Classical Music

Houston Symphony Announces 2022-23 Season

The Houston Symphony's 2022-23 season welcomes a new music director and and exciting lineup of programs.
The Houston Symphony's 2022-23 season welcomes a new music director and and exciting lineup of programs. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
This week the Houston Symphony announced its 2022-23 season, and expect the drama, mama. The most significant event, of course, will be the new leadership of Juraj Valcuha. As the incoming music director, he succeeds Andres Andrés Orozco-Estrada, who is currently enjoying his farewell season with the organization.

The rising impresario has big ambitions for the upcoming year. Hallmarks of Valcuha’s programming include embracing programmatic themes that unify his multi-week appearances, exploring operatic repertoire in concert alongside great choral works from the symphonic repertoire, continuing to spotlight Houston Symphony musicians as soloists, and welcoming the greatest guest artists in the world to Houston.

“You see some of the fingerprints of his vision for the Houston Symphony in the upcoming season. He focused on music’s ability to convey dramatic situations,” said John Mangum, Executive Director and CEO for the Houston Symphony.

The highlights are plentiful, and the drama extends from start to finish for the season, which begins mid-September with the gravity-defying Cirque de la Symphonie and Verdi's epic "Requiem" and closes with Stravinsky's oratory of "Oedipus Rex," a musical gem from his neo-classical period that harkens in style back to Mozart and Haydn while remaining rooted in the 20th century.

And in case that wasn’t enough, the Symphony continues with the soap opera-worthy planning through what it lovingly dubbed "scandal pieces," or programs that centered around a work whose premiere sparked a legendary scandal, including the suite from Bela Bartok’s 1926 ballet "The Miraculous Mandarin." This work’s expressionist plot induced booing and catcalling from the Cologne audience at its premiere, and subsequently led the mayor of Cologne to ban the work on moral grounds.

The second installment is a work that caused what is arguably the biggest scandal in classical music history: Stravinsky’s "The Rite of Spring." The ballet’s 1913 Paris premiere by Diaghelev’s Ballets Russes caused a riot, and Giacomo Puccini deemed it “the work of a madman."

Even Alexis Carrington would clutch her pearls with that lineup.
click to enlarge Juraj Valcuha has appeared with Houston Symphony several times. Now, it will be his artistic home. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL BREYER
Juraj Valcuha has appeared with Houston Symphony several times. Now, it will be his artistic home.
Photo by Michael Breyer

One of the signatures of Juraj Valcuha’s music directorship is his devotion to thematic programming. Songs of the Earth is the unifying thread for the February 2023 concerts. The two weeks of concerts include Mahler’s "song symphony" "Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)" and "Itinerary of an Illusion," an orchestral work that uses Western musical idioms and instruments to express Chinese musical themes. It is followed by Debussy’s masterwork of impressionism "La Mer" and and Ravel’s "Mother Goose Suite," a Western work whose music evinces Ravel’s fascination with Japanese art and calligraphy.

“The programs are a dialogue between the cultures that come through in these wonderful pieces of music written for the symphony orchestra,” Mangum said.

Valcuha also makes a nod to the past years of Houston Symphony. He will pay tribute to one of his most illustrious predecessors as Music Director, Sir John Barbirolli, by conducting a program that the great British conductor created and conducted February 14 and 15, 1966 during his Houston tenure.

Of course, the season wouldn’t be complete without a performance (or three) from Artistic Partner Itzhak Perlman. Look forward to his Beethoven’s "Violin Concerto," a recital with his friend and artistic partner Rohan De Silva, and Mozart’s "Requiem Mass." And don’t forget the Houston Symphony Chorus. They are back and in full swing for several shows this season, and they will be part of Valcuha’s inaugural performance of the season.

“It's very exciting to see the full forces of the chorus back on stage. Juraj really wanted to be sure and have the entire Houston Symphony family for his first concerts here as music director,” Mangum said.

The chorus will lift their voices during Verdi’s "Requiem," Bartok’s "The Miraculous Mandarin," Stravinsky’s "Oedipus Rex," Mozart’s "Requiem," Holst’s "The Planets" and the dual holiday traditions of Handel’s "Messiah" and Very Merry POPS.
click to enlarge Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke will return to the podium for the Houston Symphony's 2022-23 season. - PHOTO BY BERTUZZI PHOTOGRAPHY
Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke will return to the podium for the Houston Symphony's 2022-23 season.
Photo by Bertuzzi Photography
Speaking of POPS, Steven Reineke is returning as Principal POPS Conductor with a star-studded lineup: Cirque de la Symphonie, powerhouse vocalist Capathia Jenkins in First Ladies of Soul, the return of the multitalented Tony DeSare, Disney’s Fantasia, Very Merry Pops, Broadway Goes Hollywood, Let’s Misbehave: The Songs of Cole Porter, a special joint program of The Music of Elton John and Billy Joel, and The Best of Broadway featuring theatre/television dreamboat and hunk of burning love Jeremy Jordan.

Wowza!

“I just hope that everybody will, after two rough years, want to come back and enjoy what we have to offer,” Mangum said. “It's exciting that we're welcoming a new music director, and the programming that he's bringing is incredibly innovative. I like that there are these moments that break through and cause us to focus. Music lovers won't want to miss it because we're pulling out all the stops,” Mangum said.

The full season is as follows:

The 2022−23 Classical Season

  • September 16, 2022: Opening Night Concert & Gala
  • September 16 - 18, 2022 - Verdi’s "Requiem"
  • September 23 – 25, 2022: an as-yet untitled commission by Nico Muhly
  • September 30 – October 2, 2022: Barber’s "Symphony No. 1," Shawn Okpebholo’s "Zoom," and Adolphus Hailstork’s "Still Holding On," Gershwin’s "Piano Concerto in F"
  • October 20 – 23, 2022: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s "The Bamboula," "Rhapsodic Dance for orchestra," Richard Strauss’s suite from "Der Rosenkavalier"
  • October 28 – 30, 2022: Mozart’s "Symphony No. 35," “Haffner,” "Sinfonia concertante"
  • November 11 – 13, 2022: Elgar’s "Cello Concerto," Alissa Firsova’s "Bride of the Wind," Gustav Holst’s "The Planets"
  • November 18 – 20, 2022: Schumann’s "Piano Concerto," Lili Boulanger’s "Of a Spring Morning," Brahms’ "Symphony No. 3"
  • December 9−11, 2022: Handel’s "Messiah"
  • January 13 – 15, 2023: "The Miraculous Mandarin" and Rachmaninoff’s "Piano Concerto No. 3"
  • January 20 – 22, 2023: Stravinsky’s "The Rite of Spring" and Revueltas’ "Sensemayá"
  • February 10 – 12, 2023: Mahler’s “song symphony” "Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)" and "Itinerary of an Illusion"
  • February 17 - 19, 2023: Debussy’s "La Mer," Toshio Hosokawa’s "Autumn Wind," Toru Takemitsu’s "Quotation of Dream," and Ravel’s "Mother Goose Suite"
  • February 26, 2023: Itzhak Perlman and Rohan De Silva recital
  • March 3 – 5, 2023: Dvorak’s "Violin Concerto, Sibelius’ "Symphony No. 1," Lotta Wennakoski’s "Flounce"
  • March 10 – 12, 2023: Dvorak’s "Symphony No. 8," Carlos Simon’s "Fate Now Conquers," Brahms’ "Piano Concerto No. 1"
  • April 2 – 3, 2023: Mozart’s "Requiem Mass"
  • April 7 – 8, 2023: Haydn’s Symphony No. 101, “The Clock,” Mozart’s "Violin Concerto No. 1," Louise Farrenc’s "Nonet"
  • April 20 – 23, 2023: Mahler’s "Symphony No. 1," Jaako Kuusisto’s "Violin Concerto"
  • May 12 – 14, 2023, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique,” Prokofiev’s"Violin Concerto No. 1," and Paul Creston’s "Dance Overture"
  • May 19 – 21, 2023: Stravinsky’s "Oedipus Rex"
The 2022–2023 Bank Of America POPS Series
  • September 9 – 11, 2022: Cirque de la Symphonie
  • October 7 – 9, 2022: First Ladies of Soul
  • November 25 – 27, 2022: Disney’s Fantasia
  • December 15 – 18, 2022: Very Merry Pops
  • January 6 – 8, 2023: The Music of Elton John and Billy Joel
  • February 24 – 26, 2023: The Best of Broadway with Jeremy Jordan
  • March 17 – 19, 2023: Let’s Misbehave: The Songs of Cole Porter
  • April 14 – 16, 2023: Chris Botti
  • May 5 – 7, 2023: Broadway Goes Hollywood
Season tickets for the 2022–2023 Season, including the Classical Series and the Bank of America POPS Series, are on sale now. For more information or to purchase, visit houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575. Classical Series packages start at $138, and Bank of America POPS Series at $162.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd