Ask a Pittsburgher what makes them proud of their city, and you will hear about sports, food and perhaps “livability.” But did you know our symphony is considered to be one of the best in the world? In fact, in 2018, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) brought home a Grammy for “Best Orchestral Performance” for their Shostakovich 5/Barber Adagio CD.
On top of that, because we are Pittsburgh (and Pittsburgh is the best) our symphony is actually fairly accessible—and not just from a pricing standpoint. Last Tuesday, the PSO announced its new season, running September 22, 2019, through June 21, 2020, titled, “Experience the Power of Music,” and it has more than a little bit of something for everyone.
For classical music aficionados
Even if you don’t love classical music, you’ve got to at least have some level of interest in history’s musical giants. “The Year of Beethoven” runs throughout the entirety of the PSO’s 2019-2020 season in honor of Beethoven’s 250th birthday. Highlights will include a concert version of his only opera, Fidelio, and his Third and Seventh Symphonies. Mozart is also a season headliner, as the PSO will also present three concerts of his great violin concerti, played by world-class violinists, each paired with a companion piece highlighting Mozart’s brilliance.
For movie junkies
Heinz Hall was originally built in 1926 as a grand movie palace, but it is now the home of the PSO. But you can still see movies there—by going to the symphony! E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial will be playing on October 3 and Raiders of the Lost Ark on February 27, 2020—both will be projected on an HD screen above the full symphony orchestra, which will play John Williams’ famous scores live.
For pop culture fans
Really, the entire PNC Pops series is dedicated to popular music and culture, but certain programs stand out. The series starts strong with an Aretha Franklin tribute, featuring hits like R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Think and Rescue Me, from October 4 to 6. The Beatles are up next, with a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road, from November 15 to 17. Also, anyone who watches David Letterman would recognize his former bandleader and musical director Paul Shaffer, and he’s coming to Pittsburgh to perform some of his favorites from May 1 to 3, 2020.
For the novelty seeker
Sitting in a grand venue like Heinz Hall, you might find yourself wondering, “what does it feel like to be on that stage?” (at least I do!) The “PSO 360” series gives you the opportunity to find out. In what is probably the PSO’s most outside-the-box seasonal offering, the audience literally surrounds the symphony orchestra on the Heinz Hall stage—allowing people to get as close to the musicians and the sound as possible—for five concerts on November 30 and December 9, 2019 and February, 22, March 7 and April 18, 2020.
For the forerunner
Forerunner, vanguard, influencer, early adopter … I debated on the term I wanted to use here, but if you always like to be the first to see or experience something, the PSO offers many opportunities in their new season. First and foremost, they are kicking off their season with a commissioned work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe. Called The Fountain of Youth, the piece was co-commissioned by the PSO, Carnegie Hall and the New World Symphony, and the world premiere will be here in Pittsburgh as part of the PSO’s Opening Weekend Spectacular on September 20 and 22. The PSO will also welcome six debut artists and present 10 Pittsburgh premieres—not to mention numerous pieces that haven’t seen a Pittsburgh stage in many years.
For the wanderer
OK, so maybe a five-country European trip just isn’t in the cards for you this October, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a musical taste of Europe at home. The PSO is embarking on an 11-concert tour in October, 2019, to some of the world’s greatest stages, and Pittsburgh audiences get the chance to be the first to preview the tour repertoire. Tour launch concerts are on September 21 at St. Vincent Basilica in Latrobe and October 18 to 20 at Heinz Hall.
We’ve written about the PSO’s Fiddlesticks series before, but it’s worth restating what an awesome event it is for families with kids. These short Saturday morning concerts are specifically designed for children ages 3 to 8, with many opportunities to interact with artists, participate in crafts and activities, and learn about classical music in fun ways. Kids may also enjoy some of the PSO Pops series offerings, such as the 30th anniversary concert Bugs Bunny at the Symphony from March 20 to 22, 2020, or the Blockbuster Broadway! concert from February 7 to 9, 2020.
PSO accessibility services
Sensory-friendly concerts, large-print and Braille program books, curbside assistance, sign language interpretation and guide dog accommodation are just some of the services that the PSO offers to its patrons. Read more about accessibility at the PSO here.