Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Richard Egarr and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra | Credit: Frank Wing

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra continues to broaden its repertory in a 2023–2024 season announcement that promises new music as well as Baroque and a rarely played masterpiece by Robert Schumann.

Last season, SF Classical Voice caught, by chance, a streamed performance of “The Garden of Good and Evil,” a concert PBO introduced on tour that featured matching compositions by the  composer-in-residence Tarik O’Regan and Errollyn Wallen, alongside Handel arias sung by countertenor Tim Mead. The good news is that this curiosity-provoking set leads off the coming season, with Mead as soloist and Music Director Richard Egarr conducting.

Errollyn Wallen
Errollyn Wallen | Credit: Azzurra Primavera

Wallen, one of the most performed and busiest composers alive, although not as well known in the U.S., shows up on the orchestra’s next set, a double bill of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Wallen’s Dido’s Ghost, co-commissioned by PBO and Dunedin Consort, Edinburgh International Festival, the Barbican Centre, and Mahogany Opera. John Butt, Dunedin Consort’s music director, will conduct the operas, with Matthew Brook as Aeneas, Nicole Heaston as Dido, Nardus Williams as Belinda, and Allison Cook as the Sorceress.

The December Christmas program shows off the Philharmonia Chorale and includes a new work by English baritone and now composer Roderick Williams. The Chorale is conducted by recently appointed director Valérie Sainte-Agathe.

In February 2024, Egarr and his wife Alexandra Nepomnyashchaya play a concert of double harpsichord concertos from J.S. Bach and his good friend Georg Philipp Telemann. Then, in April, violinist Shunske Sato, who played an outstanding Schumann concerto with the orchestra two years ago, returns for the Mendelssohn concerto. That warhorse shares the bill with Schumann’s Requiem, Op. 148. If you don’t know this Requiem, you’re not alone, but the 1852 work is a stark yet beautiful setting of the Latin Mass, less than 40 minutes long. It will surprise you, in a good way.

The orchestra is focusing on the audience experience once again with both educational outreach and a new informal music gathering. The well-established “Jews and Music” series continues with scholar Francesco Spagnolo leading, on Dec. 4, a dive into the Songs of Solomon by Venetian composer Salamone Rossi (1570–1630). In addition, a new set of performances (March 6–8, 2024), called “Coffee and Cake” and presented at 11 a.m. in venues like the Piedmont Community Hall and Congregation Beth Shalom in San Francisco, promises short, informal music sets (three of the Brandenburg Concertos) and, of course, coffee and cake.