Philharmonic to celebrate women composers in 2019-2020 season

Wed Feb 06, 2019 at 12:36 pm
Anna Thorvaldsdottir is among 19 women composers who will write new works that will premiere during the New York Philharmonic's 2019-2020 season.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir is among 19 women composers who will write new works that will be premiered in the New York Philharmonic’s 2019-2020 season.

The 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, was added to the Constitution August 18, 1920. To celebrate that centennial the New York Philharmonic has created a headline series for their 2019-2020 season. “Project 19” is the title, and the initiative will encompass 19 new pieces of music, all commissioned from women composers.

More notable than the concept itself will be the roster, which encompasses artists like Unsuk Chin, Angélica Negrón, and Joan Tower, who have long-established careers; leading contemporary composers Olga Neuwirth and Anna Thorvaldsdottir; voices from the new generation like Caroline Shaw, Du Yun, and Sarah Kirkland Snider; the big band jazz composer Maria Schneider; and the avant-garde composer/performer Joan La Barbara. Music from these women will be heard on concert programs throughout the season.

Project 19 will also intertwine with another series, “hotspots,” a three-week festival set in three international centers for new music, New York, Reykjavik, and Berlin. The New York component is scheduled for May and June, 2020, and will feature John Adams conducting the Philharmonic in a world premiere from Neuwirth, bordered by Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges Suite and Adams’ own City Noir (May 28, 30, June 2). The hotspots series  will also offer the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s Concerto for Two Pianos, played by Katia and Marielle Labèque (June 4-6, June 9), and will conclude with concerts June 11-13 that will include Snider’s new work, Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet, and Strings (soloists will be Yuja Wang and Philharmonic principal trumpeter Christopher Martin), and Adams’ Harmonium; these last two orchestra programs will be conducted by Philharmonic music director Jaap van Zweden.

Those two series will connect the Philharmonic to the contemporary world, while Mahler’s New York will illuminate the roots of the orchestra and it’s legacy as one of Gustav Mahler’s own ensembles. The orchestra will play Mahler’s first two symphonies and Songs of a Wayfarer, sung by baritone Roderick Williams. Symphony No. 1 will be heard April 15-16 and 18, Symphony No. 2—with soprano Joélle Harvey and mezzo Sasha Cooke, and the Concert Chorale of New York—will be performed April 23-25. There will be a one-time program April 17, named after Leonard Bernstein’s old bumper sticker, “Mahler Grooves,” that puts together Symphony No. 1 and Songs of a Wayfarer, with prices set at a low cost.

The Philharmonic will also travel to van Zweden’s home of Amsterdam where they will be the first American orchestra to play at the Concertgebouw Mahler Festival. The orchestra will open the festival May 8 with Symphony No. 1 and play Symphony No. 2 the following night (the other festival orchestras will be the Royal Concertgebouw Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Berlin Philharmonic).

The season’s artist-in-residence is pianist Daniil Trifonov, who will play Scriabin’s Piano Concerto November 27, 29-30, and December 3 in New York (with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5), and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 (with Symphony No. 4 by Bruckner) April 15-16, 18, and 21. He will also play an all-Bach solo recital at Alice Tully Hall, March 3, and chamber music with the New York Philharmonic String Quartet at 92Y, December 1. That program will include the New York premiere of Trifonov’s own Piano Quintet.

In September, 2017, van Zweden brought Philip Glass’ music for the very first time to the Philharmonic, and September 18, 2019, he will open the subscription season with a commissioned world premiere from Glass. That concert will also feature soprano Kelli O’Hara singing Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (September 18-21). 

The following week will bring the American stage premieres of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra’s productions of Schoenberg’s monodrama Erwartung and Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle (September 26-28). Mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus will make her Philharmonic debut singing Erwartung, and baritone Johannes Martin Kränzle and soprano Nina Stemme will also appear for the first time in front of the orchestra in Bartók’s dark drama.

Along with Glass, the Philharmonic (joined by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, and the Baltic Sea Symphony) has commissioned a new work from Steve Reich, Music for Ensemble and Orchestra, the composer’s first orchestral work in more than three decades. Van Zweden will conduct the New York premier December 5-7; that program will open with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 and then conclude with Yefim Bronfman soloing in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.

Guest performers and conductors will include violinist Augustin Hadelich, who will play the Sibelius Violin Concerto, with Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique (October 3-5); Lang Lang will play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 for the fall gala concert, which will finish the Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (October 7); Susanna Mälkki will be joined by sheng player Wu Wei for Chin’s Sheng Concerto—she will also conduct the “Philosopher” Symphony by Haydn and Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra (October 18-19, 22); November 6, 8-9, and 12, Esa-Pekka Salomon will lead Schoenberg orchestrations of Bach, two of his own pieces, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler Symphony.

The Handel master Harry Bicket will lead performances of the Messiah, December 17-21; and Gustavo Dudamel will conduct two programs: Ives, Esteban Benzecry, and Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, January 15-18 and 21, and then Schubert’s Symphony No. 4, “Tragic,” and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erder, with mezzo Michelle DeYoung and tenor Simon O’Neill, January 23-25.

The Philharmonic will continue other new initiatives, including a “Phil the Hall” concert April 30, with low-cost tickets available for service workers, and the popular Nightcap and Sound On series of new music and discussion, hosted by Nadia Sirota. The first, as yet unscheduled, Nightcap concert will be curated by Laurie Anderson, others will be organized by the likes of Reich, León, Neuwirth, and Muhly. 

Van Zweden brings his own interest in pop music to the fore with a concert that features Renée Fleming singing songs by Björk, orchestrated by Hans Ek, February 20-22. The orchestra will also continue its Art of the Score concerts of films with live score performances. That will begin with September 11 and 12 showings of Close Encounters of the Third Kind; pencil in September 13 and 14, where the screening will be the Hitchcock/Bernard Herrmann collaboration, Psycho.

For more information go to or call 212-875-5656.

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