Classical music stars don’t get any bigger than the brilliant pianist Lang Lang, and, lucky for us, the San Diego Symphony counts him as a longtime friend. He’ll be back in town Oct. 4 for this year’s Opus Gala, where, after the performance, concertgoers can mingle with the musicians at the University Club Atop Symphony Towers. The gala kicks off an exciting new season that includes world-class performers (Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell and the dashing Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital among them), movie nights with live accompaniment by the orchestra (including Jurassic Park and the holiday favorite Love Actually) and the new Rush Hour 2.0 series of short early-evening concerts. Another highlight of the season comes Oct. 24 when world-renowned Russian maestro Valery Gergiev conducts the Mariinsky Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony together for a performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, which marks the first time the Russian orchestra has ever combined with an American orchestra.
There will be plenty of new works on offer as well. Mark your calendars for the San Diego Symphony-commissioned world premiere of Brazos de niebla (Nov. 2 and 4), which pairs Mexican composer Javier Álvarez with Juan Felipe Herrera, who grew up in San Diego and went on to become the first Mexican-American U.S. poet laureate from 2015 to 2017. You can also catch works by the 28-year-old opera phenom Matthew Aucoin (currently the artist-in-residence at the L.A. Opera) when he curates the fourth annual January Festival titled Hearing the Future.
Martha Gilmer, San Diego Symphony CEO, says she’s especially looking forward to the arrival of the orchestra’s music director designate, the internationally acclaimed conductor Rafael Payare, who was trained by the same Venezuelan educational program, El Sistema, as the L.A. Philharmonic’s star conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Payare will perform four concerts in January (his equally popular wife, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, will join him for three of those) before he officially takes over in July. Says Gilmer, “I cannot wait to hear the incredible energy.”