Jacobs Masterworks: Photo of Rafael Payare conducting

This season, we once more invite you to come along on a journey of exploration. Through the artistry of Music Director Rafael Payare, the musicians of the San Diego Symphony, and the world’s finest guest artists, we will discover the world around us— and within ourselves. In 2021, we continue our celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, gaining new perspectives on his influence through performances of his works and of pieces written under the shadow of his influence. We discover the rich contributions that immigrant musicians have made to American culture, and the many iconic works created in America that wouldn’t exist without those who left their homelands. Through our three-week January festival, "In the Name of the Earth," we explore the deep connection musicians have long had with nature as history’s greatest masterpieces transport us from the depths of the oceans to the highest mountain peaks. The season is filled with inspiring music, incredible artistry, and moving stories. We hope you’ll join us.

PLEASE NOTE: While Jacobs Masterworks concerts planned for January through May 2021 have yet to be canceled, we simply don’t know how those concerts will take shape at this time. If the San Diego Symphony is permitted to stage live events in early 2021, we promise that subscribers and donors will be the first to know and will have the opportunity to purchase tickets before the general public. Due to social distancing requirements, seating configurations will likely change, and some guest artists may not be able to travel to be with us due to travel restrictions. In addition, some repertoire may need to be altered because we also want to keep our musicians safely distanced from each other. As a result, symphonic works requiring full orchestra may have to wait.

Steven Schick

Fri Jan 15, 8PM | Sun Jan 17, 2PM


Steven Schick, conductor
San Diego Master Chorale

STRAVINSKY: Suite from The Firebird
JOHN LUTHER ADAMS: Become Desert (SDSO co-commission & premiere)

Explore the austere mystery of the desert as we begin our January annual festival, "In the Name of the Earth." Based on a Russian fairy tale, The Firebird is a dramatic story of courage and redemption. Stravinsky’s brilliant and colorful fairy tale ballet is bookended by tone poems depicting the vast and beautiful solitude of landscapes: Icelandic composer and UC San Diego alumna Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos and John Luther AdamsBecome Desert— the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer's new work where the orchestra surrounds the audience in an unforgettable experience.

  Part of "In the Name of the Earth" festival.

Gemma New

Sat Jan 23, 8PM | Sun Jan 24, 2PM

Water Concerto & Scheherezade

Gemma New, conductor
Steven Schick, percussion

Britten: "Four Sea Interludes" from Peter Grimes
Tan Dun: Water Concerto
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

In the Name of the Earth continues with meditations on the nature of water, our planet’s most precious resource. Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes depicts the many moods of Earth’s oceans, from peaceful moonlit waves to the menacing power of its storms. In Tan Dun’s Water Concerto, water literally takes center stage, as percussionist and festival curator Steven Schick performs on instruments filled with this life-giving substance. We conclude with Rimsky-Korsakov’s musical portrayal of the story of Sinbad the Sailor’s adventures.

  Part of "In the Name of the Earth" festival.

Matthias Pintscher

Fri Feb 5, 8PM | Sun Feb 7, 1PM


Matthias Pintscher, conductor

Beethoven: Symphony No. 8
Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2

In his Eighth Symphony, Beethoven pays homage to the cleverness and humours wit of Mozart and Haydn's Classical Style. Then the passion and drama of Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony demonstrate why this work is an enduring favorite of audiences everywhere, filled with the composer’s trademark memorable melodies and rich harmonies.

Michelle DeYoung

Fri Jan 29, 8PM | Sat Jan 30, 8PM

Humans & Nature: Mahler's Song of the Earth

Rafael Payare, conductor
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo soprano
Stefan Vinke, tenor

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6, Pastoral
MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde  (The Song of the Earth)

"No one can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo that man desires to hear," wrote Beethoven. His Pastoral Symphony captures the joy and awe we feel when encountering nature. Written a century later, Mahler’s The Song of the Earth is a reflective look at these majestic but fragile landscapes. This pivotal, grand orchestral composition features the added power of vocal expression as the mezzo soprano sings, “The dear earth everywhere blooms in spring and grows green once more! The horizon is lit everywhere and forever blue! Forever… Forever...”

  Part of "In the Name of the Earth" festival.

Paul Huang

Fri Feb 26, 8PM | Sat Feb 27, 8PM | Sun Feb 28, 2PM


Jahja Ling, conductor
Paul Huang, violin

CHEN YI: Ge xu (Antiphony)
BRUCH: Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra
GRIEG: Selections from Peer Gynt

Some of the most popular melodies in classical music come to Copley Hall in this lively concert. Rising-star violinist Paul Huang brings us the folk melodies of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. The San Diego Symphony then explores the Nordic fairy-tale world of Grieg’s Peer Gynt, in a version specially arranged by conductor laureate Jahja Ling. From the relaxed beauty of “Morning Mood” to the sneaky mischief of “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” you’re sure to remember these evocative tunes.

