San Diego Symphony’s 2018-2019 season to trumpet many firsts


Martha Gilmer is the CEO of the San Diego Symphony, not a gourmet chef. But when it comes to cooking up an annual, eight-month-long musical feast designed to appeal to an array of palates, she easily holds her own.

“The flavors complement each other — they are contrasting, but flow one to the other,” Gilmer said. “Whatever the palate, the season is well-thought-out and classically prepared.”

The proverbial proof in this borders-leaping aural pudding can be found in the upcoming 2018-2019 season.

It expertly mixes enticing artistic collaborations, proven musical favorites — some with new interpretations — and a host of fresh treats. Accordingly, no fewer than 13 guest artists will be making their San Diego debuts with the orchestra, which will showcase 14 compositions it has not performed before. (The full season lineup appears below.)

Topping this ambitious aural menu are Rafael Payare and Lang Lang.

Venezuelan native Payare, 37, will conduct four concerts in January as part of the Jacobs Masterworks series. These will mark his debut as the San Diego Symphony’s music director designate. He officially assumes his new position on July 1.

Chinese keyboard superstar Lang Lang, 35, will open the season on Oct. 6 and 7. He’ll perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, with Holland’s esteemed Edo de Waart conducting.

The Wisconsin-based de Waart returns Oct. 12 and 14, when he will lead the orchestra in a pair of concerts billed as Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody, and again March 1 and 2 to conduct Mahler’s hourlong Symphony No. 4 and Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

Planning ahead with new music director

“We just had three days in London to start to talk with Rafael about how we want to plan for the future, and it was fantastic,” Gilmer said, speaking by phone from a subsequent family visit to her native Wisconsin. “He has seen this season’s schedule, but it was pretty well set in stone before Rafael was announced as our music director designate.”

All funds raised from Payare’s Jan. 10 Discover Night concert will go to the San Diego Symphony’s Learning and Community Engagement programs.

“I am very pleased that, for my first concert since my appointment as music director designate, we will be supporting our education and outreach programs — something I believe in very passionately.” Payare said in a statement.

“I am looking forward to getting to know each and every member of the orchestra and learning more about San Diego and the region.”

In another first, the orchestra is scheduled to perform next spring as part of the inaugural season at the La Jolla Music Society’s new concert hall, The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

The San Diego Symphony’s upcoming season will also feature a world premiere on Nov. 2 and 4 that was commissioned by the symphony and has not yet been titled.

It teams noted Mexican composer Javier Álvarez with author, performer, cartoonist and social activist Juan Felipe Herrera, a San Diego High School alum who served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. It will be the first work in the orchestra’s history to feature four musicians playing the vihuela, the five-string instrument that is a mainstay of mariachi music.

On Nov. 1 and 2, the orchestra will perform the U.S. premiere of Israeli composer Noam Sheriff’s Leonard Bernstein-inspired work, “Lenny,” which debuted in February in Regensburg, Germany. It will be followed in May by the West Coast premiere of Long Island-bred composer Alyssa Weinberg’s “Reign of Logic.”

Matthew Aucoin to lead January Festival

Matthew Aucoin, the artist-in-residence of the Los Angeles Opera will lead the San Diego Symphony’s annual January Festival.
(Photo by Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images )

In between comes the fourth annual edition of the symphony’s increasingly ambitious January Festival, which this year — billed as “It’s About Time: A Festival of Rhythm, Sound, and Place” — reached new heights under the curatorship of percussion marvel and UC San Diego music professor Steven Schick.

The 2019 January festival will be led by guest conductor Matthew Aucoin, the artist-in-residence of the Los Angeles Opera. The focus will be on the creativity and artistic development of young composers and performers, which is fitting since Aucoin is just 28.

“Part of the creative process is: ‘How do you listen in succession to different pieces of music in a program?’ ” Gilmer said.

“I love planning a meal and I love planning a season, and seeing the connecting threads. It’s very exciting to have Lang Lang and Joshua Bell come back, which speaks for itself. And we’ll have a major focus on the orchestra, which you’ll see in our season brochure — the core of the season is their great artistry.”

Women composers and conductors will also be in the spotlight in the coming season. The aforementioned Alyssa Weinberg’s “Reign of Logic” will be conducted May 18 and 19 by Gemma New, 31, with French violinist Michael Barenboim, 32, making his debut here as the featured soloist.

French composer Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps will be performed on Jan. 25 and 27, with Aucoin conducting. Italy’s Speranza Scappucci will be here March 22 and 23 to conduct Puccini’s seldom-heard Messa di Gloria. Those concerts will pair the orchestra with the San Diego Master Chorale.

