Search News:

California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera announce 2019/20 season
Source: California Symphony

WALNUT CREEK, CA (March 20, 2019) – Bay Area connections abound in Connections, the California Symphony’s 33rd season and its seventh under the baton of Music Director Donato Cabrera in a newly expanded season which Cabrera says is a step up artistically compared with previous seasons.
“I feel like this is the first season where we are leading with a fully formed, artistic vision that presents a unique story and coherent point of view, and which pushes forward the organization’s identity within the rich landscape of Bay Area orchestras,” says Music Director Donato Cabrera. “We aren’t trying to present a mini version of what a larger orchestra might program, with a holiday program, a pops program, a masterworks concert, etc.” says Cabrera. “I’m thrilled to present these specifically designed programs for our loyal subscribers and patrons, as well as invite our newer audiences to discover more of what the California Symphony has to offer.”
After a recent string of sold out performances at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts, two new Saturday performances are added for 2019-20, expanding the total number of concerts from eight to ten, and offering more options for patrons. The added shows underscore California Symphony’s success in retaining loyal subscribers and appealing to new and more diverse audiences under Cabrera’s leadership alongside Executive Director Aubrey Bergauer. Bucking the prevailing trends in the industry, California Symphony subscriptions are up 10% over last year, while single tickets sales have increased by 15%. Four years ago, the Symphony performed only four total concerts; in the 2019/20 season, there are ten subscription-series performances.
Continuing the organization’s formalized commitment to diversity and to playing music by living composers, 46% of composers on the 2019/20 season are living, female, or composers of color.
The season’s title, Connections, was inspired by the many associations with Bay Area artists and composers that are present from the first through to the last concert in the new season.
Season opener ICONIC BEETHOVEN(September 14 & 15, 2019) features one of the best-known and most popular pieces of classical music ever written: the epic Fifth Symphony. Mezzo-soprano Rachel Callowaymakes her California Symphony debut performing a selection of Leider by Mahler. Calloway also solos in Berkeley-raised Gabriela Lena Frank’s La Centinela y la Paloma, which describes artist Frida Kahlo returning as a ghost for one last visit with husband Diego Riviera during the Dia de los Muertos festival. Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus Overture, written for the only full-length ballet Beethoven ever wrote, rounds out the opening concert set.
MOZART AND HIS MENTOR (November 16 & 17, 2019) presents the first ever symphonyby the young prodigy, written when he was just eight years old, and the last symphonywritten by his friend and mentor, Joseph Haydn. Also on the program is a flute concerto by Kevin Puts (California Symphony Composer-in-Residence, 1996-99) performed by Pleasanton native Annie Wu. The concerto was originally commissioned by Bay Area philanthropists Betty and Joe Hirsch and first performed at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz. Wu returns after “a stunning first impression” (Mercury News) with the orchestra in 2016. Music Director Donato Cabrera says, “Her performance was so wonderfully engaging—I’m delighted to bring her back again.”
BRAHMS FEST (February 1 & 2, 2020) features his Symphony No. 3 plus the Double Concerto with Alina Kobialka, violin, and Oliver Herbert, cello. Before they established themselves as solo artists, both used to play in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra when Music Director Donato Cabrera led the ensemble. Both have gone on to perform at San Francisco Symphony’s Soundbox series, as well as with other orchestras across the country. Hungarian Dance No. 5 completes the all-Brahms celebration.
Composer-in-Residence Katherine Balch(2017-20) presents a world premiere alongside Tchaikovsky’s much loved Symphony No. 5 in FATE AND FUTURE(March 14 & 15, 2020). Balch’s Cantata for Orchestra and Three Voices features Kelly Guerra (mezzo-soprano), Molly Netter(soprano), and Alexandra Smither (soprano). These three artists were hand selected by the composer in a piece that explores French poet Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations, with words drawn from the original French and English translation. This will be Balch’s third and final year of residency with the California Symphony; her second commission will premiere this May (a concerto for violinist Robyn Bollinger). Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 is his most often-performed and beloved symphony, concluding the program with its recurring melody representing fate.
The 2019-20 season closes with FOUR SEASONS FINALE (May 23 & 24, 2020), with returning violin virtuoso Alexi Kenney at center stage. Kenney played Bruch’s Violin Concerto in his 2018 California Symphony debut and here performs Reich’s Duet for Two Violins with Strings with Concertmaster Jennifer Cho before leading the orchestra in true baroque style sans conductor in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Kenney, who was born and raised in Palo Alto, is another graduate of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from Cabrera’s time with the group. In 2016 Kenney won the Avery Fisher Prize and has gone on to perform with major ensembles and orchestras around the country. The all-strings finale also includes Walker’s Lyric for Strings and Pärt’s Fratres.
Subscription ticket package prices for the California Symphony’s 2019/20 season range from $99 to $288 and are on sale today to renewing subscribers and the general public. Season subscribers can save up to $147 and choose their own season with 3-, 4-, or 5-concert packages, including the Saturday night series. For a limited time, the 5 Saturday concert series may be purchased for as low as $99. For details and to purchase tickets, visit the California Symphony’s website at or call 925-280-2490. Individual tickets to 2019/20 California Symphony concerts will go on sale on July 25.
All 2019/20 season performances take place at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek.


