Classical music old & new on Boston’s fall calendar


Beethoven! Ellington! A bunch of composers you’ve never heard of!

Wonderfully, thankfully, the definition of classical music is changing. The genre can be classical (in the well, classical sense of the word) or it can be thoroughly modern, and, of course, it can be everything in between.

Take a look at these fall calendar highlights for stuff from Beethoven to Arab-Andalusian songs to something from Kennedy Center composer-in-residence Carlos Simon.

Opening Night with the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Oct. 7, Symphony Hall

The Boston Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 2023-24 season with old and new friends, expected and underappreciated repertoire. Maestro Andris Nelsons will conduct works by Beethoven and Mozart. But the BSO expands beyond European icons by welcoming jazz pianist Aaron Diehl’s trio to collaborate with the symphony on Duke Ellington’s “New World A-Coming” and “Tonk.” Between Ellington and the Europeans, the BSO reimagines traditional Southern dances in the Carlos Simon commission “Four Black American Dances.”

“Israel in Egypt”

Oct. 6 & 8, Symphony Hall

If an annual trip to see “The Messiah” doesn’t quench your thirst for Handel’s biblical oratorios, make sure to check out a Handel and Haydn Society performance of “Israel in Egypt.” For those who only know Handel for the Hallelujah chorus, the composer’s other big Bible-based work has everything “The Messiah” has — huge choruses, soaring strings, drama galore! Bonus points: This is the first program Jonathan Cohen will helm in his debut season as H&H’s artistic director.

Boston Baroque celebrates 50 years

Oct. 13-15, various locations

Our city’s baroque masters go gold this year, opening their season with an all-Beethoven night. Obviously, these concerts will include “the hits” but they will come with a twist — Symphony No. 9 will be performed on period instruments, a rare treat. Rounding out the program will be the “Coriolan” Overture and “Elegiac Song”; lending a hand will be four Metropolitan opera stars including soprano Heidi Stober and mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack.


Oct. 20, Symphony Hall

The Boston Philharmonic gets its 45th season started with this diverse program featuring Rossini’s “Willam Tell” Overture, Elgar’s Violin Concerto, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Sure, go for the big names, but we’ll wager Elgar will move you just as much. Often regarded as the English composer’s masterpiece, it’s an ideal balance of virtuosity and passion, histrionic blaze and lyrical restraint.

“Peter and the Wolf”

Nov. 11, Symphony Hall

Everyone has taken a turn narrating Sergei Prokofiev’s orchestral fairy tale. And we mean everyone – Viola Davis, Alice Cooper, Kirstie Alley, David Bowie, Weird Al… With luck, Weird Al will sit this one out and let the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra handle the piece all on its own. Family-friendly and full of visuals kids can follow along with.

“Karim Sulayman and Sean Shibe”

Nov. 14, Longy’s Edward M. Pickman Hall

So many programs claim to cover a lot of ground. Ha! Try this: Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman and Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe have put together an evening of 16th- and 17th-century Italian and English works, traditional Sephardic and Arab-Andalusian songs, 20th-century and contemporary compositions, and plenty more.


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