Scappucci, Aucoin and Barenboim are among the 13 artists who will make their area debuts with the orchestra. Their participation — like the entire season — is the result of careful planning and finely tuned adjustments by Gilmer and the orchestra’s staff, in collaboration with the guest conductors and soloists.

“We learn together with our audience,” said Gilmer, who noted that the fourth annual Jazz@The Jacobs series will be announced later this year.

“I’m especially happy when people come out of a concert, and say: ‘I didn’t know the second piece the orchestra played — and I loved it!’ That’s really a success for us, because the amount of wonderful music written for orchestras is vast. We just want to make sure everybody can explore to explore these new dimensions and feel enriched and ignited by them.”

Also in store this season: three Noel Noel holiday concerts in December; a four-part Family Concert series; a four-part Fox Theatre Film Series; and a three-part Jacobs Masterworks Rush Hour 2.0 series of early-evening concerts, which last about an hour each, with no intermission. The Rush Hour series is targeted in part at downtown residents, who can attend the concerts and still get home by 8 p.m.

“As you look at the arc of our season, it’s a combination of the new and familiar,” Gilmer said.

“When you go to a favorite restaurant — as with the orchestra — you want them to be inventive and also look forward to your favorite dishes. And you want to know you can have both.”

San Diego Symphony 2018-2019 Season

(Ticket information appears below)

2018-2019 Jacobs Masterworks

Saturday, Oct. 6; Sunday, Oct. 7: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, featuring Edo De Waart, conductor, and Joyce Yang, piano; with Ippolito’s Nocturne; Grieg’s Piano Concerto

Friday, Oct. 12; Sunday, Oct. 14: Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, featuring Edo de Waart, conductor, and Joyce Yang, piano; with Bates’ Garages of the Valley; Mozart’s Symphony No. 40

Friday, Nov. 2; Sunday, Nov. 4: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Prokofiev Symphony No. 7, featuring David Danzmayr, conductor, and Conrad Tao, piano; with world premiere of new San Diego Symphony-comissioned work by Javier Alvarez, featuring text by Juan Felipe Herrera

Friday, Nov. 16; Saturday, Nov. 17: “Bernstein and His World,” featuring Steven Sloan, conductor, and Orli Shaham, piano; with U.S. premiere of Noam Sheriff’s Lenny; Copland’s Appalachian Spring; Ives’ The Unanswered Question; Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety

Friday, Nov. 30; Sunday, Dec. 2: Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5: Turkish and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6, featuring Johannes Debus, conductor, Jeff Thayer, violin; with Lutoslawski’s Little Suite

Friday, Dec. 7; Saturday, Dec. 8: Vivaldi and Bach, featuring Johannes Debus, conductor, and Avi Avital, mandolin; with Purcell’s arrangement of Britten’s Chacony; Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons; Arensky’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky; Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D minor; Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake; Stravinsky’s “Divertimento” from The Fairy’s Kiss

Friday, Jan. 11; Saturday, Jan. 12; Sunday, Jan. 13: Payare and Weilerstein, featuring Rafael Payare, conductor, and Alisa Weilerstein, cello; performing R. Strauss’ Don Juan; Britten’s Symphony for Cello and Orchestra; Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10

Friday, Jan. 18; Sunday, Jan. 20: “The Young Romantics,” featuring Michael Francis, conductor, and Rodolfo Leone, piano; performing Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave); Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1; Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique

Saturday, Jan. 19: Beyond the Score: Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, featuring Michael Francis, conductor

Friday, Jan. 25; Sunday, Jan. 27: “Matt’s Playlist: Echoes of the Future,” featuring Matthew Aucoin, conductor, performing Adès’s These Premises Are Alarmed; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, 1st movement; Norman’s Play, Level 1; L. Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps; Stravinsky’s Funeral Song; Aucoin’s Excerpts from Crossing; Schubert, Symphony No. 9 (“Great”), 4th movement

Friday, Feb. 15; Saturday Feb. 16; Sunday, Feb. 17: Augustin Hadelich Returns, featuring Cristian Măcelaru, conductor, and Augustin Hadelich, violin, performing Janáček’s Suite from The Cunning Little Vixen; Dvořák’s Violin Concerto; Bartók’s Dance Suite; Brahms’ Selections from Hungarian Dances

