compositions receiving their San Diego Symphony debuts. These range from 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams’ Become Desert (which was co-commissioned by the orchestra) and Tan Dun’s Water Concerto to Anna Clyne’s Abstractions and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Nyx. Also set for their first performances here by the orchestra are Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8, Stravinsky’s Scherzo fantastique and 2019 Grammy Award nominee Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos.

“We’re also doing works by Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Strauss and, of course, Beethoven, whose 250th birthday is being celebrated everywhere this year,” Payare said.

“And, at the same time, our musical train ride has other different components. For example, we have some Handel, some Bach, some Mozart and some French music, so we’ll have a bigger and broader aural journey that is consistent throughout.”

By design, the featured composers whose music will be performed in the upcoming season hail from around the globe. There is a special an emphasis on immigrant composers, who were born in other countries and did significant work while living and working in the U.S.

That international range also extends to some of the upcoming season’s guest artists. They include New Zealand conductor Gemma New, Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter, German violinist Veronika Eberle and Israeli-born pianist Inon Barnatan, now in his second year as music director of La Jolla Music Society’s annual SummerFest.

Payare himself is a native of Venezuela. He usually makes his home in Berlin with his wife, cello standout Alisa Weilerstein, and their daughter.

Edo de Waart, who last year became the symphony’s principal guest conductor, is a native of Holland. And two of the stars of the symphony’s 2020-21 Jazz at the Jacobs’ series, pianists Chucho Valdés and Joey Alexander hail from, respectively, Cuba and Indonesia.

“What I think remains true in all of our seasons is that we are an international city, with an international orchestra,” Gilmer said.

“And we thrive because of the number of people who came to this country — and many, such as Stravinsky, to Los Angeles — at crucial times in their lives. They brought their own native and national voices here, and blended and merged it with what we have today.

“When people look at our season, I hope they see a real international focus. We try very hard to have a dynamic mix of styles and time periods, from Rameau and Handel to a new John Luther Adams’ piece.”

La Jolla Symphony & Chorus leader Steven Schick, a noted percussionist, is curating the San Diego Symphony's 2021 "In the Name of the Earth" music festival.
(Karli Cadel)

Amplifying environmental concerns

The symphony co-commissioned that new work by Adams. Titled Become Desert, it will be performed at the Jan. 15 and Jan. 17 opening concerts of “In the Name of the Earth,” a city-wide festival that will examine the synergistic connection between nature, musicians, artists and the humanity in general.

Curated by UC San Diego professor and La Jolla Symphony & Chorus Music Director Steven Schick, “In the Name of the Earth” will include three concerts at Copley Symphony Hall. More performances will be announced at other, more intimate venues.

In 2018, Schick curated the Symphony’s January “It’s About Time” festival, which — for the Adams-composed “Inuksuit: A Cross-Border Presentation” — featured musicians playing simultaneously on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border at International Friendship Park.

“ ‘In the Name of the Earth’ came out of conversations we had with Steve and John Luther Adams,” said Clement So, the symphony’s director of artistic planning, who worked closely with Gilmer and Payare in putting together the new season.

“We live in a time when nature and people are very imperiled. ‘In the Name of the Earth’ will remind us that nature has always inspired not just musicians, but artists and writers of all genres. And that underscores what is now at stake and why we need to preserve nature and our planet for future generations.”

Of course, the coronavirus did not exist when initial planning for “In the Name of the Earth” began nearly 18 months ago. But the increased perils and challenges the world now faces further underscore the fragility of life and music’s unique ability to articulate those challenges.

“We don’t want or need this global pandemic to make a point with the ‘In the Name of the Earth’ festival,” Payare said. “And, yet, it will take on a greater gravitas because of everything people have been dealing with around the world.”

San Diego Symphony 2020-21 season ticket information

Where: Copley Symphony Hall at Jacobs Music Center, 750 B St., downtown

Tickets: New and renewal subscription packages for the 2020-21 season are available for renewal starting today. Single tickets go on sale Aug. 23.

