Mozart’s Romantic Side: Piano Concerto No. 20

Mozart’s D minor Concerto marks the first of six staggering masterpieces for piano and orchestra written between 1785 and 1786. His stormiest concerto - and an omen of the Romantic Era - was regarded by the 19th-century masters as Beethoven-ish, the highest praise possible at the time. It’s a perfect pairing with Beethoven’s First Symphony, a work in which the first few moments already foreshadow that this giant was about to change everything. Van Cliburn Piano Competition-medalist Daniel Hsu joins Courtney Lewis and the Symphony in this spectacular season opener. 

Bach To America

Johann Sebastian Bach didn’t invent the concerto grosso, a genre with musical conversation between a small group of instruments and the full orchestra, but he probably wrote the best six in history with his Brandenburg Concertos. Stravinsky modeled his Dumbarton Oaks after Bach’s concertos, named for the historic estate in Washington, D.C. and filled with Stravinsky’s own flavor of Americana. Alberto Ginastera’s Concert Variations weave the music of Argentina into this program through a set of short solos for nearly every instrument in the orchestra.

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony

How much gorgeous, emotional and lush music can we pack into one hour? Jonathon Heyward and the Symphony think they have the answer. The young conductor with a meteoric career leads a program featuring music from Wagner’s opera about love and redemption, and Tchaikovsky’s powerful symphony laced with the sounds of fate and providence he feared he would never write.

Mozart’s Dream: Piano Concerto No. 21

It seems that Mozart wrote his 21st Piano Concerto as a vibrant and comedic antidote to the dark and dramatic 20th. Alessio Bax is the perfect pianist for this piece with fun and games in the outer movements and the famous middle movement’s floating nocturnal world. The New York Times called his playing “so seemingly effortless that the music appeared to live and breathe of its own volition.” Courtney Lewis and the Symphony pay homage to Mozart’s deep career connection to Prague with two pieces by Czech masters: Smetana’s Bartered Bride Overture and Dvořàk’s most intensely expressive symphony.

Brahms’ Pastoral Symphony

Love beauty? Need serenity? If yes to both, this concert is a must. Dynamic conductor Matthew Halls returns to the podium in Jacoby Symphony Hall for a program of one gorgeous melody after the next. Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia highlights the Symphony’s lush string sections, Ravel’s Pavane features one of the most captivating French horn solos ever written, and Brahms’ Second Symphony carries the origins of his famous Lullaby. This unforgettable music will live with you for days.

Mozart’s Defiance: Piano Concerto No. 24

The New York Times said, “Conrad Tao was never just another prodigy.” This young phenom is certain to bring new life and ideas to Mozart’s C minor Concerto, a piece so outside the conventions of the day that more than a few Viennese eyebrows were certainly raised at its 1786 premiere. Courtney Lewis notches another Sibelius symphony en route to a complete cycle with the Finnish composer’s First Symphony, a work with traces of Tchaikovsky yet distinct with Sibelius’ voice.

Beethoven to Brahms

Have you ever stepped into shoes you felt you could never fill? Imagine the crushing feeling Brahms - and all of his contemporaries for that matter - felt trying to write a symphony after Beethoven’s Ninth. It wasn’t until Brahms was in his mid-40s that he felt ready to present his very first to the world, but it was certainly worth the wait. Brilliant German conductor Markus Stenz makes his Jacksonville Symphony premiere in an evening filled with the power and expressive lyricism of Brahms’ First Symphony and choral piece, Nänie, along with the most popular of Beethoven’s overtures to his lone surviving opera, now known as Fidelio.

Appalachian Spring

Whether it’s your first or fiftieth hearing, “The Gift to Be Simple” at the heart of Copland’s Appalachian Spring remains bulletproof in its charm and tenderness. The piece he wrote for legendary choreographer Martha Graham is today the cornerstone of Americana symphonic music. Florence Price’s First Symphony likewise evokes the sounds of America, imbued with tunes inspired by spirituals and church hymns. Carlos Simon’s The Block is a perfect companion on this program, musically capturing Romare Bearden’s energetic paintings of a neighborhood in Harlem.

Mozart’s Groundbreaker: Piano Concerto No. 25

147 years. That’s how long the world had to wait to hear Mozart’s 25th Piano Concerto again after its debut performances in 1787. The piece was so unique and novel that most audiences and musicians at the time likely didn’t know what to make of it. Hear this piece that was far ahead of its time played by Jonathan Biss, a pianist in demand all around the world. The evening opens with the music of Tarik O’Regan, a composer with an international career who is writing a new work for the Jacksonville Symphony set to debut in June 2022.

Mozart’s Radiance: Piano Concerto No. 23

No other composer manages to blend lighthearted joy and profound beauty - and make it sound effortless - like Mozart. His 23rd and possibly most famous piano concerto exemplifies this to a T. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein, masterful at expressing the warmth and humanity of Mozart’s concertos, joins Courtney Lewis and the Symphony in the final installment of the season’s piano concerto mini-cycle on a program that opens with a piece brimming with optimism composed by Thomas Adès during the pandemic.