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“Voices of Loss, Reckoning, and Hope,” in the BSO’s 2022-2023 Season

Clockwise, starting top left: Andris Nelsons, Seong-Jin Cho, Karina Canellakis, Jessie Montgomery, Midori, Awadagin Pratt
Marco Borggreve, Christophe Kostin, Marco Borggreve, Jiyang Chen, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Rob Davidson
Clockwise, starting top left: Andris Nelsons, Seong-Jin Cho, Karina Canellakis, Jessie Montgomery, Midori, Awadagin Pratt

A provocative, multifaceted, three-week series is the anchor of a Boston Symphony season also marked by a diversification of perspective and significant debuts, all amidst dazzling orchestral masterworks.

Major celebrations and festivals are a part of every major orchestra’s season. But even at their best, they can veer into the self-referential, honoring a composer or artistic movement for its significance to the orchestral art form itself. Rarely does a festival so explicitly aim to reach out from the concert hall, addressing the world around us, as the Boston Symphony’s centerpiece of the newly announced 2022-2023 season.

In “Voices of Loss, Reckoning, and Hope,” a three-week series of concerts in March of 2023, the BSO will focus, as the announcement puts it, “on music, primarily by American composers, that provokes dialogues on social change.” More specifically, the three programs confront issues of race, gender equity, and the aftermath of the acute societal disruptions surfaced by the pandemic:

  • Uri Caine’s The Passion of Octavius Catto is centered on the life of the 19th century civil rights leader, part of a program that also includes works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and William Grant Still.
  • Anthony Davis’s concerto You Have the Right to Remain Silent, with clarinet soloist Anthony McGill, is on a program with works by Margaret Bonds and William Dawson.
  • Julia Wolfe’s Her Story is a BSO co-commission, featuring Boston’s Lorelei Ensemble, that reflects on the past and continuing struggle for women’s rights, paired with Henryck Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

Additional chamber music performances and panel discussions further the explorations and dialogue surrounding the issues and topics raised by the concerts.

Another major thread running through the BSO’s 2022-2023 season – and one that couldn’t be more relevant at the moment – is music that reflects multi-layered tragedies of war and conflict:

  • Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, Babi Yar (May 4-6), repudiates the Soviet system through settings of poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, part of which confronts anti-Semitism through the Nazi massacre of Jewish people near Kyiv, Ukraine, and its Soviet aftermath. In the same program, led by Andris Nelsons, Augustin Hadelich is the soloist in Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto, a deeply emotional reflection on the violence of the Spanish Civil War.
  • The experience of the refugee informs Ella Milch-Sherriff’s The Eternal Stranger, inspired by a dream Ludwig van Beethoven recounted to a friend, and performed in its American premiere (Jan. 5-7) in a concert led by Omer Meir Wellber.
  • Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Mar. 16-18), led by Giancarlo Guerrero and featuring soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, contemplates the grief of a mother whose child has been lost to war. Paired with Julia Wolfe’s Her Story, this is a part of the “Voices of Loss, Reckoning, and Hope” festival.
  • And Osvaldo Golijov’s Falling Out of Time (Apr. 30, in association with Celebrity Series of Boston) also confronts the pain of losing a child, as felt by any parent, inspired by David Grossman’s novel of the same name.
Iman Habibi stands outside, leaning against the wall of a building.
David Grimmett
Iman Habibi

The BSO’s traversal of major works by Shostakovich continues with the composer’s

  • Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, with soloist Yuja Wang (Sep. 29-Oct. 1, alongside works by Iman Habibi and Franz Joseph Haydn), 
  • Symphony No. 3, The First of May (Oct. 6-8, alongside works by Leonard Bernstein and Elizabeth Ogonek),
  • Symphony No. 5 (Oct. 27-30, alongside Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto, with soloist Mitsuko Uchida),
  • Violin Concerto No. 2, with soloist Baiba Skride (Jan. 26-28, alongside the world premiere of Steven Mackey’s Concerto for Orchestra and Johannes Brahms’s Symphony No. 4), and
  • Symphony No. 13, Babi Yar (May 4-6, detailed above).

