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Pittsburgh Symphony 2018-19 season includes world premieres, Renee Fleming and Leslie Odom Jr.

| Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, 4:54 p.m.
Cellist Mikhail Istomin surprised conductor Manfred Honeck with an impromtu version of 'Happy Birthday' to celebrate Honeck's 58th birthday during  the Moonlight Masquerade Gala to benefit the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at 
Heinz Hall in Downtown Pittsburgh. Sept. 17, 2016.
John Altdorfer
Cellist Mikhail Istomin surprised conductor Manfred Honeck with an impromtu version of 'Happy Birthday' to celebrate Honeck's 58th birthday during the Moonlight Masquerade Gala to benefit the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Heinz Hall in Downtown Pittsburgh. Sept. 17, 2016.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra 2018-19 season will include 20 weeks of BNY Mellon Grand Classics, seven PNC Pops programs and many extra concerts at Heinz Hall.

The season will feature the world premiere of two commissions, one by two-time composer of the year Mason Bates in honor of music director Manfred Honeck's 60th birthday.

Soprano Renee Fleming will star at the annual gala concert on Sept. 15. The symphony will play all of Sergei Rachmaninoff's music for piano and orchestra plus some of his purely orchestral music, and will expand the intimate 360 Concerts at which the audience joins the performers on stage. Other highlights include centennial observances of the birth of Leonard Bernstein and the composition of Gustav Holst's "The Planets."

Honeck programs

Honeck will conduct 10 weeks of concerts, including his first performances of three major pieces:

• Hector Berlioz' "The Damnation of Faust," March 8 and 10, 2019

• Gustav Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" (The Song of the Earth), May 10 and 12

• Richard Strauss' "An Alpine Symphony," June 14 and 16

Honeck and the orchestra also will perform and record a concert of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 paired with the world premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff's Double Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon, commissioned for the orchestra's principals Michael Rusinek and Nancy Goeres, June 6-9.

Guest conductors

The season includes the return of such major conductors as:

• Yan Pascal Tortelier with a program featuring Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, Dec. 7 and 9

• Herbert Blomstedt conducting symphonies by Beethoven and Antonin Dvorak, Feb. 8 and 10

• Leonard Slatkin conducting his own music and Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, April 12 and 14.

• Young Latvian conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, already music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in England, leads the list of guest conductors making their debuts. Jan. 11-13.


Among returning soloists, highlights are sure to include

• Violinist Pinchas Zukerman, Sept. 28 and 30

Emanuel Ax

Photo from Pittsburgh Symphony


• Pianist Emanuel Ax, Feb. 15-17

• Pianist Garrick Ohlsson, April 12 and 14

Other Pittsburgh principal players featured during the season, in addition to the commissioned Double Concerto, include William Caballero playing Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 4, Nov. 2-4, and Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida playing Mozart's Oboe Concerto, Nov. 23 and 25.

Special concerts

Special concerts, not part of the subscription series, include:

• A showing of Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" with the orchestra playing the film score, Oct. 18, 2018

Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr.

Photo by


• Carnegie Mellon University graduate and "Hamilton" star Leslie Odom Jr., Oct. 20

• A single Honeck-led performance of George Frideric Handel's "Messiah," Dec. 1

• A showing of the film "Home Alone" with the orchestra playing the film score, Dec. 20

• Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell, June 15, 2019

Honeck and the orchestra also will return to New York City to perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 and Mahler's Symphony No. 5 on May 19 at Lincoln Center, preceded by a send off concert on May 17 at Heinz Hall.

PNC Pops 2018-19 season

The shows at Heinz Hall include:

Oct. 12-14: Danny Elfman's music for Tim Burton films

Nov. 9-11: Salute to Veterans

Dec. 14-16 and 21-23: Highmark Holiday Pops

Feb. 22-24: A Night at the Oscars

March 29-31: Disney in Concert: Tale as Old as Time

April 26-28: The Wonderful Music of Oz

June 21-23: Natalie and Nat King Cole Salute

BNY Mellon Grand Classic concerts

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's 2018-19 season of BNY Mellon Grand Classics at Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall:

Sept. 28, 30: Manfred Honeck, conductor; Pinchas Zukerman, violin

Mason Bates: commission in honor of Honeck's 60th birthday

Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1

Brahms: Symphony No. 2

Oct. 5, 7: Honeck, conductor; Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano

Ludwig van Beethoven: Leonore Overture No. 3

Franz Joseph Haydn; Symphony No. 88

Leonard Bernstein: Symphony No. 1 "Jeremiah"

Stravinsky: Firebird Suite

Oct. 26, 28: Pablo Heras-Casado, conductor; Maximilian Hornung, cello

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio espagnol

Dmitri Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1

Nov. 2-4: John Storgards, conductor; William Caballero, horn; Mendelssohn Choir

Vaino Raitio: Moonlight on Jupiter

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 4

Holst: The Planets

Nov. 23, 25: Honeck, conductor; George Li, piano; Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, oboe

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini

Mozart: Oboe Concerto

Strauss family Viennese favorites

Nov. 30, Dec. 2: Honeck, conductor; Bertrand Chamayou; Mendelssohn Choir

Mozart: Symphony No. 31 ("Paris")

Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto for Left Hand

Haydn: Mass No. 9, In Time of War

Dec. 7, 9: Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor; Simone Lamsma, violin

Hector Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture

Erich Korngold: Violin Concerto

Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances

Jan. 11-13, 2019: Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, conductor; Behzod Abduraimov, piano

Claude Debussy: The Sunken Cathedral and La Mer

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2

Jean Sibelius: Kuolema, selections

Jan. 25, 27: Long Yu, conductor; Inon Barnatan, piano

Qigang Chen: Wu Zing (The Five Elements)

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1

Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World")

Feb. 8, 10: Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 ("Pastorale")

Dvorak: Symphony No. 8

Feb. 15-17: Honeck, conductor; Emanuel Ax, piano

Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 17

Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet

March 8, 10: Honeck, conductor; Mendelssohn Choir

Berlioz: The Damnation of Faust

March 15, 17: Juraj Valcuha, conductor; Lukas Vondracek, piano

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3

Respighi: The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome

March 22-24: Honeck, conductor; Julian Rachlin, violin

Grieg: "Peer Gynt" incidental music

Felix Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto

Rachmaninoff: Caprice bohemian

April 5-7: Emmanuel Krevine, conductor

Brahms: Haydn Variations

Blacher: Orchestra Variations on a Theme of Paganini

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5

April 12, 14: Leonard Slatkin, conductor; Garrick Ohlsson, piano

Slatkin: Kinah

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 4

Edward Elgar: Enigma Variations

May 10, 12: Honeck, conductor; Vilde Frang, violin; Matthias Goerne, baritone

Beethoven: Violin Concerto

Gustav Mahler: "Das Lied von der Erde" (Song of the Earth)

May 31, June 1 and 2: Pietari Inkinen, conductor; Beatrice Rana, piano

Sibelius: Pohjola's Daughter

Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4

June 6-9: Honeck, conductor; Michael Rusinek, clarinet; Nancy Goeres, bassoon; Mendelssohn Choir

Jonathan Leshnoff: Double Concerto

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

June 14, 16: Honeck, conductor; Igor Levit, piano

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 21

Strauss: An Alpine Symphony

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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