HOUSTON, TX (June 16, 2021) — The Houston Symphony is announcing program details for Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s final season as music director, including the five 2021–22 concert weeks he will conduct, and the full Bank of America POPS Series lineup under the direction of Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke. To conclude his tenure, Orozco-Estrada welcomes back pianists Yefim Bronfman and Emanuel Ax, and violinist Gil Shaham in concertos and collaborations with Concertmaster Yoonshin Song, Principal Cello Brinton Averil Smith, Principal Double Bass Robin Kesselman, and Principal Keyboard Scott Holshouser; as well as a lineup of audience-favorites including Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 5 and Mahler’s dramatic Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, with mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor; and spotlights Houston Symphony musicians in solo performances. For the 2021–22 Season, the Symphony continues its ongoing commitment to livestream performances, and to programming works by women and composers of color.
“The talent, collaborative spirit, and personality of every musician on stage, combined with the energy we receive from the audience, are the aspects of Houston I have missed the most, and I can’t wait to return,” said Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada. “The level of musicianship in our orchestra is second to none, and I’m looking forward to showing this artistry through these works of art. Audiences will also get the chance to see members of the orchestra performing alongside renowned guest artists, which is a testament to our musicians’ world-class virtuosity.”
“There’s a lot of pent up enthusiasm, both in our audiences and in the orchestra, to get the full group of musicians back on stage so I’m expecting an outpouring of excitement when everybody’s back together. It will be wonderful to have those emotions underlying our celebration of Andrés’ time here as Music Director,” said Houston Symphony Executive Director, CEO, and holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair John Mangum. “Andrés forges such a strong bond with the audience. He always shares his energy, his enthusiasm, his passion for what he does on the stage—he brings the audience into the music making and makes the concert an incredible and communal experience.”
MUSIC DIRECTOR ANDRÉS OROZCO-ESTRADA’S FAREWELL SEASON
The 2021–22 Classical Series begins with Orozco-Estrada conducting the opening subscription concerts, Sept. 17–19, highlighting works by Beethoven. The program opens with an orchestral arrangement of George Bridgetower’s Henry for Fortepiano and Voice followed by Beethoven’s Triple Concerto featuring Concertmaster Yoonshin Song, Principal Cello Brinton Averil Smith, and international pianist Yefim Bronfman. Orozco-Estrada then concludes the program with one of the most well recognized pieces in the classical music repertoire, Beethoven’s crowd-pleasing Symphony No. 5. In the month of December, Orozco-Estrada commences the holiday season as he leads the orchestra in music from the second act of Tchaikovsky’s magical Christmas-time ballet The Nutcracker. This unique opportunity allows Houstonians to enjoy Tchaikovsky’s festive piece performed by the full complement of a major symphony orchestra. Also on the program is Samuel Barber’s ravishing Violin Concerto with returning award-winning violin virtuoso Gil Shaham. In addition, Principal Double Bass Robin Kesselman and Shaham are featured in Bottesini’s dazzling Grand duo concertante.
The month of March sees the return of Orozco-Estrada for two concert weeks, Mar. 18–20 and 25–27, before his farewell concert. These two weeks are characterized by Orozco-Estrada’s season-long spotlight on the world-class musicians of the Houston Symphony with special performances featuring orchestra member in solo roles that highlight their virtuosity. The first week, Mar. 18–20, world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax joins forces with Houston Symphony Principal Keyboard Scott Holshouser in Saint-Saëns’s beloved and colorful Le carnaval des animaux (Carnival of the Animals).
Known for his transformative interpretation of Mahler’s masterworks during his tenure, Orozco-Estrada conducts the epic and dramatic Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, in his farewell concert Apr. 29–May 1. Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony takes listeners on a spiritual journey featuring the combined forces of 200 musicians on stage. A star cast of vocal soloists including mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor join the orchestra and the Houston Symphony Chorus under the direction of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber in the symphony’s emotional and uplifting conclusion to Orozco-Estrada’s tenure as Music Director.
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; eighty-four debuting guest artists; eight world premiere performances, 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, including 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, as well as his commitment to connecting with audiences and the community through his Musically Speaking series; utilizing school partnerships including his collaboration with Crespo Elementary on Stravinsky’s Petrushka; and a workshop with orchestra students at High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA).
