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Old masters meet new horizons in The Philadelphia Orchestra's expansive 2023-2024 season

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra
Pete Checchia
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra at Verizon Hall.

The Philadelphia Orchestra will revisit beloved classics, premiere new commissions and welcome an array of distinguished guest artists in its 2023-2024 season, striving toward what Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin characterizes as “a greater, more inclusive perspective on classical music, across centuries and cultures.”

In an announcement released today, Nézet-Séguin declares: “The unmistakable sound, beauty, and grandeur of The Philadelphia Orchestra is always present on our stages, while our view of the art of music is always evolving.” The 2023-24 season reflects that evolution in a number of ways, beginning with Opening Night on Sept. 28, when cellist Yo-Yo Ma will make his 12th appearance with the Orchestra, performing Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. The concert also includes two pieces with a strong Philadelphia connection: Symphonic Dances, which Rachmaninoff composed for the Orchestra in 1940; and Fanfare Ritmico, a single-movement piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning, Philadelphia-based composer Jennifer Higdon.

Nézet-Séguin will conduct four world premieres over the course of the season, beginning with Brazilian-American composer Clarice Assad’s Bassoon Concerto for principal bassoonist Daniel Matsukawa (Oct. 12–14). The other major premieres are MUYUY, The circle of life, by Argentinean composer Esteban Benzecry’s MUYUY; Mason Bates’s Violin Concerto, for violinist Gil Shaham (Jan. 26-28); and a Concerto for Orchestra by Valerie Coleman, in her fourth Philadelphia Orchestra commission (May 30–June 2).

Audra MacDonald
Allison Michael Orenstein
Audra MacDonald

In addition to Yo-Yo Ma, who makes two more appearances over the course of the season, the Orchestra will feature some of the most celebrated performers and conductors of our time. Among them are John Williams, who will be 92 when he conducts his Cello Concerto for Ma, along with selections from his film scores, on Feb. 20. Legendary soprano Audra McDonald will make her return (Feb. 3), as will the revered pianists Emmanuel Ax (March 15 to 17), András Schiff (April 5 to 6), Yuja Wang (April 30), Evgeny Kissin (May 15) — and, for the first time in 25 years, Mitsuko Uchida, who will join the Orchestra to perform Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major (May 30 to June 2). Also of note: Daniil Trifonov will return to perform Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1, on a program that also features William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 4 (Oct. 6 to 8). And jazz pianist Marcus Roberts will appear with his trio and the Orchestra in a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, on a concert that also features Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Weill’s Symphony No. 2.

The Orchestra will feature several works by women composers, including co-commissions by Pulitzer Prize-winners Julia Wolfe and Du Yun. Wolfe’s new work, with a title yet to be announced, will be performed in a program led by David Robertson (Nov. 17 to 18). Du Yun’s Pipa Concerto will be performed by Wu Man in a premiere conducted by Anna Sułkowska-Migoń (Jan. 11 and 13). And Nézet-Séguin will conduct Anna Clyne’s This Moment, commissioned through the League of American Orchestra’s Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Orchestral Commissions Program (Oct. 6 to 8), following its premiere at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival in Colorado.

Nathalie Stutzmann conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra
Jeff Fusco
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Nathalie Stutzmann conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra at Verizon Hall

Choral works also take the spotlight, as Nézet- Séguin conducts Brahms’s A German Requiem (Jan. 26 to 28) and a season-concluding production of Puccini’s La Bohème (June 7 and 9). Fabio Luisi will conduct Orff’s Carmina Burana (March 15 to 17), and Principal Guest Conductor Nathalie Stutzmann will take the lead on Mozart’s Requiem (April 26 to 28).

The Philadelphia Orchestra's upcoming season encompasses more than we're able to touch on here. Peruse the full concert calendar, and stay tuned. And don't forget to tune into The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI, Sundays 1 to 3 p.m. on WRTI-FM and Mondays 7 to 9 p.m. on WRTI HD-2.

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes.