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The Celebrity Series of Boston in 2020-2021

Time for Three; Kirill Petrenko; Conrad Tao; Joyce DiDonato; Alisa Weilerstein
Courtesy of the Artist; Berlin Philharmonic; Brantley Gutierrez; Courtesy of the Artist; Paul Stuart
Time for Three; Kirill Petrenko; Conrad Tao; Joyce DiDonato; Alisa Weilerstein

When Boston’s concert halls reopen at last, the Celebrity Series of Boston is ready to fill them, through a 2020-2021 season that includes two of the world’s great orchestras, genre-bending programs, and stellar soloists.

Update: Due to COVID-19, New England Conservatory has made the decision to close Jordan Hall and all of its performance and rehearsal facilities to outside organizations for the 2020-2021 academic year. Visit the Celebrity Series of Boston's website for more information.

On November 11, 2020, the Berlin Philharmonic, with its new Music Director Kirill Petrenko, visit Symphony Hall with a program of German music, by Webern, Mendelssohn, and Brahms. The Berlin Phil, with its lush, effortless sound, is particularly exciting to watch with Petrenko at the helm: as Joshua Barone wrote for the New York Times in January, “Call it a lingering honeymoon glow, but [the Berlin Philharmonic] responded to his every gesture with enthusiasm and virtually flawless precision — especially in the brasses.”

Then, on April 11, 2021, the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano, brings its Italian passion to Symphony Hall. Violinist Maxim Vengerov joins the orchestra for Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1. The program also includes Ponchielli’s Elegia and Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3.

Perhaps one of the most unique offerings from the 2020-2021 season is a multimedia retrospective of music and storytelling with violinist Itzhak Perlman. In this performance, on April 18, 2021, at Symphony Hall, Perlman will share anecdotes from his career as well as photos and videos from his personal archives.

Later that week, on April 24, the Trondheim Soloists and their artistic partner, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, visit New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall for a concert featuring selections from their album “Transfigured Night.” In 2018, Gramophone Magazine selected it as an Editor’s Choice, saying, “For a performance that combines chamber-musical intimacy, transparency of details and urgent human expressiveness, you won't do better than this.” The concert presents a fascinating program, placing Schoenberg’s gutsy, late-romantic Verklärte Nacht alongside the clarity of Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1, and works by Golijov and Vasks.

Another unusual performance takes place on November 20, 2020, when mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato sings Schubert’s Die Winterreise at Jordan Hall. It’s a piece that was originally written for the tenor voice, and consequently is usually sung by men. But DiDonato, known for fearlessly taking on any repertoire, presents a fresh and exciting opportunity to hear it in a new light.

She’s not the only superstar vocalist coming to Boston this season, either. Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard is joining guitar legends The Romeros on their 60th Anniversary Tour, and on January 30, 2021, they’ll be at Jordan Hall performing music for guitar and voice by de Falla, Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, Torroba, and more.

The Celebrity Series is also set to introduce Boston to new faces in the world of classical music, as part of their Debut Series. Many of these concerts take place at Pickman Hall at the Longy School of Music of Bard College, an intimate venue that gives audiences the opportunity to experience unbelievable music up close. Pianist Conrad Tao makes his solo Boston recital debut there on December 16, 2020, playing Schumann, Beethoven, Eckardt, and a piece he composed, co-commissioned by the Celebrity Series.

The Debut Series will also bring Jess Gillam, the first-ever saxophonist to reach the finals of BBC Young Musician, to Boston on April 28, 2021. As Richard Morrison wrote in a review for The Times, “Gillam has established herself not just as one of Britain’s most virtuosic instrumentalists, but also as an unstuffy, inspiring personality with the gift of gab.” If that is any indication, her upcoming Celebrity Series concert is not to be missed.

The 2020-2021 season also features a slate of spectacular pianists, such as the wildly-popular Seong-Jin Cho, who comes to New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall on December 6, 2020. Cho has something of a cult following, and the awards and reviews to back it up; perhaps best known for his Chopin, he’ll play two Chopin Scherzos as well as works by Schumann, Berg, and Liszt.

Daniil Trifonov will also perform a solo piano recital on October 30, 2020, at Symphony Hall. Trifonov is currently one of the most in-demand artists in the world, and for good reason: pianist Martha Argerich described him by saying, “He has everything and more… tenderness and also the demonic element. I never heard anything like that.” In his Celebrity Series recital, he’ll play Szymanowski, Weber, and Brahms.

For full details of the 2020-2021 season, visit the Celebrity Series of Boston.

Kendall Todd is the Content Manager for GBH Music.