Music

Fall Guide to Classical Music

Photo: Pickpik.

Though we’ve seen little relief from the heat and rain, history tells us that eventually fall will arrive, the temperature will drop, and the leaves will change color and fall to the ground. Fortunately for music lovers, autumn is a great time for classical music in New England. Giving way to fanfare, season openers, and holiday celebrations, the 2023-24 season offers many opportunities to hear unique performances of obscure works as well as a healthy serving of familiar favorites. Read on to discover what’s happening this fall. 

The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra officially starts its season on September 23. Conductor Robert Spano leads the orchestra in a program including Max Bruch’s “Violin Concerto” featuring soloist Karen Gomyo, “Shostakovich Symphony No. 5,” and a new composition by composer Brian Raphael Neighbors entitled “Of Earth and Sky: Tales From the Motherland.” Other season highlights include the annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah” with the Providence Singers, and works by Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Britten, and Wynton Marsalis. For more information visit riphil.com.

On Friday, September 29, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra opens its season with Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” and Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.” A seasoned orchestra with great programming all year long, this group is well worth hearing. All performances take place at the Bushnell Center in Hartford, CT. For more information visit hartfordsymphony.org.

On Saturday, October 14, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra opens its season with Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture,” Bruch’s “Violin Concerto” and Rachmaninoff’s “Symphony No. 2.” This group has recently reinvented itself after negotiations with management broke down during the pandemic. We’re thrilled to see them back in action. For more information visit springfieldsymphony.org.

On Saturday, October 14, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Yaniv Dinur opens its season with a concert subtitled “Three Worlds”, featuring Elgar’s “Cello Concerto,” Sibelius’s “Symphony No. 7.” and a contemporary piece by James Lee III entitled “Sukkot through Orion’s Nebula.” Other fall offerings from this ensemble include Shostakovich’s “Piano Concerto No. 2,” Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 6.” This ambitious programming may be well worth the trip out along route 195. For more information visit nbsymphony.org.

On Saturday, October 21, the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Toshi Shimada performs George Gershwin’s iconic “Rhapsody in Blue.” Other pieces on their six-concert series include Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra,” Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto,” and Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.” Performing at the Garde Arts Center in New London, this group is a cultural gem in the middle of nowhere. For more information visit ectsymphony.com.

On November 18 and 19 The Providence Singers, under the direction of Christine Noel will present Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers,” music for an all night vigil. On Sunday, December 10, they perform Handel’s “Messiah” with the RI Philharmonic Orchestra. This outfit is one of the finest choirs in all of New England, based right here in Providence. To learn more about their upcoming season, visit providencesingers.org

Ensemble Altera, a formidable vocal ensemble under the direction of Christopher Lowry, presents “A Christmas Present” in Boston on Dec 9 and in Providence on Dec 10. A sumptuous program of holiday music written in the new millennium, including some truly luscious arrangements of timeless classics. Featuring the best in local talent, joined by some of the nation’s top choral artists, as well as overseas singers from world-renowned groups Voces8, Tenebrae, and The Queen’s Six. You don’t want to miss this. For more information visit ensemblealtera.com/tickets.

The epicenter of classical music in New England is the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which offers unique classical programing each week. Opening their season officially on October 7, Andris Nelsons leads the orchestra in a program of music by Mozart, Beethoven, Ellington, and Carlos Simon, and features the incomparable crossover pianist Aaron Diehl. Further programming features the music of Strauss, Haydn, Shostakovich, Kodaly, Shubert, Tchaikovsky, as well as newish works by Hannah Kendall, James Lee III, Iman Habibi Zhiân, and Arturs Maskats. Little needs to be said about the BSO’s world-class status and commitment to classical excellence. Just one hour from Providence, hearing these incredible pieces performed by this orchestra in one of the most acoustically perfect concert halls in the USA is well worth the price of a ticket. For more information visit bso.org.