THE 2021–22 CLASSICAL SEASON
The 2021–22 Classical Series will also bring some of the greatest guest artists in the world today to Houston, including Augustin Hadelich as violin and leader on Sept. 24–26 in Bach’s Double Concerto in C minor for Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060 with Principal Oboe Jonathan Fischer; Shostakovich’s Sonata for Violin; Bach’s Prelude from Partita No. 2 for Solo Violin, Percussion, and Strings; Saint-Georges’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Other luminaries include pianist Hélène Grimaud in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, Nov. 19–21; superstar violinist Simone Lamsma in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1, Nov. 26–28; pianist Alexandra Dariescu making her Symphony debut in Nadia Boulanger’s Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra and Franck’s Variations symphoniques, Feb. 11–13; cellist Alisa Weilerstein in Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Feb. 25–27; and French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Apr. 15–16. Houston Symphony Associate Principal Timpani and Percussionist Matthew Strauss and renowned guest percussionist Svet Stoyanov perform the world premiere of the Double Percussion Concerto, a Houston Symphony commission, by Jennifer Higdon, one of the United States’ leading contemporary composers, May 6–8. On the same program, guest conductor Robert Spano revisits Rainbow Body by Christopher Theofanidis, another Houston Symphony commission that has had great success since its 2000 premiere to open the program and concludes with Copland’s Symphony No. 3. To close out the 2021–22 Classical Series, guest conductor Juraj Valčuha returns to Houston to lead the orchestra in Beethoven’s last symphony, his Symphony No. 9, Choral with the Houston Symphony Chorus under the direction of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber, May 27–29.
In addition to Orozco-Estrada’s conducting appearances, the 2021–22 Season welcomes back Artistic Partner Itzhak Perlman as conductor on May 12, 14 & 15. Other returning conductors include James Gaffigan, Jader Bignamini in Coleridge-Taylor’s Symphonic Variations on an African Air, Fabien Gabel in Lili Boulanger’s Scenes from Faust et Hélène, former Houston Symphony Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, Robert Spano, and Juraj Valčuha. Making their Houston Symphony Classical Series debuts are Matthias Pintscher, Ryan Bancroft, Lionel Bringuier leading Kaija Saariaho’s Trans for Harp and Orchestra with Principal Harp Megan Conley, and Bertrand de Billy.
Houston Symphony Chorus Returns
Under the direction of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber, the Houston Symphony Chorus returns to the Jones Hall stage during the 2021–22 Season after a yearlong absence induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. An annual holiday tradition, Handel’s Messiah marks the Chorus first performance with the orchestra led by prominent Baroque-era specialist and conductor Bernard Labadie. The festive season continues with the Chorus joining the orchestra in Very Merry POPS. The Chorus returns in the springtime in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony for Orozco-Estrada’s farewell program and Beethoven’s Choral Symphony with Juraj Valčuha to close out the Classical Series.
The Classical Series is endowed by The Wortham Foundation, Inc. in memory of Gus S. and Lyndall F. Wortham. Orozco-Estrada is the fourth music director to hold the Roy and Lillie Cullen Chair; a position endowed in perpetuity by The Cullen Foundation.
The Margaret Alkek Williams Sound + Vision Concert Experience
The Margaret Alkek Williams Sound + Vision programs provide an enhanced concert experience by featuring surtitles, lighting, video, dance, and/or use of in-hall screens, among other visual aesthetics. The programs are intended to bring more clarity and help tell the stories of music being performed. The Margaret Alkek Williams Sound + Vision series is supported in part by The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts. Video enhancements for the Houston Symphony are made possible through a grant from the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation.
OPENING NIGHT: AN EVENING WITH RENÉE FLEMING
As previously announced, the season kicks off with a glamorous Opening Night Concert and Gala on September 11, 2021. The much-anticipated event features superstar soprano Renée Fleming with Steven Reineke leading the orchestra in a program of opera arias and musical theatre songs including classic Broadway overtures at the newly renovated and acoustically improved Jones Hall. Following the concert, the celebration continues at The Corinthian with an elegant, seated dinner by City Kitchen and musical entertainment by Houston’s own Richard Brown Orchestra. The Opening Night Concert and Gala, chaired by long-time Symphony supporters and family members Robin Angly and Miles Smith, is generously supported by ConocoPhillips, the lead concert sponsor and corporate gala underwriter for the 35th year.
2021–22 BANK OF AMERICA POPS SERIES
Having just signed a contract extending his position as Principal POPS Conductor through the end of the 2026–27 Season, Reineke presides over a 2021–22 Bank of America POPS Season that includes Broadway showtunes, film music with live orchestra, and tributes to iconic artists. The Houston Symphony and Reineke open the POPS Series withOnce Upon a Time: Alan Menken’s Broadway Sept. 3–5. A celebration of the music by eight-time Academy Award-winning and eleven-time Grammy Award-winning composer Alan Menken, best known for his scores and songs during the Disney Renaissance era. Reineke is joined by Broadway vocalists Matt Doyle and Montego Glover, Houston native Katie Rose Clarke, and Jordan Donica, who currently seen on the CW’s Charmed series. The program will feature hits from musicals like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors, Aladdin, Newsies, and more.
