HOUSTON, TX (March 10, 2021) — The Houston Symphony is announcing guest artists and conductors appearing in the 2021–22 Season. Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s final season as Music Director brings the Colombian-born, European conductor to Houston for five concert weeks, two of them featuring guest performances by pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman. Other classical luminaries appearing in the 2021–22 Season include soprano Renée Fleming; violinists Augustin Hadelich, Simone Lamsma, and Itzhak Perlman, and pianists Hélène Grimaud, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Guest conductors in 2021–22 include Fabien Gabel, Matthias Pintscher, James Gaffigan, and David Robertson. While the Symphony is announcing concert dates and further programming at a later date, the organization is confirming that the 2021–22 Season is characterized by the Symphony’s ongoing commitment to performing safely for in-person audiences, continuing to livestream performances for those who cannot come to Jones Hall, and to programming works by historically underrepresented composers in each concert.
“The artistic achievements I’ve taken part in here over the last eight years were largely possible because of the incredible energy and eagerness of the Houston Symphony musicians,” said Andrés Orozco-Estrada, “and their commitment to giving everything they have at each of our performances. I have come to learn that this is a very special quality unique to this orchestra, and it has been my great pleasure to be able to help draw out, refine, reinforce, and contribute to this spirit in a way that audiences are able to experience with us when we perform, and will continue to experience long after I’m gone.”
Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s tenure as Music Director of the Houston Symphony (September 2014 to present) is characterized by twenty-five musician appointments, including ten principal and associate principal positions; the exploration of innovative means of enhancing the concert experience, including livestreaming concerts to a global audience beginning in 2019; regular touring, including a highly successful Spring 2018 tour of Europe; and innumerable artistic highlights that include a three-season cycle through all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies, semi-staged concert performances of Beethoven’s Fidelio and Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, and a two-week Robert Schumann Festival featuring the composer’s symphonies and concertos, lectures, a pop-up performance at Houston Methodist, and chamber performances throughout Houston.
“Andrés’ impact on the artistic excellence of this orchestra cannot be understated,” said Houston Symphony Executive Director, CEO, and holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair John Mangum. “Under his artistic leadership, the Symphony has continued to be known not only for world-class musicianship, but also for exploring new and innovative ways to enhance the live concert experience.”
“I’m very proud that in the face of adversity this past season we found a path forward through performance,” added Mangum. “Looking forward to 2021–22, we’ll continue to be guided by government health agencies, both local and national, and medical experts from our hospital partners, to keep our musicians and audiences safe. We have done the work to perform safely, and we are prepared to continue with social distancing and safety measures as long as they are needed.”
The season kicks off with a special opening night concert, September 11, 2021, sponsored by ConocoPhillips, featuring superstar soprano Renée Fleming with Steven Reineke leading the orchestra. Having just signed a contract extending his position as Principal POPS Conductor through the end of the 2026–27 Season, Steven Reineke presides over a 2021–22 Bank of America POPS Season that includes these highlights: Once Upon a Time: Alan Menken’s Broadway, Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Songbook, and Very Merry POPS in the first half of the season, then the return of perennial favorites Pink Martini, and the film Star Wars: Return of the Jedi—screened in Jones Hall with the Houston Symphony performing the score live—later in 2022.
Details of the 2021–22 BBVA Compass Family Series, featuring Associate Conductor Robert Franz, will be announced at a later date.
As uncertainty about pandemic disruptions may persist into the fall, the Symphony is prepared to continue all safety measures that have been put into place in the current season as long as needed. In addition to a very reduced Jones Hall capacity to accommodate audience social distancing, the Symphony has put safety protocols in place for all patrons, musicians, and staff entering Jones Hall. These measures include regular COVID-19 testing for musicians; requiring protective masks that cover the nose and mouth at all times; and keeping concertgoers seated a minimum of six feet apart.
Also, Houston First has introduced upgrades to Jones Hall in accordance with its Houston Clean initiative, pledging to maintain the very highest standards of public safety and health across the city of Houston. Upgrades include the creation of new aisles in the auditorium and the replacement of sinks to operate with touchless technology. Between performances, Jones Hall is undergoing deep cleaning of all frequently touched and high traffic areas. To further refine safety plans, the Symphony worked in partnership with researchers at Rice University on a study of how air particles spread during concerts.
For the time being, concerts continue to have a one to one-and-a-half-hour run time with no intermission, and food and beverage services are currently suspended to eliminate crowding. For a comprehensive list of safety measures, visit houstonsymphony.org/safety.
Season tickets for the 2021–22 season, including the Classical and POPS seasons, are currently on sale to renewing subscribers only. Anyone interested in becoming a new subscriber can sign up for a waitlist at houstonsymphony.org/waitlist to be notified as soon as seats become available. Subscriber benefits include presale access to Symphony Specials and free ticket exchanges. Season tickets and single tickets will go on sale at a later date as the Symphony has more insight into audience capacities. For more information, visit houstonsymphony.org or call the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center at 713.224.7575, Monday–Saturday, 12–6 p.m.
About the Houston Symphony
During the 2020–21 Season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its seventh season with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring, and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown on Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $25.8 million, the full-time ensemble of 88 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s two Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 1,000 community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching more than 200,000 people in Greater Houston annually.
In March 2020, local and state government mandates dictated a full closure of the Houston Symphony’s activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the cancelation of 219 events in the 2019–20 season. The Symphony resumed activities in May 2020, opening the 2021–22 season on schedule in September 2021 with small audiences of 150, which the Symphony was gradually able to increase to its current COVID capacity of 450 audience members per performance. Due to the financial impact of the canceled 2019–20 season events, plus the reduction of sales capacity due to audience social distancing in 2020–21, the Symphony cut expenses, reducing the annual budget from $35.2 million in 2019–20 to $25.8 million in 2020-21. The Houston Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement team continues to fulfill its mission through creative and virtual means throughout this period.
The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Koch International Classics, Naxos, RCA Red Seal, Telarc, Virgin Classics, and, most recently, Dutch recording label Pentatone. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category.