Oregon Symphony announces 2020-21 season, celebrating famed conductor Carlos Kalmar’s final year as music director

 February 6, 2020

Season is filled with Grammy Award-winning artists, world premieres, classical favorites and commissioned works

Portland, Ore.– The Oregon Symphony has unveiled a stellar lineup of concerts for the 2020-21 season, performing new works from diverse composers as well as classical favorites, and featuring world-renowned classical luminaries performing alongside the internationally acclaimed Oregon Symphony Orchestra. The season will be Maestro Carlos Kalmar’s last as music director for the Oregon Symphony, during which time he has helped establish this orchestra as one of the most artistically vibrant, relevant and daring orchestras in the nation.

“In the 20/21 Season, we tell the story of Carlos and the Oregon Symphony. Over the course of the year, Carlos will bring you music that moves him and us. Every piece of music has a story, and we’ll hear these stories all season, as Carlos and the orchestra perform beloved standards and insightful new programs,” Showalter said.

In 20/21, the Oregon Symphony Orchestra will perform 22 Oregon Symphony premieres, works from 15 living composers, five U.S. or world premieres and four commissioned works. Season tickets go on sale Friday, February 7.

The 20/21 season includes 18 classical programs, including three SoundStories events that offer audiences a new musical lens on historic and contemporary issues. This year, Kalmar and the Oregon Symphony will perform pieces that prompt the question: Who has the right to be heard in our society?

  • Austrian Jewish composer Hans Gál’s escape from the Nazi regime left his flourishing career in shambles. Over three decades later, he composed Triptych, an exuberant work that testifies to the power of resilience in the face of adversity.
  • Oregon Symphony Creative Chair Gabriel Kahane grapples with the nature of convenience, privacy, free will and democracy in the digital era in his thoughtful, evocative new work The Right to Be Forgotten.
  • Hans Abrahamsen’s atmospheric new piano concerto Left, alone, performed using only the left hand, brings to light how physical disabilities and social isolation can transform the acts of composing and listening to music.

The Oregon Symphony will present numerous luminaries during the 20/21 season, including:

  • Oregon Symphony artist-in-residence and Austrian cello soloist Johannes Moser;
  • Canadian violinist and 2019 Grammy Award-winner James Ehnes and German violinist Christian Tetzlaff;  
  • Concert pianist Tamara Stefonovich of Serbia;  
  • Grammy-winning trumpeter Wynston Marsalis performing new commissions and jazz masterworks;
  • Cuban American composer Tania León, Irish American composer Donnacha Dennehy, and Korean composer Unsuk Chin;  
  • Swiss conductor Francesco Piemontesi in his U.S. debut and acclaimed conductor James Gaffigan.

The Oregon Symphony Orchestra will perform 18 classical programs, including noteworthy masterpieces like:

  • Carmina Burana, Carl Orff’s outrageous choral-orchestral classic, featuring guest conductor Leo Hussain;
  • Dvořák’s New World Symphony, one of the most popular symphonies ever composed;
  • Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, a fiendishly challenging piece featuring guest conductor David Danzmayr;
  • Mendelssohn’s beloved Violin Concerto, one of the most dazzling showpieces in the classical repertoire featuring Canadian violinist Blake Pouliot;
  • Brahm’s A German Requiem, a transcendent, choral-orchestral masterpiece;
  • Mozart’s last symphonies, three revolutionary pieces conducted by Kalmar;
  • Mahler’s colossal Symphony No. 9, Kalmar’s final concert as music director for the Oregon Symphony.

The 20/21 season also includes the Pops Series, Popcorn Series, and Kids Series concerts, featuring popular music from the Count Basie Orchestra to the Mambo Kings; blockbuster films on the big screen, such as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the Symphony performing the soundtracks live on stage; and engaging concerts for young children that include beloved Disney songs, an introduction to Mozart, and more.

The final two weeks of the season combine into a fitting finale to Kalmar’s tenure. In his penultimate concert, Kalmar returns to the piece that sparked Oregon’s love for him at his 2001 Oregon Symphony debut: Schoenberg’s heavenly orchestral arrangement of Brahms’ First Piano Quartet. And for his final concert as music director, he will conduct Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 9.

“It will be bittersweet to have this season as my last with the Oregon Symphony. Over the 18 years I’ve been here, we performed moving, relevant, diverse music for everyone. We elevated conversations about important issues that impact our community. And we brought the community together through shared experiences. I know the Symphony will continue to do these things for years to come because the Symphony cares about this community and is part of its very fabric,” Kalmar said.

“Under the leadership of Maestro Kalmar over 18 seasons, the Oregon Symphony has evolved into the internationally acclaimed orchestra it is today. Kalmar has championed bold artistry both on and off the stage, and his commitment to growth and excellence has buoyed the creative spirit of the orchestra, paving the way for the Symphony’s next era,” Showalter said.

For the best seats and selection, order your season tickets on Friday, February 7 at www.orsymphony.org or 503-228-1353.



The multi-Grammy Award-nominated Oregon Symphony ranks as one of America’s major orchestras. The symphony serves more than 235,000 people annually through concerts and award-winning education and community engagement programs.

The Oregon Symphony has broken attendance and fundraising records in recent years, while innovating on stage through new series such as SoundSights, Sounds of Home and SoundStories.

The Sounds of Home concerts in 2017/2018 combined music and art to reflect on three critical issues in our community – immigration, the environment, and homelessness. One of those pieces of music, commissioned by the Oregon Symphony from Gabriel Kahane, sparked a new three-year position for Kahane at the Symphony as Creative Chair. In this unique, unprecedented and multi-faceted role, Kahane is writing and performing substantial works and advising on contemporary programming for the Classical Series. Kahane also is producing two new concert series with the Symphony: Open Music, a composer-driven chamber series to be held in smaller Portland venues, and an indie concert series in which marquee pop artists will collaborate with dynamic composers and orchestrators.

Photos for media use are available at orsymphony.org/newsroom. For additional photos and b-roll, contact: Natalie Bennon, nbennon@gardcommunications.com, 503-552-5017