St. Louis Symphony Orchestra opens 2018/2019 classical season with Resident Conductor Gemma New, September 22-23, 2018

SLSO Welcomes Audiences to its 139th Season, “From Our Family to Yours”

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(September 11, 2018, St. Louis, MO) – This month, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra opens its 2018/2019 season on Saturday, September 22, and Sunday, September 23, at Powell Hall. The SLSO’s 139th season begins with Resident Conductor Gemma New leading the orchestra in a program including Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the SLSO premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’ Musica celestis, Finlandia by Sibelius, and Grieg’s Piano Concerto with pianist Behzod Abduraimov in his SLSO debut.

Gemma NewSLSO President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard said, “The SLSO curated a season inspired by works that our orchestra wanted to bring to our audience, creating a platform where music is accessible to all. Gemma’s charismatic style, combined with our musicians’ passion for the various works on this program, will bring life to our stage as we celebrate new beginnings with friends and family and the values that we cherish as a community. The SLSO has been known for decades for supporting great talent and we are very proud to feature Behzod Abduraimov, one of the finest pianists of his generation.”


The SLSO’s Classical season opens with concerts anchored by Elgar’s Enigma Variations, which was inspired by the family and friends of composer. Each of the 14 variations was written in tribute, or based around the idea, of relationships Elgar had with close friends and family. He even noted their initials on each of the variations.  

In his debut with the SLSO, pianist Behzod Abduraimov performs Grieg’s sweeping Piano Concerto, last performed by the SLSO in November 2014. The New York Times acclaims Abduraimov for his “fluid finger work, lots of dash, and appeal.”

New’s program also includes Sibelius’ Finlandia and the SLSO premiere of Musica celestis by Aaron Jay Kernis. Winner of the 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, 1998 Pulitzer Prize, and 2011 Nemmers Award, Aaron Jay Kernis is one of America's most honored composers. He was inspired to write Musica celestis by the medieval concept of heavenly music, which he describes as, " the singing of the angels in heaven in praise of God without end."  

In addition to the orchestra’s debut of Kernis’ Musica celestis, the SLSO will add 11 other works to its repertoire during the 139th season, including the world premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Bassoon Concerto on November 16.

In April, New returns to the lead a second Classical series program that includes Thomas Adès' Three Studies from Couperin, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite by Strauss, and Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp – featuring SLSO principals Allegra Lilly (harp) and Mark Sparks (flute).

To celebrate the opening of the SLSO's 139th season, audience members are invited to join New for a champagne toast in the Wightman Grand Foyer at intermission.

The 18/19 SLSO Classical Season is presented by World Wide Technology and the Steward Family Foundation and runs through May 12, 2019. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018, 8:00pm
Sunday, September 23, 2018, 3:00pm

Gemma New, conductor
Behzod Abduraimov, piano

SMITH The Star Spangled Banner
SIBELIUS Finlandia
GRIEG Piano Concerto
KERNIS Musica celestis
ELGAR Enigma Variations

Attend the free Pre-Concert Conversation at 7:00pm in the auditorium. This weekend, the conversations are hosted by SLSO Creative Partner Tim Munro.

Join the SLSO for a champagne toast at intermission to celebrate the start of the orchestra’s 139th season.

Tune in to St. Louis Public Radio on Saturday, September 22, at 8:00pm for the live broadcast of the performance. Listen on air (90.7 FM KWMU) or online (


Gemma New, SLSO Resident Conductor and Director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra

Sought after for her insightful interpretations and dynamic presence, New Zealand-born conductor Gemma New is currently Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Ontario, Canada and Resident Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

In the 2018/2019 Season, New debuts with the New York Philharmonic. She also enjoys guest engagements with Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, CMI Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio, and Santa Fe Pro Musica, as well as the Philharmonic Orchestras of Calgary, Louisiana and Rochester, the Symphony Orchestras of Charlotte, Detroit, Drummondville, Jacksonville, San Diego, Toronto, Tucson, and Winnipeg, the Florida Orchestra and the Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester in Germany.

Ms. New is a Conducting Fellow at Tanglewood Music Center in the summer of 2018. Previously, she has been Dudamel Conducting Fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a Conducting Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival, an Ansbacher Fellow at the Salzburger Festspiele, and a Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Fellow with the Leipziger Symphonieorchester.


About the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Celebrated as one of today's most exciting and enduring orchestras, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest orchestra in the country, marking its 139th year with the 2018/2019 season. Widely considered one of the world's finest, the SLSO maintains its commitment to artistic excellence, educational impact, and community connections – all in service to its mission of enriching lives through the power of music.

In addition to its regular concert performances at Powell Hall, which has been the permanent home of the SLSO for 50 years, the orchestra is an integral part of the diverse and vibrant St. Louis community, presenting free education programs and performances throughout the region each year. It presents St. Louis Symphony Live at the Pulitzer, a four-program series at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. The SLSO also serves as the resident orchestra for Opera Theatre Saint Louis, with this season marking the 42nd year of their partnership.

The Grammy Award–winning SLSO's impact beyond the St. Louis region is realized through weekly Saturday night concert broadcasts on St. Louis Public Radio, acclaimed recordings, and regular touring activity. A sought-after artistic partner by preeminent musicians and composers from across the globe, as well as by local and national organizations, the SLSO enjoys a long history of robust and enduring artistic collaborations that have developed and deepened over the years.

Today, the SLSO builds on the institution's current momentum on all fronts, including artistic, financial, audience growth, and community impact, and looks toward the future with Stéphane Denève. Denève, who has been a frequent guest conductor with the orchestra since 2003, begins his tenure as Music Director with the 19/20 season, following this season as Music Director Designate. For more information, visit

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