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Philharmonic Society of Orange County Announces A Reimagined 2020-2021 Season

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IRVINE, CA | September 22, 2020—The Philharmonic Society of Orange County today announced exciting updates to its 2020-21 season, including the addition of new artists to its season lineup, digital initiatives to further the reach of its musical and educational offerings, and an optimistic intent to resume in-person performances in the spring. 

Launching in October, all Fall 2020 programs will be virtual, allowing patrons to view streamed performances by artists such as the Danish String Quartet, pianist Jeremy Denk, and pianist Stephen Hough from the comforts of their own home. Diversity and a spotlight on historically underrepresented communities and voices in classical music will serve as a key focal point of the Philharmonic Society’s fall programming, culminating in December with a multi-day “Triumph Over Adversity” Festival curated by musicians Anthony and Demarre McGill. Additional fall highlights include the addition of a Moon Festival Celebration with pipa virtuoso Wu Man, and appearances by violinist Hilary Hahn as well as cello-piano sibling duo Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason as the Philharmonic Society’s inaugural Virtual Artists-in-Residence. The Philharmonic Society’s Opening Night—originally scheduled for Sunday, October 11—will transform into an online virtual celebration with dates and details to be announced.

“We are so grateful for the leadership of our Board of Directors and for the ongoing support from members of our Philharmonic Society family who make our work possible. Our team is finding creative ways to forge ahead, from concerts to our youth music education programs and our Orange County Youth Symphony,” said President and Artistic Director Tommy Phillips. “As we pivot from our original season plans, we maintain the commitment to our community and our mission to continue presenting world-class musical and educational offerings. The arts have the power to uplift and bring communities together, and we need the arts now more than ever. This fall, we are particularly excited to highlight and amplify underrepresented voices in classical music and showcase these lesser-heard perspectives to inspire much needed conversations surrounding social change.”

Contingent on approval by public health and safety officials, the Philharmonic Society plans to resume in-person concerts in Spring 2021 with a revised lineup of performances. Several concerts scheduled in the Philharmonic Society’s originally planned season were impacted by tour cancellations due to restrictions on international travel and venue closures, and the Philharmonic Society is actively working towards reengaging these performances in future seasons.

“We remain cautiously optimistic,” explained Phillips, “and are working in tandem with artists and venues towards the possibility of safely welcoming back audiences to in-person concerts in 2021, following the guidance of public health and safety officials. For those not ready to return to live performances, virtual viewing options will continue to be available, and in the event that in-person concerts cannot take place, we will be prepared to transition back to virtual performances. We are also exploring various options for concerts, including limiting capacities of audiences in attendance and alternative venues and concert formats.”

The Philharmonic Society’s 2020-21 season is made possible through the generous support of Donna L. Kendall and the Donna L. Kendall Foundation, an anonymous donor, Howard and Judith Jelinek, The Segerstrom Foundation, and Sam and Lyndie Ersan. Additional support is provided by Bluebird Legacy donors, The Colburn Foundation, The Crean Foundation, The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Isidore & Penny Myers Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, Gail and Robert Sebring, Douglas and Dierdre Smith, Steven M. Sorenson MD and the IBEX Foundation, Dea Stanuzek, and U.S. Bank.

Single tickets for Fall 2020 virtual concerts will go on sale Monday, September 21, and will be available for purchase online at, or by phone at 949.553.2422. Tickets for spring performances will go on sale at a later date to be announced.

The Philharmonic Society’s Patron Services Department will be reaching out to 2020-21 season subscribers in the coming weeks with updates to series packages as well as ticketing options. 2020-21 season subscribers and members will receive exclusive and complimentary access to Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center virtual performances in appreciation for their support.

For additional ticketing-related inquiries, patrons should contact the Philharmonic Society’s Patron Services Department by email at or by phone at (949) 553-2422, during regular office hours: Mondays through Fridays, 9am-5pm. Due to heavy phone volume, patrons may experience longer than normal wait times, so email is encouraged.


