Brett Mitchell
Brett Mitchell is the Pasadena Symphony’s new music director | Credit: Roger Mastroianni

Peter Boyer’s New Beginnings is not, technically, new. The composer wrote the celebratory piece in 2000, and in the years since, it has been performed widely, as well as recorded.

But despite its lack of novelty, it’s a highly appropriate choice to open the Pasadena Symphony’s 2024–2025 season in October for two reasons.

First, Boyer lives in nearby Altadena; he was the orchestra’s composer-in-residence a decade ago. Second, the concert marks the start of Brett Mitchell’s tenure as music director. Mitchell is only the sixth person to hold that title, which is quite something when you realize that this will be the orchestra’s 97th season.

A native of Seattle, Mitchell served as music director of the Colorado Symphony in Denver from 2017 to 2021 and has been artistic director and conductor of Oregon’s Sunriver Music Festival since 2022. As a guest conductor, he has led the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the San Francisco Symphony, and The Cleveland Orchestra, among many others.

Pasadena Symphony
Pasadena Symphony

His first season in Pasadena will consist of six programs plus the traditional Holiday Candlelight concert on Dec. 14. While the repertoire is heavy on warhorses, Mitchell has also chosen works by a number of living composers, including Boyer, Mason Bates, and Jessie Montgomery.

One theme of the season is pieces inspired by the natural world, such as Claude Debussy’s La mer and Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony. “One of the things I have always loved about California is the diversity of its nature,” Mitchell noted, and the season’s repertoire will reflect that concept.

That applies to the first concert, which will be performed at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Oct. 26 at Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium. The main work is Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony, which has several allusions to the natural world in its first movement, including the sound of a cuckoo. The program also includes Boyer’s New Beginnings and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s tuneful Violin Concerto (with soloist Akiko Suwanai).

The second program, Nov. 16, features pianist Stewart Goodyear playing George Gershwin’s 100-year-old Rhapsody in Blue and Mitchell conducting Bates’s Sea-Blue Circuitry, described as an all-acoustic work that has the pulse of electronic music. Two French sea-inspired pieces follow: Maurice Ravel’s Une barque sur l’océan and La mer.

Inon Barnatan
Inon Barnatan | Credit: Marco Borggreve

Inon Barnatan is the soloist on Jan. 25, 2025, performing Florence Price’s 1934 Piano Concerto in One Movement. That program also features Montgomery’s Starburst and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”). Mark Kosower, principal cello of The Cleveland Orchestra, is the soloist in Antonín Dvořák’s Cello Concerto on Feb. 15, 2025, part of a program that also includes Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.

The concerts on March 22, 2025, feature new takes on old musical styles, including Adolphus Hailstork’s Baroque Suite, Sergei Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony, and the suite from Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. Stefan Jackiw is the soloist in Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto.

The season concludes on May 3, 2025, with Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, Samuel Jones’s Hymn to the Earth, and Max Bruch’s well-known Violin Concerto No. 1 (with soloist William Hagen).

Season tickets are available now; single tickets go on sale July 15. For more information, go to the Pasadena Symphony’s website.