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Friday, December 8, 2023

The Philharmonic’s New Season: What We Want to Hear

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In his final season as music director of the New York Philharmonic, Jaap van Zweden will lead a host of premieres, performances of Mozart’s Requiem and Mahler’s Second Symphony, and a residency in China, the orchestra announced on Tuesday.

Gary Ginstling, the Philharmonic’s incoming president and chief executive, said that the season would showcase van Zweden’s devotion to new music and traditional works.

“This is an opportunity,” Ginstling said in an interview, “to really celebrate all the elements that Jaap brought to the New York Philharmonic.”

Van Zweden will make his first appearance on Sept. 27, with a gala featuring the cellist Yo-Yo Ma as the soloist in Dvorak’s Cello Concerto.

The season will feature premieres by several composers, including Olga Neuwirth, Mary Kouyoumdjian and Melinda Wagner, as part of Project 19, a multiyear initiative to commission new pieces from 19 women. And in summer 2024, the orchestra will return to China for the first time since 2019, for a residency in partnership with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

New Yorkers hoping to hear a taste of the Philharmonic’s future will have to wait: There will be no appearances next season by Gustavo Dudamel, the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who was announced as van Zweden’s successor in February. Ginstling said scheduling conflicts were to blame.

Here are nine highlights of the coming season, chosen by critics for The New York Times. JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ

For those keeping track of all the ways in which the Philharmonic has followed the lead of its West Coast counterpart, the Los Angeles Philharmonic — in its leadership, in its hall’s look, in its choice of music director — here’s another one: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, the lively Lithuanian conductor who is being talked of as a possible successor to Gustavo Dudamel in Los Angeles, will be making her debut. Daniil Trifonov, a welcome fixture at David Geffen Hall, will join for a program of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto, as well as selections from Sibelius’s “Lemminkäinen Suite” and Raminta Šerkšnytė’s “De Profundis,” from 1998. JOSHUA BARONE

The Philharmonic is celebrating the centennial of Gyorgi Ligeti’s birth with multiple concerts. (Look out for pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard playing Études on Nov. 7.) This program, one of the most eclectic on the Philharmonic’s calendar, brings two pieces of Ligeti’s into dialogue with Brahms’s Serenade No. 1 and a piano concerto by the living modernist Elena Firsova. The Ligeti works are from relatively early in his career. (And one, “Mifiso la sodo,” is a U.S. premiere!) Evaluating their place alongside the Brahms and the Firsova, with Yefim Bronfman as the soloist, should make for a bracing ride with David Robertson at the podium. SETH COLTER WALLS

A recent performance of “Solomon” at Carnegie Hall was a reminder of the sumptuous power of Handel’s English oratorios, his genre of concert-format, loosely plotted, often biblically inspired works that made choruses the stars. The Philharmonic rarely programs these pieces — with the obvious exception of the perennial “Messiah,” conducted this year in mid-December by Fabio Biondi — so “Israel in Egypt” will be a treat. On the podium, Jeannette Sorrell makes her subscription debut with the orchestra, leading the choir of Apollo’s Fire, her Cleveland-based ensemble. ZACHARY WOOLFE

Past concerts in this chamber-focused series have delved deeply into contemporary music — and have also been relegated to smaller spaces inside Lincoln Center. But on this date, when the Ensemble Signal conductor Brad Lubman joins Philharmonic players and a wide range of guest soloists, the music will be presented in Geffen Hall proper. That bodes well for Unsuk Chin’s transporting aesthetic, which is represented here by her Double Concerto for Piano and Percussion. And there’s similar potential for a new (as yet untitled) collaborative work by Kinan Azmeh and Layale Chaker. Both are leading player-composers who also happen to improvise, and they’ll both be onstage here. SETH COLTER WALLS

Bryce Dessner, one-fifth of the rock band the National, wrote his Concerto for Two Pianos for the tight, persuasive duo Katia and Marielle Labèque, who bring it to Geffen for its New York premiere. Dessner’s taste for lush transparency, evident in his orchestrations for Taylor Swift’s album “Folklore,” shows in the way he cushions the piece’s unabashedly pretty piano parts without overwhelming them. OUSSAMA ZAHR

Playing film scores live alongside screenings has become a booming business for orchestras struggling with attendance, but the fare is usually blockbusters: the “Harry Potter” series, “Jurassic Park,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Not when the Philharmonic performs Bernard Herrmann’s lush, ominous music for Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” as audiences watch that strange, hypnotizing study in erotic obsession. (Next season also brings “West Side Story” (Sept. 12-17) — Spielberg’s 2021 version, which featured the Philharmonic on its soundtrack — and “Black Panther” (Dec. 20-23). ZACHARY WOOLFE

I’m not entirely joking when I say this, but now that the Philharmonic has lined up its next music director, it can start thinking about who Gustavo Dudamel’s eventual successor might be. Karina Canellakis, who coincidentally occupies Jaap van Zweden’s former post as the chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, might well be on its shortlist when the time comes. This native New Yorker’s belated Philharmonic debut offers a taste of her thoughtful programming: Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra, Strauss’s “Tod und Verklärung,” Scriabin’s “Le Poème de l’Extase” and Ravel’s Piano Concerto, with the soloist Alice Sara Ott. DAVID ALLEN

Olga Neuwirth’s contribution to Project 19 in 2020 went — well, the way of many things early in the pandemic. Nearly four years after its scheduled premiere, it is finally coming to Geffen Hall, having been first unveiled instead with the Berlin Philharmonic, which streamed the unruly and delightful work for countertenor, children’s choir and orchestra on its Digital Concert Hall platform. Andrew Watts takes up the solo vocal part, making his New York Philharmonic debut alongside the conductor Thomas Sondergard, on a program that also includes Lili Boulanger’s “D’un Matin de Printemps” and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. JOSHUA BARONE

Those with a taste for dry humor might ask themselves what exactly it is that Jaap van Zweden plans to resurrect with these final Geffen Hall concerts as the Philharmonic’s music director, but Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 at least offers him a grand farewell. He will be joined by the New York Philharmonic Chorus, the soprano Hanna-Elisabeth Müller and the mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova. ALLEN

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