Friday, March 1; Saturday, March 2: De Waart conducts Mahler Symphony No. 4, featuring Edo de Waart, conductor, and Joélle Harvey, soprano, with Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915

Saturday, March 9; Sunday, March 10: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring Robert Spano, conductor and Jorge Federico Osorio, piano, with Theofanidis’ Dreamtime Ancestors; Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2; Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 2: A London Symphony

Friday, March 22; Saturday, March 23: Puccini’s Glorious Mass, featuring Speranza Scappucci, conductor; Leonardo Capalbo, tenor; Daniel Okulitch, baritone; Michael Sumuel, bass; and the San Diego Master Chorale, performing Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria

Friday, April 12; Saturday, April 13: Ling conducts Brahms Symphony No. 4, featuring Jahja Ling, conductor, and Jan Lisiecki, piano, with Weber’s Overture to Der Freischütz; Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2

Sunday, April 14: Joshua Bell plays Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, featuring Jahja Ling, conductor, and Joshua Bell, violin, with Weber’s Overture to Der Freischütz; Brahms’ Symphony No. 4

Saturday, April 27; Sunday, April 28: Danzmayr conducts Sibelius Symphony No. 1, featuring David Danzmayr, conductor; and Benjamin Jaber, horn, with Sibelius’ Finlandia; John Williams’ Horn Concerto

Friday, May 3; Saturday, May 4; Sunday, May 5: Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony, featuring Jahja Ling, conductor, and Chelsea Chen, organ, with Berlioz’s Overture to Benvenuto Cellini; Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings; Saint-Saëns, Symphony No. 3: Organ Symphony

Saturday, May 18; Sunday, May 19: Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5, featuring Gemma New, conductor, and Michael Barenboim, violin, with Glazunov’s Violin Concerto; Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5; the West Coast premiere of Alyssa Weinberg’s Reign of Logic

Friday, May 24; Saturday, May 25; Sunday, May 26: Season Finale, featuring Cristian Măcelaru, conductor, and Simon Trpčeski, piano, performing Sean Shepherd’s New Work; Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2; R. Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks; Bernstein’s Divertimento for Orchestra

2018-2019 Special Concerts

Thursday, Oct. 4: Lang Lang plays Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, featuring Edo de Waart, conductor, and Lang Lang, piano, with Berlioz’s Overture to Béatrice et Bénédict; Respighi’s Fountains of Rome

Tuesday, Nov. 27: An Evening with Broadway stars Matthew Morrison and Kelli O’Hara

Thursday, Jan. 10: Discover Night with Rafael Payare, conductor, featuring Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni; R. Strauss’ Don Juan; Mussorgsky/Ravel’s Picture from an Exhibition

2018-2019 Jacobs Masterworks Rush Hour 2.0 Series

All Rush Hour 2.0 concerts are at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 1: David Danzmayr, conductor and Conrad Tao, piano, featuring world premiere of new San Diego Symphony-commissioned work by Javier Alvarez, featuring text by Juan Felipe Herrera, with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1

Thursday, Dec. 6: Featuring Johannes Debus, conductor, and Avi Avital, mandolin, performing Purcell’s arrangement of Britten’s Chacony; Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons; Arensky’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky; Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D minor

Thursday, Jan. 24: Matthew Aucoin, conductor

2018-2019 Fox Theatre Film Series

Thursday, Nov. 8: “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”(1928), with organist Russ Peck (6:30 p.m.)

Friday, Dec. 14: “Love Actually — In Concert” (8 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 9: “Jurassic Park — In Concert” (8 p.m.)

Thursday, March 14: F.W. Murnau’s “Sunrise” (1927) with Russ Peck, organ (6:30 p.m)

Thursday, April 4; Saturday, April 6: “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — In Concert” (8 p.m.)

2018-2019 Family Concert Series

Sunday, Oct. 21: The Science of Sound

Sunday, Dec. 16: “Noel Noel”

Sunday, Feb. 3: A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Sunday, March 31: Peter And The Wolf: The Prokofiev Classic

2018 Holiday Concerts

Saturday, Dec. 15; Saturday, Dec. 22; Sunday, Dec. 23: “Noel Noel,” featuring Sameer Patel, conductor, and the San Diego Master Chorale

Ticket information

Tickets: Subscription ticket packages for the San Diego Symphony’s 2018-2019 season are now on sale. Single tickets go on sale Aug. 19. Prices range from $54 for a three-concert package for either the Great Masterworks and Violin Spotlight series to $1358 for Grand Tier Center seating for the 14-concert Aficionado package.

Phone: (619) 235-0804


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