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California Symphony Unveils a Sparkling Fall Season

August 25, 2020

The California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera have unveiled an innovative slate of fall concerts featuring top soloists performing alone or with small ensembles drawn from the orchestra. Titled Second Saturdays @ California Symphony, the series of four videos will be broadcast simultaneously on Walnut Creek’s local public-access TV channel (WCTV) and online.

Despite the closure of the Lesher Center for the Arts and the cancellation of live performances by the full orchestra, the Symphony is doubling down on its mission to program a diverse range of classical music of all eras, with a special focus on American repertoire and works by minority and living composers. Featured composers this season include Katherine Balch, the Symphony’s first female Young American Composer-in-Residence; Cuban-born American Paquito D’Rivera; early 20th-century Black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; and Americans Allison Loggins-Hull, Joshua Roman, and Caroline Shaw (who became the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013).

Cabrera will host an online conversation about the music for each program 30 minutes before it premieres.

The season opens on Sept. 12 with “Bravo For #Beethoven250” with pianist Adam Golka, a Beethoven specialist who will perform two solo works in honor of the composer’s 250th birthday: Beethoven’s Sonata No. 30, Op. 109 and Sonata No. 21, Op. 53 (“Waldstein”). Golka will return to perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”) for the Symphony’s 2021–2022 season opener.

Violinist Robyn Bollinger and the California Symphony Wind Quintet are the featured artists for “Virtuoso Vibrations” on Oct. 10. Bollinger will perform a solo work by Katherine Balch, plus music by Bach and Bartók’s notoriously challenging Sonata for Solo Violin. The California Symphony Wind Quintet rounds out the program with Afro-Caribbean and jazz-infused excerpts of Aires Tropicales by Paquito D’Rivera.

Cellist Joshua Roman performs an eclectic program with the California Symphony String Quartet in “It’s a Cello-bration!” on Nov. 14. The wide-ranging program includes pieces by Bach, Coleridge-Taylor, Jennifer Higdon, Penderecki, and Caroline Shaw. Roman returns to Walnut Creek next year to perform on the “Firebirds of a Feather” program in the 2021–2022 season.

Season in Song” wraps up the fall season on Dec. 12. The festive show features the Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor with celebrated tenor Nicholas Phan in a presentation of seasonal selections. The California Symphony Brass Quintet rounds out the program.

“We’re excited to finally be back to doing what we know and love — making music,” says Cabrera. “We’re also fortunate that our programming mission so easily translates from the stage to the screen. I can’t wait to whet your appetite with these intimate video presentations until we meet again in the concert hall.”

The fall programs are supported by Hewlett Foundation, Lesher Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Details about presentations offered in the second half of the 2020–2021 season will be announced at a later date.

More details at

Paul Kotapish is the managing editor for SFCV.  You can learn more here or at