Trevor Pinnock

Sat Mar 6, 8PM | Sun Mar 7, 2PM


Trevor Pinnock, conductor

Gabrieli: Selected Canzonas for Brass
Dvořák: Serenade for Strings
MOZART: Serenade No. 10 for Winds: Gran Partita
STRAVINSKY: Scherzo fantastique

Each instrument group of the San Diego Symphony takes their turn at centerstage in the special program. Renowned British conductor and early music expert Trevor Pinnock opens with Baroque music for brass that once rang through St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. We then encounter Dvořák’s bucolic Serenade for Strings, and Mozart’s sublime Serenade for Winds. Stravinsky’s early Scherzo fantastique gathers the whole orchestra back together for a rousing finale.

Marc-André Hamelin

Fri Mar 12, 8PM | Sat Mar 13, 8PM


Rafael Payare, conductor
Marc-André Hamelin, piano

WAGNER: “Prelude and Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde
LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 2
BARTÓK: Concerto for Orchestra

Experience the full power of orchestral drama with three pieces that pushed the boundaries of music. The tragic yearning of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde includes some of the most passionate music ever written. Marc-André Hamelin brings his renowned virtuosity to the intricate melodic evolutions of Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto. And in Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra - originally commissioned for the Boston Symphony Orchestra - the virtuosity and artistry of our own San Diego Symphony’s musicians are on full display.

Dorothea Röschmann

Sat Mar 20, 8PM | Sun Mar 21, 2PM


Rafael Payare, conductor
Dorothea Röschmann, soprano

Mozart: Symphony No. 29
STRAUSS: Four Last Songs
Debussy: Images

In vibrant bursts of sonic color, Images demonstrates why Debussy remains the unmatched master of atmospheric soundscapes. With sonorous harmonies and playful folk songs, the composer paints scenes from England, Spain, and his native French countryside. Soprano Dorothea Röschmann returns and joins the San Diego Symphony in performing Strauss’ sublime swansong Four Last Songs, that soars with lyricism. You’ll be enchanted by the expressive brilliance of these stunning works.

Ingrid Fliter

Fri Apr 9, 8PM | Sat Apr 10, 8PM | Sun Apr 11, 2PM


Edo de Waart, conductor
Ingrid Fliter, piano

Anna Clyne: Abstractions
Schumann: Piano Concerto
Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances

In his only Piano Concerto, Schumann gave us an intimate portrait of the love he shared with his wife, Clara. Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter joins us as soloist in this iconic Romantic work. Then, experience a work praised by the Baltimore Sun for its “clarity and expressive nuance”. Anna Clyne’s atmospheric tone poem, Abstractions, paints musical portraits of five works of contemporary visual art. Rachmaninoff’s vibrant Symphonic Dances - the only piece he composed in America - brings the concert to an energetic finale.

Joélle Harvey

Fri Apr 16, 8PM | Sat Apr 17, 8PM


Edo de Waart, conductor
Joélle Harvey, soprano
John Moore, baritone
San Diego Master Chorale

Haydn: Symphony No. 96, The Miracle
Brahms: A German Requiem

Music is at its most compelling when it brings us face to face with our own humanity. With A German Requiem, Brahms gave voice to the grief he felt upon the loss of his mother. Yet this work strives to do more than mourn the dead. With its powerful setting of biblical texts, Brahms’ masterpiece for voices and orchestra brings a poignant message of comfort and hope to the living.

Harry Bicket

Fri May 7, 8PM | Sat May 8, 8PM | Sun May 9, 2PM


Harry Bicket, conductor
Rose Lombardo, flute

Rameau: Suite from Les Boréades
Handel: Selections from Water Music
J.S. BACH: Orchestral Suite No. 2
HANDEL: Selections from Music for the Royal Fireworks

Renowned British Conductor and Baroque music specialist Harry Bicket is joined by principal flutist Rose Lombardo and the San Diego Symphony in this joyful celebration of Baroque music. Handel’s Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks convey the exuberant celebration of the royal parties for which they were written. Then, enjoy the sensuous music of Rameau’s opera Les Boréades and the dances of Bach’s atmospheric Orchestral Suite.

Guy Braunstein

Fri May 14, 8PM | Sun May 16, 2PM


Rafael Payare, conductor
Guy Braunstein, violin

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto
Janáček: Taras Bulba
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2: Little Russian

Ukranian folk songs then fill the hall in Tchaikovsky’s charming and poignant Little Russian Symphony. The concert begins with Tchaikovsky’s melodious Violin Concerto, performed by Guy Braunstein, the youngest-ever concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic. Join Tchaikovsky and Janáček as these two Slavic composers explore the rich culture of the Ukranian people. Based on a novel by Nikolai Gogol, Taras Bulba portrays the deeds of a legendary Ukranian Cossack folk hero.

Rafael Payare

Fri May 21, 8PM | Sat May 22, 8PM | Sun May 23, 2PM


Rafael Payare, conductor
Alisa Weilerstein, cello

R. STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks
ELGAR: Cello Concerto
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4

Our season comes to a dramatic conclusion with guest cellist Alisa Weilerstein and three incredible works! Richard Strauss’ witty and comical Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks contrasts with Elgar’s soul-stirring and moving Cello Concerto. The concert closes with Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, teeming with defiance and hope, set against fate.