Music Commentary: 2018-19 Boston Classical Music Fall Season Preview (Orchestras, Opera, and New Music, mainly)

There’s so much going on in the area that’s good that it’s a challenge to go wrong.

A scene from Handel & Haydn’s production of “The Fairy Queen.” Antonia Christophers as the Narrator. Photo: Lara Silberklang.

By Jonathan Blumhofer

And, like that, a new concert season is suddenly upon us. As always seems to be the case for the greater Boston area, there’s a sense of “so much music, so little time” and, in an effort to simplify my sometimes-daunting season previews of year’s past, I’ve reduced this fall’s to a sampling of ten orchestral and operatic concert/series highlights. It’s a small sampling, to be sure, and there could easily be ten completely different programs chosen – but the point is, there’s so much going on in the area that’s good that it’s a challenge to go wrong. Additionally, links to season calendars for several additional groups and/or events are included beneath the ten listings.

September 22 – Odyssey Opera’s Gounod Premiere

Odyssey begins its sixth season with a U.S. premiere, this Charles Gounod’s La Reine de Saba (The Queen of Sheba), an 1862 epic that’s nearly as obscure in Europe as it is here. Kara Shay Thomson, Dominick Chenes, and Kevin Thompson headline the cast; Odyssey artistic director Gil Rose conducts.

September 28 – Bach Concertos and Cantatas

The Handel & Haydn Society kicks off its season with a pair of concertos – Brandenburg no. 3 and the D-minor “Double” violin concerto – plus two cantatas and the Mass in G. Aisslinn Nosky and Susana Ogata are the violin soloists, Aaron Sheehan the tenor; Harry Christophers conducts the H&H Orchestra and Chorus.

October 18 – Boston Philharmonic & Benjamin Zander

It’s a double-anniversary year for the BPO, the orchestra’s 40th and director Zander’s 80th. The season kicks off with a trio of 19th-century favorites: Mikhail Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmilla, Dvorak’s Cello Concerto (with Jonah Ellsworth), and Brahms’s Symphony no. 1.

October 19-November 11 – Boston New Music Festival

The city’s third annual new music festival boasts an impressive line-up of local contemporary music champions, including the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (on October 19), Boston Music Viva (see below), Boston New Music Initiative and Juventas New Music Ensemble (on November 3), and Area 9 Quartet (November 9).

October 20 – Boston Musica Viva’s If From the Distance

BMV’s 50th season opens with a new piece by John Harbison (If, From the Distance), then looks back on works played or commissioned by the group over the last half-century, and closes with three short, new trios by semi-finalists in the Rapido! Composition Contest. The one-and-only Richard Pittman conducts.

Andris Nelsons, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Leonidas Kavakos perform at Symphony Hall. Photo: Robert Torres.

October 25-30 – Andris Nelsons conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony

BSO music director Nelsons leads six of the orchestra’s eight subscription weeks this fall – the first time he’s had such a sustained presence at Symphony Hall in his five seasons with the ensemble. Just about each series features a premiere, including this first one: Maija Einfelde’s Lux aeterna is paired with Mahler’s Symphony no. 2 (the concluding portion of which Nelsons led this summer at Tanglewood).

October 27 – New England Philharmonic’s Spirit of the Bells

Conductor Pittman and the NEP open their season with a typically-intrepid mix of new and old: the Lachlan Skipworth’s Spiritus (in its U.S. premiere), John Harbison’s exuberant Symphony no. 1, and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s choral symphony The Bells (with the Commonwealth Chorale).

November 2-4 – Emmanuel Music’s Britten Festival

Emmanuel Music presents a mini-festival around Benjamin Britten’s chamber music, anchored by performances of each of his three string quartets. Other vocal and instrumental works – The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Winter Words, and Lachrymae, among them – fill out the programs, which feature some notable soloists (William Hite, Brett Hodgdon) and ensembles (like the Lydian String Quartet).

November 14 – Boston Lyric Opera’s Schoenberg in Hollywood

“Dissenters & Rebels” is how BLO is marketing the upcoming season. On paper, its offerings – one canonical opera (The Barber of Seville), plus Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and a pair of operas written in the last twenty years – look promising. Schoenberg in Hollywood, with music by Tod Machover and a libretto by Simon Robson, is a world premiere, a reflection on the composer Arnold Schoenberg’s life in California after fleeing Nazi Germany. Omar Ebrahim sings the title role; David Angus conducts.

November 25 – Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra & Benjamin Zander

The BPYO is way more than just a youth orchestra: it’s a world-class ensemble that happens to be made up (mostly) of teenagers. They return to action for the new season the Sunday after Thanksgiving with Anna Federova playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 and music director Zander conducting further works by Carl Maria von Weber and Dmitri Shostakovich.

Additional Schedules

A Far Cry

Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms Society Orchestra

Boston Baroque

Boston Opera Calendar

Boston Opera Collaborative

Collage New Music

Grand Harmonie

Lexington Symphony Orchestra

NEC Orchestras

Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra

Jonathan Blumhofer is a composer and violist who has been active in the greater Boston area since 2004. His music has received numerous awards and been performed by various ensembles, including the American Composers Orchestra, Kiev Philharmonic, Camerata Chicago, Xanthos Ensemble, and Juventas New Music Group. Since receiving his doctorate from Boston University in 2010, Jon has taught at Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and online for the University of Phoenix, in addition to writing music criticism for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

1 Comment

  1. CP on September 26, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    Richard Pittman is also celebrating his 50th year conducting the Concord Orchestra, a community orchestra. You can check him out there as well on October 12 and 13 in Concord.

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