VIRTUAL ARTISTS-IN-RESIDENCE | October to December 2020

The Philharmonic Society is excited to announce its inaugural lineup of virtual Artists-in-Residence for Fall 2020: violinist Hilary Hahn, and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason with pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason. Spanning October to December, Artists-in-Residence will curate, organize, and produce a series of three intimate, virtual performances—one per month—and connect to audiences through masterclasses and community outreach initiatives.

Emerging from a year-long sabbatical, three-time Grammy-winning American violinist Hilary Hahn last appeared on the Philharmonic Society’s season in 2015 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. Hahn will showcase her expressive musicality and technical expertise in fresh programs curated specifically for this residency, including the commission of a new work by composer Michael Abels, who is best known for scoring Jordan Peele’s Academy Award-winning film Get Out and the highly anticipated follow-up Us, for which he was awarded “Discovery of the Year” at the 2019 World Soundtrack Awards. Residency repertoire will also include Bach’s Violin Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006, Auerbach’s Lonely Suite for violin and piano, Op. 70, “Ballet for a Lonely Violinist,” and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K.219, in which Hilary Hahn will perform only the solo violin parts of the concerto in a perspective she likes to call “Hahn Solo.” (Sunday, October 18, 3pm; Saturday, November 14, 7pm; Saturday, December 12, 7pm)

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason along with his sister and pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason are two of the most exciting rising young stars on the musical scene. Since the beginning of the UK’s stay-at-home orders, the two siblings, along with other members of their musically adept family, have featured weekly livestreamed concerts from their living room, playing works from all over the classical music spectrum. Outside of their family concerts, Sheku Kanneh-Mason also appeared with the Philharmonia Orchestra in their virtual concert series in July and the brother-sister duo performed in September as part of the BBC Proms. Residency repertoire will include sonata works by Rachmaninoff, Barber, and Beethoven. (Sunday, October 25, 3pm; Sunday, November 22, 3pm; Sunday, December 20, 3pm)



A cornerstone of the Philharmonic Society’s fall programming, the Triumph Over Adversity Festival—curated by musicians and brothers Anthony and Demarre McGill—is a free, multi-day series of virtual concerts and educational and community outreach offerings advocating for social change on and beyond classical music’s stages. Spotlighting musicians as well as composers from marginalized communities, concerts will feature works by composers such as Gabriela Lena Frank, Tania León, Valerie Coleman, and David Baker, including works specifically commissioned for the McGill brothers.

2020 Avery Fisher Prize recipient Anthony McGill currently holds the position of principal clarinet for the New York Philharmonic, making him the first Black musician to hold a principal position in the orchestra’s 178-year history; he is also currently the orchestra’s only Black player. In 2009, he was honored to take part in the inauguration of President Barack Obama, performing alongside violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and pianist Gabriela Montero in the premiere of John Williams’ Air and Simple Gifts.

The elder of the two brothers, Demarre McGill holds the position of principal flute in the Seattle Symphony, and previously held the same position with the Dallas Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Florida Orchestra, and Santa Fe Opera Orchestra. Winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, he has gained international recognition as a soloist, recitalist, chamber and orchestral musician. As an educator, he has performed, coached and presented master classes in South Africa, Korea, Japan, Quebec and throughout the United States.



On October 1, the world’s premier pipa virtuoso Wu Man and other prominent Eastern instrument players launch the Philharmonic Society’s fall season with a virtual Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. The Mid-Autumn Festival is associated with the moon and “moon appreciation” (shangyue) parties, in which communities organize festivities and invite citizens of all ages to partake in delicious mooncakes, go for moonlit walks, and watch traditional Chinese performances. Ancient Chinese scholars composed music to praise the moon’s celestial power and express the perfect harmony between Earth, humans, and the heavens above. In this musical celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Wu Man guides audiences through the sounds and history of these long-standing festivities culminating in the world premiere of a piece written and performed with the renowned Kronos Quartet. Guest artists include sheng player Wu Wei, zheng player Ann Yao, and huqin (erhu) player Wang Hong. (Thursday, October 1, 2020, 7pm)