ABOUT CALIFORNIA SYMPHONY  The California Symphony, celebrating its 33rdseason in 2019/20 and its seventh season under the leadership of Music Director Donato Cabrera, is distinguished by its vibrant concert programs that combine classics alongside American repertoire and works by living composers, and for bringing music to people in new and unconventional settings. The orchestra includes musicians who perform with the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and others, and is based in Walnut Creek at the Lesher Center for the Arts with additional recent performances around the region in Napa Valley, Concord, Oakland, and Berkeley.

Outside the concert hall, the Symphony actively supports music education as a driver for social change through its El Sistema-inspired Sound Minds program at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, CA, which brings intensive music instruction and academic enrichment to schoolchildren in an area where 94% of students qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program, at no cost to the students who participate. The Orchestra also hosts the highly competitive Young American Composer-in-Residence program and its current composer, Katherine Balch.  California Symphony has launched the careers of some of today’s most well-known artists, including violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Joshua Roman, pianist Kirill Gerstein and composers such as Mason BatesChristopher Theofanidis, and Kevin Puts.

For more information, please visit


Donato Cabrera is the Music Director of the California Symphony and the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and served as the ResidentConductor of the San Francisco Symphony and the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2009-2016.

Since Cabrera's appointment as Music Director of the California Symphony in 2013, the organization has reached new artistic heights by implementing innovative programming that emphasizes welcoming newcomers and loyalists alike, building on its reputation for championing music by living composers, and committing to programming music by women and people of color. With a recently extended contract through the 2022-23 season, Cabrera continues to advise and oversee the Symphony’s music education programs and community engagement activities. Cabrera has also greatly changed the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s concert experience by expanding the scope and breadth of its orchestral concerts. Cabrera has also reenergized the Youth Concert Series by creating an engaging and interactive curriculum-based concert experience. 

In recent seasons, Cabrera has made impressive debuts with the National Symphony’s KC Jukebox at the Kennedy Center, Louisville Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, New West Symphony, Kalamazoo Symphony, and the Reno Philharmonic. In 2016, he led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in performances with Grammy Award-winning singer Lila Downs. Cabrera made his Carnegie Hall debut leading the world premiere of Mark Grey’s Ä‚tash Sorushan with soprano, Jessica Rivera.

Awards and fellowships include a Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship at the Salzburg Festival and conducting the Nashville Symphony in the League of American Orchestra’s prestigious Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. Donato Cabrera was recognized by the Consulate-General of Mexico in San Francisco as a Luminary of the Friends of Mexico Honorary Committee, for his contributions to promoting and developing the presence of the Mexican community in the Bay Area.


All performances take place at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek.
Saturday, Sept. 14 at 8PM
Sunday, Sept. 15 at 4PM
2019-20 Season Opener: ICONIC BEETHOVEN
Donato Cabrera, conductor
California Symphony
Rachel Calloway, mezzo soprano

Beethoven—The Creatures of Prometheus Overture
Frank—La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove)
            Rachel Calloway, mezzo soprano
Mahler—Lieder (Songs)
            Rachel Calloway, mezzo soprano
Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder (Do not look into my songs!)
Rheinlegendchen (Little Rhine Legend)
Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? (Who has thought up this little song?)
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world)
Beethoven—Symphony No. 5
Saturday, Nov. 16 at 8PM
Sunday, Nov. 17 at 4PM
Donato Cabrera, conductor
California Symphony
Annie Wu, flute

Mozart—Symphony No. 1
Puts—Flute Concerto
            Annie Wu, flute
Haydn—Symphony No. 104
Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 at 8PM
Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020 at 4PM
Donato Cabrera, conductor
California Symphony
Alina Kobialka, violin
Oliver Herbert, cello
Brahms—Hungarian Dance No. 5
Brahms—Symphony No. 3
Brahms—Concerto for Violin and Cello
Alina Kobialka, violin
Oliver Herbert, cello
Saturday, Mar. 14, 2020 at 8PM
Sunday, Mar. 15, 2020 at 4PM
Donato Cabrera, conductor
California Symphony
Kelly Guerra, mezzo soprano
Molly Netter, soprano
Alexander Smither, soprano

Balch—Cantata for Orchestra and 3 Voices (World Premiere)
Kelly Guerra (mezzo soprano)
Molly Netter (soprano)
Alexander Smither (soprano)
Tchaikovsky—Symphony No. 5
Saturday, May. 23, 2020 at 8PM
Sunday, May. 24, 2020 at 4PM
Donato Cabrera, conductor
California Symphony
Alexi Kenney, violin

Walker—Lyric for Strings
Pärt—Fratres (Brothers)
Reich—Duet for Two Violins and Strings
Alexi Kenney, violin
Jennifer Cho, concertmaster
Vivaldi—The Four Seasons
Alexi Kenney, violin

Enter your email below to subscribe to our daily newsletter.
Already a member? Login here

About Us ~ Contact Us ~ Disclaimer ~ Terms & Conditions ~ Privacy Policy

© Classical Music News
® all rights reserved