New series packages

Payare Fridays: (7 concerts): $140-$756

Piano Saturdays (4 concerts): $80-$432

Beethoven Sundays (4 concerts): $80-$432

Glorious Voices (4 concerts): $80-$432

Returning series packages

Friday Aficionado (14 concerts): $252-$1,442

Friday Allegro (7 concerts) $140-$756

Saturday Aficionado (14 concerts): $252 - $1,442

Saturday Allegro (7 concerts) $140-$756

Sunday Aficionado (14 concerts) $252 - $1,442

Sunday Allegro (7 concerts) $140-$756

Rhapsody (7 concerts) $140-$756

Fox Theatre Film Series: $75-$231

Family Concert Series (Adult/Child): $60/$40 - $100/$40

Jazz at The Jacobs: $84-$272

Broadway at The Jacobs: $54-$219

Phone: (619) 235-0804

Online: sandiegosymphony.org

San Diego Symphony 2020-21 season lineup

Jacobs Masterworks

Friday, Oct. 9, and Saturday, Oct. 10, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 11, at 2 p.m.:
Season Opener — Beethoven and Shostakovich

Rafael Payare, conductor; Jeff Thayer, violin; Alisa Weilerstein, cello; Inon Barnatan, piano

Repertoire: Reinaldo Moya: Siempre lunes, siempre marzo (“Always Monday, Always March”); Beethoven: Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano; Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5

Friday, Oct. 16, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 18, at 2 p.m.: Biss, Dean and Beethoven’s Emperor

Rafael Payare, conductor; Jonathan Biss, piano

Repertoire: Beethoven: Symphony No. 2; Brett Dean: Piano Concerto, Gneixendorf MusicA Winter’s Journey (West Coast premiere); Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5: Emperor

Friday, Nov. 6, and Saturday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m.: Payare, Beethoven, Shostakovich

Rafael Payare, conductor

Repertoire: Beethoven: Symphony No. 1; Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8

Friday, Nov. 13, and Saturday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m.: Payare conducts Salonen and Beethoven

Rafael Payare, conductor; Veronika Eberle, violin

Repertoire: Esa-Pekka Salonen: Nyx; Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1; Beethoven: Symphony No. 7

Saturday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m.: De Waart conducts Beethoven and Elgar

Edo de Waart, conductor; Garrick Ohlsson, piano

Repertoire: Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3; Elgar: Symphony No. 1

Friday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 17, at 2 p.m.: Become Desert and Stravinsky’s Firebird

Steven Schick, conductor; San Diego Master Chorale

Repertoire: Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Metacosmos; Stravinsky: Suite from The Firebird; John Luther Adams: Become Desert

Saturday, Jan. 23, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m.: Water Concerto and Scheherazade

Gemma New, conductor; Steven Shick, percussion

Repertoire: Britten: Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes; Tan Dun: Water Concerto; Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Friday, Jan. 29, and Saturday, Jan. 30, at 8 p.m.: Humans & Nature: Mahler’s Song of the Earth

Rafael Payare, conductor; Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano; Stefan Vinke, tenor

Repertoire: Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, Pastoral; Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)

Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 7, at 1 p.m.: Beethoven and Rachmaninoff

Matthias Pintscher, conductor

Repertoire: Beethoven: Symphony No. 8; Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2

Friday, Feb. 26, and Saturday, Feb. 27, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2 p.m.: Scottish Fantasy and Peer Gynt

Jahja Ling, conductor; Paul Huang, violin

Repertoire: Chen Yi: Ge xu (Antiphony); Bruch: Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra; Grieg: Selections from Peer Gynt

Saturday, March 6, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, March 7, at 2 p.m.: Gabrieli, Dvorak, Mozart

