Critic’s Choice for 2018-2019

September 1, 2018 at 1:00 am

By Aaron Keebaugh

Joyce DiDonatao will make her Celebrity Series debut with recital March xx, 2019.

Joyce DiDonato will make her Celebrity Series debut with a recital March 1, 2019.

At first glance, the 2018-2019 classical music season in Boston seems focused largely on standard repertoire. Andris Nelsons’ Shostakovich project with the Boston Symphony Orchestra will continue this season with performances of Symphonies Nos. 1 and 15. Benjamin Zander will lead the Boston Philharmonic in Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2. The Boston Lyric Opera will open its season with Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

But scattered among the concert listings are programs that offer a wealth of new and little-heard repertoire. With performances of both beloved classics and rare and curious gems, the coming season offers something for everyone. Here are a few performances you won’t want to miss.

Charles Gounod’s La Reine de Saba at Odyssey Opera. September 22.

For the past five years, Odyssey Opera has opened Boston’s classical music scene with concert performances of operas that are well off the beaten path. To kick off the coming season, conductor Gil Rose will lead the company in a single performance of Gounod’s grand opera La Reine de Saba, with Kara Shay Thomson as Balkis, the title Queen of Sheba. Though not as well known as his Faust and Romeo et Juliette, Gounod’s La Reine de Saba contains poignant music that reflects the French composer’s affinity for Wagnerian drama and the rich imagination of Meyerbeer’s ensemble scenes. “Inspirez-moi, race divine,” Adoniram’s aria from Act II, was made famous through a 1916 recording by Enrico Caruso.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection.” Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. October 25-30.

During his tenure with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons has delivered robust and spiritual accounts of Mahler’s symphonies that have lingered in memory. This season, the Latvian conductor turns his attention to the Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,”a work of funereal darkness and ultimate triumph of the soul. Joining the BSO and Tanglewood Festival Chorus for these Symphony Hall performances will be soprano Ying Fang and mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink.

Roman de Fauvel. Boston Camerata. October 28.

TheRoman de Fauvel, a medieval satire of Christian pilgrimage and political turmoil that is relevant today, is more often read about in music history textbooks than heard live. But Anne Azéma and the Boston Camerata will bring the hilarious story of the roving donkey to vivid life in a semi-staged single performance in October.

World premiere of Tod Machover’s Schoenberg in Hollywood. Boston Lyric Opera. November 14-18.

After escaping Nazi control of central Europe, Arnold Schoenberg settled in Hollywood California, where he taught composition at UCLA. Schoenberg in Hollywood, a new opera by composer Tod Machover and librettist Simon Robson, explores the composer’s life in the  glamorous part of America as he wrestles with creating lasting and cutting-edge art in a world gone mad. The Boston Lyric Opera commission stars Omar Ebrahim as Schoenberg.

John Harbison’s Symphony No. 2 and Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5. Andrew Davis and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. January 10-12, 2019.

The symphonies of Boston-based composer John Harbison crop up every so often on programs of the city’s orchestras. His 80th birthday season (December 20 to be exact), will bring new performances of some of these well-crafted and often introspective works. At Symphony Hall in January, Andrew Davis will lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Harbison’s Symphony No. 2. Filling out the program will be Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5, the most popular symphony by a composer who is too often neglected in Boston.

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in Celebrity Series recital. March 1.

Joyce DiDonato, the celebrated Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano, will make her Celebrity Series debut at Jordan Hall on March 1. Her program, entitled “Songplay,” promises to deliver rich musical rewards as the singer traverses improvisatory music from the Italian Baroque to jazz.

KIrill Gersten will give the world premiere fo hams Adws' Piano Concerto with the composer oondicing on xxxxx.

Kirill Gerstein will be the soloist in the world premiere of Thomas Adès’s Piano Concerto with the composer conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra March 7-9, 2019.

World premiere of Thomas Adès’ Piano Concerto. Kirill Gerstein,  Thomas Adès and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. March 7-9.

Over the past two seasons, Thomas Adès has led the Boston Symphony Orchestra in memorable performances of his own music as well as works by Britten and Sibelius, among others. At Symphony Hall in March, he will crown his tenure as BSO Artistic Partner with the world premiere of his Piano Concerto, which will spotlight the blazing keyboard technician Kirill Gerstein.

Thomas Adès and Kirill Gerstein. Celebrity Series duo recital. March 15.

In addition to his skills as composer and conductor, Thomas Adès is also a fine pianist in his own right. In previous appearances in Boston over the past two seasons, he has accompanied tenor Ian Bostridge in Schubert’s complete Winterreise and the Boston Symphony Chamber Players in Janáček’s Concertino. At Jordan Hall this March, Adès will team up with Kirill Gerstein in a Celebrity Series duo recital that will consist of music from Adès’ Powder Her Face as well as Lutosławski’s Variations on a theme by Paganini and Shostakovich’s piano reduction of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms.

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony.  Celebrity Series. March 24.

The Celebrity Series will host the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra for the eighth time this coming March in Symphony Hall. But the event will mark the final time that conductor Michael Tilson Thomas will appear in Boston with that ensemble as he will depart the West Coast ensemble in 2020. As a sendoff, Tilson Thomas will lead the orchestra in his own Agnegram, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, which will spotlight Christian Tetzlaff as soloist.

Ives’ Symphony No. 3 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic. April 26.

Apart from the season-long celebration of Leonard’s Bernstein’s centennial this past year, American music remains sadly underplayed in Boston just as it is around the country. But Benjamin Zander, who has a fine feel for some of the grandest works in the symphonic repertoire, will turn his attention to the music of Charles Ives this coming April. The unorthodox Boston Philharmonic program will pair Ives’ forward-looking Symphony No. 3 with Mahler’s epic Fifth Symphony.

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One Response to “Critic’s Choice for 2018-2019”

  1. Posted Sep 18, 2018 at 10:47 pm by John Stobierski

    Thanks for this. Amazingly, the Celebrity Series booklet that arrived in the mail today – big beautiful pictures – lists the performers BUT NOT WHAT THEY’RE PLAYING!! The repertoire might make a difference in any decision to fork over $$ for tickets, eh?

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