1 Nov 2019

Star line-up for NZSO 2020 season

From Upbeat, 10:45 am on 1 November 2019

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has named a star line-up of conductors and guest soloists for its 2020 season.

From left, Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, Conductor Gemma New, Organist Cameron Carpenter, Pianist Valentina Lisitsa

From left, Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, Conductor Gemma New, Organist Cameron Carpenter, Pianist Valentina Lisitsa Photo: Supplied

Grammy Award winners, a YouTube star, Kiwis making waves on the world stage, and an ode to Beethoven in te reo Māori all feature in next year’s season for the NZSO.

The orchestra has also expanded its successful Shed Series and is “Setting Up Camp” to help boost community engagement.

Kiwi conductor Gemma New to make NZSO debut

New Zealand conductor Gemma New

New Zealand conductor Gemma New Photo: Fred Stucker

US-based New Zealand conductor Gemma New will make her NZSO debut, following stints with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, St Louis Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

The music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra has been described as a “rising star” in conducting for her “insightful interpretations and dynamic presence”. She’ll conduct the NZSO in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin with returning crowd favourite German cellist Johannes Moser.

The duo, with Moser on electric cello, will also appear as part of the expanded Shed Series.

Star Marin Alsop to conduct Beethoven 9 in te reo Māori

American conductor Marin Alsop

American conductor Marin Alsop Photo: Grant Leighton

Renowned American conductor Marin Alsop visits New Zealand for the first time to conduct Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, featuring ‘Ode to Joy’ in te reo Māori.

The translation for 'Ode to Joy' is being done by NZSO cultural advisors and the Māori Language Commission.

Alsop's visit is part of the global project All Together: A Global Ode to Joy established by New York’s Carnegie Hall, which sees Alsop conduct nine orchestras in five continents.


In New Zealand the ‘Ode to Joy’ will be performed by Secondary Schools and Youth Choirs in Auckland and Wellington.

NZSO Chief Executive Christopher Blake says the orchestra is “honoured” to have Marin Alsop standing on the podium for the momentous occasion.

Beethoven’s 250

Jonathan Lemalu

Jonathan Lemalu Photo: supplied

‘Ode to Joy’ is also part of a wider programme marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

New Zealand baritone Jonathan Lemalu will be joined by Jennifer Davis, Vasilisa Berzhanskaya and Samuel Sakker to perform Beethoven’s monumental ‘Missa Solemnis’.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Kiwi pianist Diedre Irons will perform the ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto. Beethoven’s ‘Grosse Fuge’, Third, Fifth and Sixth symphonies will also be performed.

Grammy award winners and star soloists

From left, Violinist Esther Yoo, Violinist Augustin Hadelich, Conductor Alexander Shelley

From left, Violinist Esther Yoo, Violinist Augustin Hadelich, Conductor Alexander Shelley Photo: Supplied

2020 will see the New Zealand debut of six-time Grammy winner Costa Rican conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. The current Music Director of the Nashville Symphony and Wroclaw Philharmonic will conduct the NZSO along with YouTube sensation Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa, who’s had more than 216 million views on the platform.

Guerrero will also lead the NZSO National Youth Orchestra along with the NZSO for Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony.

Italian violinist – and Grammy Award winner – Augustin Hadelich returns, this time with Peruvian conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya.

American organist Cameron Carpenter with English conductor Alexander Shelley, and Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son with Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko also feature.

Acclaimed Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä (another Grammy winner) comes to New Zealand following ground-breaking tours of Cuba and South Africa with the Minnesota Orchestra.

He’ll lead the NZSO with American violinist Esther Yoo, the youngest ever winner of the prestigious International Sibelius Violin Competition.

Edo de Waart

Edo de Waart Photo: ©Stephen A'Court Photography

Edo de Waart also returns for 2020, conducting Canadian soprano Erin Wall. He’ll lead Richard Strauss’ ‘Metamorphosen’, ‘Four Last Songs’, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Beethoven’s Third Symphony ‘Eroica’.

Shed Series and Baroque Series expanded

Conductor Hamish McKeich

Conductor Hamish McKeich Photo: RNZ/Kirsten Johnstone

Following on from the success of both series in 2019, Hamish McKeich’s relaxed Shed Series and NZSO Concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen’s Baroque Series both expand to new regions.

The Shed Series will continue at Wellington’s Shed Six and appear for the first time at Auckland’s Q Theatre.

NZSO Concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen

NZSO Concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen Photo: Stephen A'Court

The Baroque Series has expanded to encompass Lower Hutt, Paraparaumu, Palmerston North, Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin, Oamaru and Nelson, along with performances in Wellington, Hamilton and Invercargill.

Does the Jedi Return?

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Photo: © 2018 & ™LUCASFILM LTD. All Rights Reserved © Disney

In 2018 and 2019 the NZSO was able to reach new audiences with its performances of Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

It would make sense for the orchestra to continue with the third instalment Return of the Jedi, however in 2020 the NZSO is stepping away from films and is focusing on its core business.

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“After two years of performing live to screenings of Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, the NZSO is taking a break in 2020 to focus on other exciting concert experiences. We are considering film screenings in 2021 and beyond,” Christopher Blake says.

Other orchestras around the country have picked up John Williams film scores for the 2020 season. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra will perform Home Alone in December and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra will perform Jurassic Park in June.

“Setting Up Camp” in the community

Johann Sebasian Bach

Johann Sebasian Bach Photo: Elias Gottlob Haussmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A new programme “Setting Up Camp” has been established by the orchestra to help build engagement with different communities.

It will perform in schools and community groups during the day, with a complementary performance in the evening. The concert series Realising Beethoven brings to life a selection of the composer’s works and what inspired him, along with Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’. Audiences will also have the opportunity to meet and chat with NZSO players.

The orchestra will be “Setting Up Camp” in Lower Hutt, Kāpiti Coast, Palmerston North, Tauranga and Hamilton.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.