Trevor Pinnock, conductor

Repertoire: Gabrieli: Selected Canzonas for Brass; Dvorak: Serenade for Strings; Mozart: Serenade No. 10 for Winds, Gran Partita; Stravinsky: Scherzo fantastique

Friday, March 12, and Saturday, March 13, at 8 p.m.: Payare conducts Liszt and Bartók

Rafael Payare, conductor; Marc-André Hamelin, piano

Repertoire: Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde; Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2; Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

Saturday, March 20, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, March 21, at 2 p.m.: Payare, Röschmann and Debussy

Rafael Payare, conductor; Dorothea Röschmann, soprano

Repertoire: Mozart: Symphony No. 29; R. Strauss: Four Last Songs; Debussy: Images

Friday, April 9, and Saturday, April 10, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, April 11, at 2 p.m.: Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances

Edo De Waart, conductor; Ingrid Fliter, piano

Repertoire: Anne Clyne; Abstractions; Schumann: Piano Concerto; Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances

Friday, April 16, and Saturday, April 17, at 8 p.m.: Brahms’ German Requiem

Edo De Waart, conductor; Joélle Harvey, soprano; John Moore, baritone; San Diego Master Chorale

Repertoire: Haydn: Symphony, No. 96, The Miracle; Brahms: A German Requiem

Friday, May 7, and Saturday, May 8, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, May 9, at 2 p.m.: Handel’s Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks

Harry Bicket, conductor; Rose Lombardo, flute

Repertoire: Rameau, Suite from Les Boréades; Handel: Selections from Water Music; J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 2; Handel: Selections from Music for the Royal Fireworks

Friday, May 14, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 16, at 2 p.m.: Payare conducts Two by Tchaikovsky

Rafael Payare, conductor; Guy Braunstein, violin

Repertoire: Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto; Janaček: Taras Bulba; Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2, Little Russian

Friday, May 21, and Saturday, May 22, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, May 23, at 2 p.m.: Season Finale — Payare and Weilerstein

Rafael Payare, conductor; Alisa Weilerstein, cello

Repertoire: R. Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks; Elgar: Cello Concerto; Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4

Special Concerts

Saturday, Nov. 21, at 8 p.m.: Vienna Boys Choir

Sunday, Nov. 22, at 7:30 p.m.: Steve Hackman’s Brahms v. Radiohead

Saturday, Dec. 12; Sunday, Dec. 13; Saturday, Dec. 19; and Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 20, at 2 p.m.: Noel Noel

Friday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m.: Lunar New Year Celebration

Family Concert Series

Sunday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m.: Play Me a Story: The Firebird

Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2 p.m.: Noel Noel (family concert)

Sunday, Feb. 14, at 2 p.m.: Orchestra as Ecosystem

Sunday, April 25, at 2 p.m.: Symphony in Space

Fox Theatre Film Series

Friday, Oct. 30, at 7:30 p.m.: “Nosferatu”: A Symphony of Horror

Friday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m.: “Casino Royale” in concert

Friday, Dec. 18, at 7:30 p.m.: “A Muppet Christmas Carol” in concert

Saturday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m.: “How to Train Your Dragon” in concert

Broadway at The Jacobs

Friday, Oct. 23, at 8 p.m.: Megan Hilty

Saturday, Jan. 9, at 8 p.m.: Patti Lupone: “Don’t Monkey with Broadway”

Saturday, Feb. 20, at 8 p.m.: Frank Sinatra & Ella Fitzgerald tribute, featuring Capathia Jenkins and Tony DeSare

Jazz at The Jacobs

Saturday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m.: Duets: Dianne Reeves, Chucho Valdés and Joe Lovano

Saturday, Nov. 28, at 8 p.m.: The Joey Alexander Trio

Saturday, Feb. 6 ,at 8 p.m.: Jazz Trumpet Masters tribute, featuring Gilbert Castellanos

Saturday, March 27, at 8 p.m.: Diz N’ Bird — Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie: Jazz at Massey Hall quintet tribute concert, featuring Charles McPherson


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