Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra 2023
Philharmonia Baroque poster for 2022–2023 | Credit: Dennis Bolt

A rich program encompassing centuries, 13 major guest artists, and the first-time return of “Mr. Philharmonia Baroque” Nicholas McGegan to the podium as music director laureate — these are some of the attractions of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra’s 2022–2023 season.

Richard Egarr returns for his third year as music director in a season that offers both adventurous and core repertory, large-scale choral works by Handel and Muffat; new twists on the acclaimed series “Jews & Music” and “SESSIONS”; tours in Europe and on the East Coast (details to be released later).

“PBO figured out long ago that the way forward is to share music old and new in fresh ways that can reach anyone who wants to hear great music, whether they’ve been a subscriber for 42 years or just ready to be curious with that first ticket purchase,” says Philharmonia Executive Director Courtney Beck.

“The artists on our stages, the composers we work with, our partners — they’re here to tell stories about music, about history and the history they’re making through their personal stories and interpretations of the past, present, and future. That’s what historical performance is all about. And PBO chooses to meet this moment in history with authenticity and imagination and to surround ourselves with artists who have so much to teach us.”

PBO - Schumann
Richard Egarr conducts the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra | Credit: Frank Wing

The artists in the Oct. 20–23 production of Handel’s Theodora include mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, making both her PBO and American debut, soprano Julie Roset in her PBO debut, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, tenor Thomas Cooley, and bass-baritone Dashon Burton.

McGegan’s Nov. 16–20 programs are typical of his eclectic offerings. “Vaudeville Baroque” will pair Jean-Philippe Rameau’s suite from the opéra-ballet Les Surprises de l’Amour with André Campra’s Le Carnaval de Venise.

Egarr will conduct his first PBO Messiah, Dec. 14–18, with soprano Stefanie True, tenor Andrew Tortise, bass Joshua Bloom, and the debut of mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb.

In a program, Feb. 9–12, from the “post-Baroque” period and titled “Old Friends Made New,” Steven Isserlis is the soloist in Camille Saint-Saëns’s Concertos for Violoncello No. 1 in A Minor and No. 2 in D Minor; Egarr conducts Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 in D Major, played on period instruments.

Steven Isserlis
Steven Isserlis is featured in two cello concertos by Saint-Saëns | Courtesy Steven Isserlis

“SESSIONS,” PBO’s alternative concert series that began seven years ago, returns in Feb. 16–17, in a program titled “The Artist as Human,” designed by Davóne Tines and his colleagues, conductor and keyboardist David Belkovski and soprano Nola Richardson.

Audiences will hear from the artists as they explore their personal connections to the music and art they make through the lenses of gender, race, and sexuality and will share insights on how these themes emerge through old and new music they perform: J.S. Bach, John Blow, Henry Purcell, Tarik O’Regan, Katherine Balch, and others.

Now in its sixth year, “Jews & Music,” March 15–16, 2023, is characterized by PBO as “scholarly, provocative, and musical.” Grammy-winning conductor Jeannette Sorrell will direct members from her ensemble, Apollo’s Fire, Philharmonia Chamber Players, and singers from the Philharmonia Chorale. The program, titled “Diaspora: Jewish Music of Longing & Celebration,” draws on Sorrell’s work in acclaimed recordings of Jewish music and her own Jewish roots to create an exploration of Sephardic, Roman, and Ashkenazy musical traditions.

Kristian Bezuidenhout makes his return to PBO, this time as both conductor and fortepianist in “A Glassful of Mozart,” March 25–31. The concerts feature Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, J.C. Bach’s Symphony in G minor, and an overture by Joseph Martin Kraus, a work that had great influence on the young Mozart.

Kristian Bezuidenhout
Kristian Bezuidenhout | Credit: Marco Borggreve

Concerts on April 20–22 bring demons, jealousy, sorcery, and high emotion in Handel’s dramatic opera Amadigi di Gaula, led by Egarr and starring countertenors Anthony Roth Costanzo and Kangmin Justin Kim, sopranos Deanna Breiwick and Nicole Heaston. Stage direction is by Louisa Muller, who is on the directing staff of both the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago. This production marks PBO’s first co-production with Boston Baroque. The opening night performance on April 20 will be PBO’s 2023 Spring Gala.

The season comes to a close with “From Muffat to Mason,” April 27–30 in a program that sums up PBO’s mission: Led by Egarr, the “Missa in labore requies” (Muffat Mass) is a Baroque work rarely performed and richly textured with orchestra, chorale and eight voices — sopranos Maya Kherani and Nola Richardson, countertenors Reginald Mobley and Siman Chung, tenors James Reese and Spencer Britten, and bass-baritones Cody Quattlebaum and Jonathan Woody.

The Muffat Mass has been performed only one other time in the Bay Area. The program is rounded out with a sonata by Franz Biber and a lament by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, two vital composers in the Baroque repertory.

PBO is commissioning Mason Bates, “one of the key disruptors, innovators, and improvisors of 21st-century classical music,” to compose a work that “rubs shoulders with these Baroque giants, bringing together the world of orchestral music in a new work that will tie this program up with a balance of old and new.”

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