Other major highlights of the season include the following:

Opening Night is Sept. 22, when Andris Nelsons leads a program featuring pianist Awadagin Pratt, in his BSO debut, in works by J.S. Bach and Jessie Montgomery, as well as John Williams’s A Toast! and Gustav Holst’s The Planets, with the Lorelei Ensemble joining the BSO for the haunting finale of that piece.

Awadagin Pratt sits at the piano.
Rob Davison
Awadagin Pratt

Music Director Andris Nelsons’s love of Richard Wagner operas takes spectacular form in the Overture and Venusberg Music, and Act III of Tannhäuser (Feb. 2 and 4), with soprano Amber Wagner as Elisabeth, tenor Klaus Florian Vogt as Tannhäuser, baritone Christian Gerhaher as Wolfram, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

Thomas Adès returns to Boston, now as former BSO Artistic Partner (Mar. 23-25), to conduct two parts of his own Dante Project, including Inferno Suite and Paradiso, along with Igor Stravinsky’s Perséphone, with tenor Edgardas Montvidas, narrator Danielle DeNiese, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

The American premiere of Adès’s Air, for violin and orchestra, a BSO co-commission, features soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter (Apr. 20-22), in a program led by Andris Nelsons that also includes Jean Sibelius’s Luonnotar, with soprano Golda Schultz, and Symphony No. 5.

Nicola Benedetti makes her BSO debut as the soloist in Karol Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 (Jan. 19-21), part of a program led by Karina Canellakis, in her Symphony Hall debut, that includes Antonín Dvořák’s Wood Dove and Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra.

Julia Piven
Anna Rakitina

The BSO’s Assistant Conductors will each lead a program:

  • Anna Rakitina conducts Elena Langer’s Figaro Gets a Divorce, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with pianist Inon Barnatan, and Maurice Ravel’s realization of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (Nov. 25-26).
  • Earl Lee conducts Unsuk Chin’s subito con forza, W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, with soloist Eric Lu, and Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 (Apr. 6-8).

The season includes works by 18 living composers, including, in addition to those mentioned previously, Justin Dello Joio (world premiere, Jan. 12-14), Carlos Simon (world premiere, Feb. 9-12), Thierry Escaich (American premiere, Apr. 13-15), and Caroline Shaw (Nov. 3, Apr. 28-29).

One final aspect of the 2022-2023 season is significant, not for what we can look forward to, but what’s absent. For the first time, the BSO will not be led by a conductor, nor joined by a soloist, from what might be called the “LP era.” Those artists whose careers were forged in the 1950s to the 1980s, when recordings were released on vinyl and constituted a much more significant role in the economy of orchestral music, were also of an age that was deeply informed and affected by World War Two and the immediate post-war decades. Artists like Christoph von Dohnányi, Christoph Eschenbach, and Menahem Pressler all made their reputations (and fortunes) in that world. And it appears unlikely that we’ll see them and their cohort again.

Time moves on, and many of these musicians have passed on, like Bernard Haitink. But the perspectives they brought to the stage of Symphony Hall, along with their personal connections to legendary figures of a long-ago world, was an irreplaceable gift.

At the same time, the perspectives of younger voices, those who came of age after the Cold War and during the rise of the internet and seemingly ubiquitous connectivity, are to be welcomed. And today’s approach to issues of inclusion and diversity are long overdue. Through both repertoire and guest artists, the Boston Symphony has steered its course into the heart of those matters.

Andris Nelsons
Marco Borggreve
Andris Nelsons

When Andris Nelsons arrived in Boston, he was very much on the young end of the spectrum of the conductors typically seen at Symphony Hall. Now, at 43, he’s only two years younger than the average age of all the conductors leading the BSO in the 2022-2023 season.

For more information about the 2022-2023 season, visit the Boston Symphony Orchestra.