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Houston Symphony’s October Classical Concerts Promise Berlioz’s Macabre Symphonie Fantastique Just In Time For Halloween

HOUSTON, TX (Sept. 21, 2021) — The Houston Symphony is observing Halloween this year with a weekend of performances of Hector Berlioz’s masterpiece of the macabre, Symphonie fantastique. This month’s classical subscription concerts feature the famed Berlioz symphonic wild ride, as well as Dame Jane Glover’s and Italian conductor Jader Bignamini’s return to the Jones Hall podium, and Symphony Principal Flute Aralee Dorough and Principal Bassoon Rian Craypo stepping forward to perform soloist roles.

Dame Jane Glover returns to the Jones Hall stage to lead Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony (1842), October 22, 23 (this performance is also livestreamed), and 24. In this Romantic work inspired by the composer’s exploration of the ruins of Mary Queen of Scots’s castle Holyrood, Mendelssohn musically conjures visions of the wild, northern country of Scotland. Also on this program are Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 (1917), dubbed “Classical” because Prokofiev composed it as a modern evocation of Haydn and Mozart, and British composer Ethel Smyth’s Overture to her humorous, one-act feminist opera The Boatswain’s Mate (1914). Houston Symphony Principal Bassoon Rian Craypo steps out of the orchestra to perform as soloist in Swiss composer Otmar Nussio’s Variations on an Arietta by Pergolesi (1953) for bassoon and string orchestra. This program is part of the Rand Group Great Performers Series.

Halloween weekend finds the newly-minted Detroit Symphony Music Director Jader Bignamini on the Jones Hall stage to lead the Houston Symphony in Berlioz’s phantasmagorical favorite Symphonie fantastique (1830), October 29, 30 (this performance is also livestreamed), and a matinee on Halloween itself, October 31. This epic fantasy work scored for large orchestral forces limns the story of an artist’s all-consuming obsession with a beautiful woman, which takes him from the heights of passion to the depths of despair, ending with a diabolical witch’s sabbath. On the same program are Symphonic Variations on an African Air (1906) by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, an English composer of African heritage, and Pablo de Sarasate’s Concert Fantasies on Carmen for Flute and Orchestra (1883), difficult enough to perform in its original scoring for violin and orchestra, but even more challenging when performed by solo flute and orchestra. Houston Symphony Principal Flute Aralee Dorough takes up the challenge on this program, performing Sarasate’s arrangement of the most famous tunes from Bizet’s opera Carmen. This performance is part of the Frost Bank Gold Classics series.

Livestream performances are available via a private link to ticket holders for $20. Everyone in the audience is required to wear a mask while in Jones Hall. For a comprehensive schedule of safety measures, visit For tickets and more information, please call 713.224.7575 or visit Socially distanced seats are available in some portions of the auditorium. All programs and artists are subject to change.

The classical series is endowed by the Wortham Foundation, Inc., in memory of Gus S. and Lyndall F. Wortham. Livestream of Houston Symphony concerts is made possible by Barbara J. Burger.

Friday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 23, at 8 p.m.*
Sunday, Oct. 24, at 2:30 p.m.
Dame Jane Glover, conductor
Rian Craypo, bassoon
PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 1, Classical
O. NUSSIO: Variations on an Arietta by Pergolesi
E. SMYTH: Overture to The Boatswain’s Mate
MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 3, Scottish

Friday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 30, at 8 p.m.*
Sunday, Oct. 31, at 2:30 p.m.
Jader Bignamini, conductor
Aralee Dorough, flute
S. COLERIDGE-TAYLOR: Symphonic Variations on an African Air
SARASATE: Concert Fantasies on Carmen for Flute and Orchestra
BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique

*Livestreamed at 8 p.m. CT

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2021–22 Season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its final season under Andrés Orozco-Estrada as Music Director and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring, and recording activities. One of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, the Symphony held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston on June 21, 1913. Today, with an operating budget of $28.8 million (FY22), the full-time ensemble of professional musicians presents nearly 170 (FY19) 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 (FY19) community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching more than 200,000 (FY19) people in Greater Houston annually, prior to COVID-19.

After suspending concert activities in March 2020 and cancelling the remainder of 2019–20 events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Symphony resumed activities in May 2020, opening the 2020–21 Season on schedule in September 2020 with small audiences of 150, which the Symphony gradually increased to 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 planned spending from $36.2 million in 2019–20 to $22.7 million in 2020–21. The Houston Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement team continued to fulfill its mission through creative and virtual means throughout this period. The Symphony successfully completed a full season with in-person audiences and weekly livestreams of each performance, making it one of the only orchestras in the world to do so.

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.

Eric Skelly: 713.337.8560,


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