The fall also features Musical America’s 2020 Ensemble of the Year Danish String Quartet, performing Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 10 in A-flat major, Op. 118, and traditional folk music. Known for mastering the works of great classical composers such as Beethoven and Mozart, the quartet is equally passionate about Scandinavian folk tunes. Its albums Wood Works and Last Leaf focus on the common ground between classical music and folk songs, and have both received wide-spread acclaim, as the music reveals “a freshness, immediacy and love that [grips] the heart and [won’t] let go” (The Washington Post). (Saturday, November 7, 2020, 7pm)

Hailed as “an artist you want to hear no matter what he performs” (The New York Times), acclaimed pianist Jeremy Denk showcases his masterful playing and innate musicality in a concert featuring works by some of the greatest composers for piano. Denk’s program includes Romantic works by Chopin and Schumann, as well as Beethoven’s final piano composition, Piano Sonata No. 32. Winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the Avery Fisher Prize, Jeremy Denk is one of America’s foremost pianists and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. (Saturday, November 21, 2020, 7pm)

In his fourth Philharmonic Society appearance, multi-Grammy-nominated pianist Stephen Hough joins the fall virtual line up with a performance of pieces by Romantic-era piano masters. The first classical performer to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (2001), Hough has recorded more than 60 albums in his career and has played with renowned groups such as the London Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and countless others. In this performance, Hough plays Schumann’s famously dream-like “Träumerei” movement from Kinderszenen, Op. 15, along with Busoni’s brilliant piano transcription of Chaconne from Bach’s iconic Violin Partita No. 2. Also on the program are Liszt’s Funérailles and Mephisto Waltz No. 1 and Schumann’s Fantasie in C major, Op. 17. (Friday, December 11, 2020, 7pm)



The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra opens the new year with a virtual concert joined by three-time Grammy-winner and revered jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis. The program features saxophone and classical favorites, including Debussy’s Rhapsody for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, Rossini’s Overture to The Barber of Seville, Rodrigo’s Suite from Soleriana, Turina’s La Oración del Torero (The Bullfighter’s Prayer), Bryan’s Carmen Jazz Suite on themes by Bizet (Orpheus commission), and Ibert’s Concertino da Camera, featured on Marsalis and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s collaboration album Creation, which reached the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s Classical Music Charts. (Saturday, January 9, 2021, 7pm, Virtual Concert)

An ensemble praised for its “dramatic, energetic playing of clean intensity” (The New York Times), the Tetzlaff Quartet performs a virtual concert showcasing Beethoven's late string quartets. The program includes String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat major, Op. 130, along with its original final movement, Große Fuge, Op. 133, and also features the hauntingly beautiful String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132. (Saturday, January 16, 2021, 7pm, Virtual Concert)

“A pianist of magisterial elegance, power, and insight” (The New York Times) and “one of the most gifted musicians of his generation” (The Wall Street Journal), celebrated Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes appears in a recital performing Schumann’s Three Romances, Op. 28 and his Carnaval, Op. 9, drawing on musical themes from the world-wide Carnival celebration. Also on the program is Volume 1 of Janáček’s On an Overgrown Path and Bartók’s Three Burlesques, Sz. 47. (Thursday, January 21, 2021, 8pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

Winner of the coveted Gold Medal at the 2013 Cliburn Piano Competition, piano virtuoso Vadym Kholodenko teams up with string Brooklyn Rider, which has been hailed as “the future of chamber music” (Strings) and continues to draw rave reviews from classical, world, and rock critics alike, in a chamber performance highlighting the performers’ commanding technique and creative interpretations. Program to be announced. (Sunday, January 24, 2021, 3pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