Oct. 8–10, multi-instrumentalist and jazz clarinetist Dave Bennett returns to Houston in the high-energy program, Whole Lotta Shakin’: Swing to Rock. Led by Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke, the electrifying program interprets hits by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Glenn Miller, and many more backed by the Houston Symphony Big Band and Bennett.
In November, Steven Reineke and the orchestra pay tribute to the famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong in Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Songbook Nov. 5–7. Electrifying jazz trumpeter and vocalist Byron Stripling celebrates Armstrong’s music with some of his most memorable songs like “What a Wonderful Word,” “Basin Street Blues,” “Mack the Knife,” “Hello Dolly,” and more.
For the holidays, the orchestra and Houston Symphony Chorus return once again to perform classic holiday songs in the festive, family-friendly program, Very Merry Pops Dec. 18–20</em. Former Houston Symphony Principal POPS Conductor Michael Krajewski returns for the holiday program alongside vocalist Rodney Ingram from Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera.
Also returning to perform with the Symphony is Pink Martini, who rings in the new year and opens the second half of the POPS Series under the direction of Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke, Jan. 7–9. Known for its multi-lingual repertoire, this eclectic ensemble regularly performs in concert halls and with orchestras around the nation. Houston audiences will enjoy a musical evening that combines an array of genres like classical, Latin, jazz, and classic pop music.
Michael Krajewski returns Feb. 4–6 in Classic Rock: The Sound of a Generation, a symphonic tribute program celebrating some of classic rock’s biggest anthems. Rock vocalists join Krajewski and the orchestra to perform the greatest hits from The Doobie Bros., Fleetwood Mac, Styx, and many more.
The Symphony continue their film with live orchestra presentations of the critically acclaimed Star Wars movie franchise with “Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi”—in Concert, part of the orignal triology, the weekend of Mar. 4–6. Adults and kids of all ages will experience the blockbuster film like never before: on a big screen above the orchestra in sync with a live performance of John Williams’ award-winning score. Renowned for his film work, Williams wrote and conducted the soundtrack for Star Wars, which many consider one of the greatest in film history. In addition to reprising iconic themes from A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back like those associated with Luke and Leia, the score to The Return of the Jedi reintroduces to the world the menacing, militant Imperial March.
In celebration of the life and art of Aretha Franklin, the Symphony welcomes powerhouse vocalists Capathia Jenkins and Ryan Shaw, for the program Aretha: Queen of Soul Apr. 22–24. Conductor Lucas Waldin leads Jenkins, Shaw, and the orchestra in the soulful program celebrating the powerful voice of the late, great Aretha in an unforgettable tribute program.
Reineke and the orchestra close out the 2021−22 POPS Series along with the Houston Symphony Chorus in The Best of John Williams—Star Wars & More with Chorus! Paying tribute to the master of film scores, the Symphony brings Williams’ beloved music from blockbuster films like Superman, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and many more, May 20–22.
Season tickets for the 2021─22 season, including the Classical and POPS seasons, are currently on sale. For more information, visit houstonsymphony.org or call the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center at 713.224.7575, Monday─Saturday, 12─6 p.m.
Houston Symphony Season Partners
Support from the Houston Symphony’s corporate, foundation, and government partners allows the orchestra to reach new artistic heights in music, education, and community engagement. Two-thirds of the Symphony’s annual operating budget comes from donations and philanthropic support. The Houston Symphony 2021−22 partners include Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods/Spec’s Charitable Foundation (Principal Corporate Guarantor), BBVA (Family Series), Houston Methodist (Official Health Care Provider), United Airlines (Official Airline), Tenenbaum (Preferred Jewelry Partner), and media partners ABC-13 (Official Television Partner) and Houston Public Media (Media Partner). Series support comes from Bank of America, Shell, ExxonMobil, Frost Bank, and Rand Group. The activities and projects of the Houston Symphony are funded in part by grants from the City of Houston, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
Livestream of Houston Symphony concerts is made possible by Barbara J. Burger.
About the Houston Symphony
During the 2021–22 Season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its final 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 operating budget of $28.5 million, the full-time ensemble of 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.
After cancelling the remainder of 2019 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 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 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 attain this achievement.
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.
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