Press Room

Andrés Orozco-Estrada Conducts World Premiere of Houston Symphony Commission: Jimmy López Bellido’s Symphony, No. 2, “Ad Astra,” and Gil Shaham Plays Brahms

HOUSTON (Nov. 20, 2019) – Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the Houston Symphony present the much-anticipated world premiere of Composer-in-Residence Jimmy López Bellido’s Symphony No. 2, Ad Astra, at 8 p.m. Dec. 5 and 7, and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8. Saturday night attendees are invited to stay late and enjoy a complimentary after-party featuring music, specialty cocktails, and mingling with musicians as part of the evening’s post-concert activities.

Commissioned by the Houston Symphony, Ad Astra is the culmination of López’s third and final year as composer-in-residence. “I wanted it to be connected to the city of Houston,” he explained. “I decided to pay homage to the people of NASA with this symphony, which is dedicated to them. Space exploration is Houston’s gift to the world.”

Musically, the symphony is based on the Morse Code for the words “ad astra” (Latin for “to the stars”), part of a message aboard the Voyager space probes as a greeting to any space-faring aliens that might find them someday. The Symphony consists of five movements, each with a different source of inspiration. “The first four were inspired by iconic programs or missions from NASA’s history: Voyager, Apollo, Hubble, and Challenger,” Jimmy said. “The last movement, Revelation, imagines that Voyager’s message is found by distant lifeforms. All of the other movements are struggle, trying to reach the stars.”

Violin virtuoso Gil Shaham joins the second half of the program in Brahms’ classic Violin Concerto. Known for his flawless technique, Shaham interprets this beautiful and emotionally powerful masterpiece—widely considered one of the great works of the violin repertoire.

In addition, Shaham joins Houston Symphony musicians in Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet at MATCH Box 4 on Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. This program marks the opening concert of the Houston Symphony’s Chamber Music Series, which will showcase musicians and guest luminaries in intimate venues across Houston. The Houston Symphony’s Chamber Music Series is made possible in part by the generous support from: Robin Angly and Miles Smith, Nancy and Walter Bratic, Eugene Fong, Gary L. Hollingsworth and Kenneth J. Hyde, Ms. Leslie Nossaman, Mr. and Mrs. Mark Nuccio, Ed and Janet Rinehart, and Bobby and Phoebe Tudor.

Shaham Plays Brahms + López World Premiere, sponsored by Rochelle and Max Levit, Grand Guarantors, and Rand Group Great Performers, takes place at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana Street, in Houston’s Theater District. For tickets and information, please call 713.224.7575 or visit Tickets may also be purchased at the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center in Jones Hall (Monday–Saturday, 12–6 p.m.). All programs and artists are subject to change.

Thursday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 7, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 8, 2:30 p.m.
Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor
Gil Shaham, violin
Jimmy López Bellido: Symphony No. 2, Ad Astra
(Houston Symphony Commission, World Premiere)
Brahms: Violin Concerto

About Andrés Orozco-Estrada
Energy, elegance and spirit—these are the qualities that distinguish Andrés Orozco-Estrada as a musician. Since the 2014–15 season, he has been music director of the Houston Symphony and principal conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. Beginning in the 2020–21 season, he will be chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony.

Andrés conducts many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Orchestre National de France, and American orchestras in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago. He has also directed successful concerts and opera performances at the Glyndebourne and Salzburg festivals.

Highlights of the 2019–20 season include performances with the Vienna Philharmonic at the BBC Proms and the Lucerne Festival, as well as tours to China, South Korea, and Japan. In the spring, Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducts his debut concert with the New York Philharmonic and returns as a guest to the rostrum of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. In May 2020, the Dutch National Opera Amsterdam premieres a new production of Carmen under his direction. With the Houston Symphony, he presents a new two-week Schumann Festival in February featuring the composer’s symphonies, concertos, choral works, and chamber music. The same month, he conducts three concerts at the Wiener Musikverein, leading the Vienna Symphony as principal conductor designate.

Andrés is particularly committed to new concert formats in which spoken commentary and visual elements complement the music as he rediscovers known repertoire together with the audience—be it a Spotlight concert with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra or a Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra family concert.

His CD releases at Pentatone have attracted critical praise. His Dvořák cycle with the Houston Symphony was praised by Pizzicato as a “vital Dvořák with warm colors.” With the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, recordings of Stravinsky’s Firebird and The Rite of Spring were hailed as “beguiling” by Gramophone, and the same publication recently described him as “a fine Straussian” in a review of their recent recording of the Alpine Symphony from his Richard Strauss cycle. In addition, his interpretations of all the Brahms and Mendelssohn symphonies are available on recordings.

Born in Medellín, Colombia, Andrés began his musical education with the violin. He received his first conducting lessons at 15 and began study in Vienna in 1997, where he was accepted at the prestigious University of Music and Performing Arts in the conducting class of Uroš Lajovic, a student of the legendary Hans Swarowsky. Andrés has since lived in Vienna.

About Gil Shaham
Gil Shaham is one of the foremost violinists of our time: his flawless technique, combined with his inimitable warmth and generosity of spirit, has solidified his renown as an American master. He is sought after throughout the world for concerto appearances with leading orchestras and conductors and regularly gives recitals and appears with ensembles on the world’s great concert stages and at the most prestigious festivals.

Highlights of recent years include a recording and performances of J.S. Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas for solo violin and recitals with his long-time duo partner pianist, Akira Eguchi. He regularly appears with the Berlin Philharmonic; Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras; San Francisco Symphony; Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics; and Orchestre de Paris. He serves multi-year residencies with the orchestras of Montreal, Stuttgart, and Singapore.

Gil has more than two dozen concerto and solo CDs to his name, earning multiple Grammys, a Grand Prix du Disque, Diapason d’Or, and Gramophone Editor’s Choice. His most recent recording in the 1930s Violin Concertos series, Vol. 2, was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Gil Shaham was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1990, and in 2008, he received the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. In 2012, he was named Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America. He plays the 1699 “Countess Polignac” Stradivarius and lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony, and their three children.

About Jimmy López Bellido
An “undeniably exciting composer” (Opera News) with “a brilliant command of orchestral timbres and textures” (The Dallas Morning News) and “a virtuoso mastery of the modern orchestra” (The New Yorker), Jimmy López Bellido has created works performed by leading orchestras around the world and in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, the Lepzig Gewandhaus, the Kennedy Center, Vienna’s Musikverein, and the Konzerthaus Berlin. His works have also been featured at Nordic Music Days, the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore, and the Aspen, Tanglewood, and Grant Park music festivals.

Fiesta!, one of his most famous works, has received more than 90 performances worldwide, making it one of the most performed contemporary orchestral works. Bel Canto, based on Ann Patchett’s bestselling novel, is a full-length opera commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago as part of the Renée Fleming initiative. It premiered in December 2015 to wide critical acclaim and was broadcast nationwide on PBS’s Great Performances.

Jimmy recently completed Dreamers, an oratorio he wrote in collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz for Ana María Martínez, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and the Philharmonia Orchestra of London. A new album with Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra was released in the summer (MSR Classics). He is published by Filarmonika Music Publishing.

Jimmy is composer-in-residence at the Houston Symphony through the 2019–20 Season.

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2019–20 season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its sixth 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 Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $35.2 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 four Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 1,000 community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching nearly 200,000 people in Greater Houston annually.

The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Naxos, Koch International Classics, Telarc, RCA Red Seal, 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,
Mireya Reyna: 713.337.8557,


Give the gift of music

Symphony on Demand vouchers are redeemable for 60+ Classical, Bank of America POPS, and PNC Family Series performances.