Classical music superstar violinist Joshua Bell returns to Orange County in a recital performance, highlighting his “effortless technique and sweet tone” (The New York Times). With a career spanning more than thirty years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, conductor and director, Bell has received countless honors, such as the Avery Fisher Prize and ECHO Klassik awards, as well as being named Musical America’s 2010 Musician of the Year. Program to be announced. (Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 8pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

Kodo—the world’s most celebrated professional taiko drumming troupe—bring their thrilling and powerful rhythms to Orange County in their One Earth Tour: Legacy. The tour focuses on preserving Kodo’s unique “DNA” by drawing on the iconic form found within classic Kodo pieces and carefully sharing the essence of those traditions with the next generation. (Sunday, February 14, 2021, 7pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

In a centennial celebration of Astor Piazzolla, the single most important figure in the history of tango, multi-Grammy-nominated violinist Philippe Quint, the Quint Quintet, and members of the world-class, Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet perform some of the most iconic tango pieces in a program that showcases the music and movement that define this historical dance. Co-presented by Irvine Barclay Theatre. (Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 8pm, Irvine Barclay Theatre)

Founded in 1934 by the legendary Czech pianist Josef Pálenícek, the Smetana Trio is today’s foremost Czech chamber ensemble. In an intimate chamber performance, the trio features Martinů’s Piano Trio No. 3 in C major, H. 332—a piece from the quartet’s 2017 recording that was voted to win a BBC Music Magazine Chamber Award—along with Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor and their namesake Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor, Op 15.  (Tuesday, March 2, 2021, 8pm, Samueli Theater, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

After a showstopping performance with the Russian National Orchestra in 2019, piano virtuoso George Li returns in his Orange County recital debut. Since winning the Silver Medal at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition, the young Harvard grad has rapidly established a major international reputation as a pianist with an effortless grace, brilliant virtuosity and poised authority far beyond his years. The program features Beethoven’s famous Moonlight Sonata and the Eroica Variations, along with selected mazurkas, nocturnes, and scherzos by Chopin. (Thursday, March 4, 2021, 8pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

Recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, pianist and composer Conrad Tao leads the 2021 Laguna Beach Music Festival as Artistic Director. The festival features Tao and special guest artists including dancer Caleb Teicher, the JACK Quartet, violinist Stefan Jackiw, and the Westerlies in intimate performances, community outreach programs, and dynamic special events. Programs will feature music by Debussy, Gershwin, Caroline Shaw, Beethoven, Schubert, and more. (March 24-28, 2021, Laguna Beach)

After impressing audiences in a stellar 2018 performance with the Czech Philharmonic, MacArthur Fellow cellist Alisa Weilerstein returns to Southern California in recital with Inon Barnatan, who has been called “one of the most admired pianists of his generation” by the New York Times. The program features select Beethoven cello sonatas, representative of Beethoven’s evolution as a composer and considered some of the greatest cello pieces of all time. (Thursday, April 8, 2021, 8pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

An inaugural member of Lincoln Center’s prestigious Chamber Music Society Two program, the Brentano Quartet appears in a chamber performance showcasing pieces from its extensive classical repertoire with Brahms’ lyrical and passionate String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51, Haydn’s String Quartet No. 6 in D major, Op. 17, and Bartók’s String Quartet No. 5, Sz. 102. (Friday, April 9, 2021, 8pm, Venue TBD)

Renowned for his expressive lyricism, singular beauty of tone, and impeccable musicianship, Grammy Award-winning violinist Pinchas Zukerman is joined by cellist Amanda Forsyth, whose intense richness of tone, remarkable technique, and exceptional musicality enthrall audiences and critics alike, and the stunning Jerusalem Quartet with its wide-ranging repertoire and incredible depth of expression. The concert features Bruckner’s Adagio from String Quintet in F major, WAB 112; Dvořák’s Sextet for Strings in A major, Op. 48; and Brahms’ Sextet for Strings in B-flat major, Op. 18.  (Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 8pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

A Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame inductee and two-time Grammy-nominated artist, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet possesses a depth and natural charisma that have made him one of today’s most sought-after soloists. Thibaudet appears in a recital performance, playing the entirety of Debussy’s Préludes, which showcase the composer’s expressive indulgences and free-spirited, lyrical musical tendencies. (Saturday, April 24, 2021, 8pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

Grammy-nominated Danish String Quartet makes its second appearance in the 2020-21 season with a performance showcasing its players’ masterful technique and heartfelt expressivity. Program to be announced. (Sunday, May 16, 2021, 3pm, Samueli Theater, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

Expressing themselves through guitar, voice, and percussion quartet, legendary guitarist Sergio Assad, along with Clarice Assad’s spellbinding vocals and the rhythms of Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion, delves into global musical traditions taking the audience on a vast musical journey grounded in familiar stories. Their program Archetypes explores the universal symbolic archetypes that appear in stories, legends, and myths throughout the world as well as characters that appear across cultures, showing how some stories can sound almost identical, even if they originate from vastly different places across the globe. (Friday, May 28, 2021, 8pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

Musical America’s 2018 Instrumentalist of the Year violinist Augustin Hadelich is joined by Emanuel Ax’s protégé pianist Orion Weiss in a chamber performance showcasing Beethoven’s Sonata No. 4 in A minor, Op. 23; Debussy’s Sonata in G minor, L. 140 and L'isle joyeuse; Francisco Coll’s Hyperlude No. 5 for Solo Violin; Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 6 in E major for Solo Violin; Brahms’ Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100; and John Adams’ Road Movies. (Monday, June 14, 2021, 8pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

In a rescheduled performance from the previous season, four-time Grammy winner and legendary soprano Renée Fleming appears in a program of beloved songs and arias. One of the most celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, Renée Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, and compelling stage presence. Known as “the people’s diva,” she continues to grace the world’s greatest opera stages and concert halls, now extending her reach to include other musical forms and media. (Thursday, June 17, 2021, 8pm, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts)



The Philharmonic Society furthers its commitment to enriching lives through music with its Youth Music Education Programs. Students across Orange County will continue to receive exceptional music education online through virtual workshops, interactive activities, and musician demonstrations that promote learning on and off screen. More information regarding the details of each program can be found at

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020, Orange County Youth Symphony continued to serve the county’s young musicians throughout the spring with virtual Zoom rehearsals and meetups. Beginning in the fall, OCYS members will meet virtually and in limited ensemble sizes for in-person rehearsals at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, with proper safety precautions and social distancing measures taken.


About The Philharmonic Society Of Orange County

Founded in 1954 as Orange County’s first music organization, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County presents national and international performances of the highest quality and provides dynamic and innovative music education programs for individuals of all ages to enhance the lives of Orange County audiences through music. 

For more than 65 years the Philharmonic Society has evolved and grown with the county’s changing landscape, presenting artists and orchestras who set the standard for artistic achievement from Itzhak Perlman, Gustavo Dudamel, Yo-Yo Ma, and Renée Fleming to the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and many others. In addition, the Philharmonic Society celebrates multi-disciplinary performances under its Eclectic Orange brand and embraces music from a wide range of countries with its World Music performances. Its celebrated family concerts introduce children to classical music with creative and inspiring performances, instilling music appreciation for future generations. 

The Philharmonic Society’s nationally recognized Youth Music Education Programs, offered free of charge, engage more than 100,000 students annually through curriculum-based music education programs that aim to inspire, expand imaginations, and encourage learning at all levels. These programs are made possible by the Committees of the Philharmonic Society comprised of 700 volunteer members who provide more than 90,000 hours of in-kind service each year. As a key youth program, the exceptional Orange County Youth Symphony and String Ensemble provide top-tier training to the area’s most talented young musicians through multi-level ensemble instruction, leadership training, touring opportunities, challenging professional repertoire, and performances in world-class venues. The Philharmonic Society also promotes life-long learning by connecting with colleges and universities to conduct masterclasses and workshops and providing pre-concert lectures to introduce audiences to program selections.