Boston Symphony opens its 143rd season with a series of “mixes”

Boston Symphony Orchestra opened its 143rd Season last week with a series of 10 concerts (October 5–21) conducted by its Music Director Andris Nelsons (now in his 10th season with the Orchestra). This early fall series will feature both classical favorites as well as prominent contemporary composers – performed in Boston Symphony Hall– one of the world’s greatest.

Boston Symphony Hall (built in 1900) is considered one of the greatest concert halls in the world

On the Opening Night last Saturday which we attended, Nelsons conducted Mozart (Piano Concerto 23) and Beethoven (Consecration of the House Overture) piano pieces (with distinguished Rudolph Buchbinder, piano) as well as  two works by jazz pianist, composer, and conductor Duke Ellington: New World A-Coming, (played by the BSO and the Aaron Diehl Trio), and Tonk, a piano four-hands piece written with Ellington’s collaborator Billy Strayhorn, performed here by Buchbinder and Diehl side by side.  Carlos Simon’s Four Black American Dances (a reinvention of traditional Black American music for orchestral medium; commissioned by the BSO in 2022) concluded the evening.

Piano four-hands with Aaron Diehl and Rudolf Buchbinder in Ellington & Strayhorn’s Tonk (Michael Blanchard). Buchbinder is an honorary member of Vienna Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestra and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra among several others. His Beethoven’s interpretation is considered as setting standards. Aaron Diehl is a classically trained pianist and composer performing early and mid-20thcentury jazz as well as modern work.
Aaron Diehl Trio and BSO performing Ellington’s New World A-Coming (Michael Blanchard). This was Aaron Diehl’s Trio BSO’s debut (with Drummer Aaron Kimmel and Bassist David Wong).

This mix of classical and contemporary felt very welcome (if somewhat unusual to me) but it has been a part of the opening concerts since 2019 (as well as other concerts during the season).  I was told by the BSO’s press office that it is something that the BSO is trying to prioritize as a way to “encourage people to listen to new music and support living composers while still playing familiar music they love.”

Beethoven’s “regal” Consecration was originally composed for a theater inauguration near Vienna in 1822 (one of composer’s later large orchestral pieces); it also opened Symphony’s first subscription program in 1881 (and was chosen as opening piece by Andris Nelson when Symphony returned to live concerts following the pandemic).

Mozart’s Concerto’s melancholic “moonlight like” second movement was my favorite of the night.

My husband and my daughter both loved Carlos Simon’s Four Black American Dances (especially Tap and Holy Dance) – “very well made”, as my husband put it.  I have to say- my husband has an impeccable taste-  Time of London also called them “brilliantly scored” and “jubilant”  after BSO’s recent summer European Tour.

For the second weekend of the season (October 12-15) BSO continues to pair classical repertoire with groundbreaking music from contemporary composers.  Guest Star Yo-Yo Ma plays both of Shostakovich’s powerful cello concertos, Nelsons will also conduct Haydn’s Symphony No. 22, Philosopher, and Canadian-Iranian composer Iman Habibi’s Zhiân, a BSO commission (written following 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death at the hands of the Iranian morality police in 2022 and the resulting wave of mass protests).  Habibi also won Azrieli Foundation’s 2022 Commission for Jewish Music- his piece Shāhīn-nāmeh showcasing 14th century Judeo-Persian poetry).

On October 12 the concert started with an emotional tribute by Nelson and Yo Yo Ma to the terror victims in Israel.

Early fall programs conducted by Nelsons conclude on October 19–21 weekend with a three-concert series with British pianist Paul Lewis, (another great Beethoven interpreters) playing all five Beethoven piano concertos (see  program details below).

Our daughter is not playing a musical instrument right now, but we have been taken her to Tanglewood (summer home of Boston Symphony orchestra every summer since she was able to stand on her feet) and I am proud to say that she appreciates a variety of musical genres.  I look forward to attending more Symphony Hall concerts with her this season (I purchased a “High School Card” for her (read about it below).

My daughter told me she prefers a “single vibe” concert (referring to the “multi vibe” of the classical/modern “mix”)

For Tickets, visit Boston Symphony website. There are Special ticket opportunities  (such as $25 Under 40 and BSO High School and College Cards priced at $15 and $30 accordingly for entire (!) season of BSO concerts. There are Blackout dates (like this weekend of October 12-15, for example).  The special tickets are to be reserved on Mondays, starting at 10am, for available concerts occurring within the week ahead. There are other opportunities (e.g. for teachers and medical workers), call the box office 888-266-1200 for more information.

Here is full 2023-2024 BSO Program Listing.

Saturday, October 7, 6 p.m.
Opening Night at Symphony
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Rudolf Buchbinder, piano
Aaron Diehl Trio (Ellington)
BEETHOVEN Consecration of the House Overture
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K.488
ELLINGTON New World A-Coming, for piano and orchestra

ELLINGTON/STRAYHORN Tonk, for piano four-hands
Carlos SIMON Four Black American Dances

Thursday, October 12, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 13, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 14, 8 p.m.
Sunday, October 15, 2 p.m.
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
HAYDN Symphony No. 22, Philosopher
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 2
Iman HABIBI Zhiân (BSO commission)
SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 1

Thursday, October 19, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 20, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 21, 8 p.m.
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Paul Lewis, piano
Thomas Warfield, narrator (October 21)
Oct. 19:
Hannah KENDALL The Spark Catchers
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3
Oct. 20:
Hannah KENDALL The Spark Catchers
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4
Oct. 21:
Hannah KENDALL The Spark Catchers
James LEE III Freedom’s Genuine Dawn, for narrator and orchestra (BSO co-commission)
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor


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