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San Diego Symphony’s winter and spring season includes nine concerts in La Jolla

The San Diego Symphony's Douglas Hall, Rafael Payare, Erin Douglas Dowrey, Martha Gilmer and Zou Yu
San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare (second from left) and Chief Executive Martha Gilmer (second from right) are pictured with orchestra members Douglas Hall (left), Erin Douglas Dowrey (center) and Zou Yu (right).
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego Symphony will present nine concerts in La Jolla during the orchestra’s ambitious and wide-ranging 2022 winter and spring season.

Between its Jan. 15 opening concert at downtown’s San Diego Civic Theatre and its May 27 bayside conclusion at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the orchestra will perform more than 30 concerts at nine San Diego County venues large, small and in between.

Masking and proof of full COVID-19 vaccination will be required of all guests at each intermission-free concert, as well as of performers and staff members.

The season — aptly titled “Hear Us Here” — also will include a performance at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert.

“This isn’t a reinvention,” said symphony Chief Executive Martha Gilmer. “It’s an invention.”

The schedule encompasses the most venues in any season by the orchestra, which is the oldest in California and next year will celebrate its 112th anniversary. The season includes such distinguished soloists as cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Yefim Bronfman.

“It is very exciting and ambitious,” said Rafael Payare, the symphony’s Venezuelan-born music director. “But after last year, it isn’t that challenging. Over the past 18 months, the pandemic changed everything we do — and our mission changed.”

San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare conducts at the August opening of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park.
San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare conducts at the August opening of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the orchestra’s new $85 million year-round outdoor concert venue.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

From COVID to splashy rebirth

Gilmer was instrumental in navigating the changes.

Last year, she guided the orchestra as it confronted the pandemic-fueled shutdown of all live events. The symphony’s spring, fall and winter seasons were canceled, salaries were cut for the musicians and at least 19 of the symphony’s 57 staff members were furloughed.

Gilmer then helped the nonprofit arts organization pivot to streamed performances by smaller ensembles of largely masked symphony members who were socially distanced. Their online concerts were filmed incrementally, sans audiences, in the otherwise empty Copley Symphony Hall. The horn players, who could not play with masks, performed high up in the venue’s mezzanine section to ensure safety protocols were followed.

Orchestra’s Friday concert, the first in its home venue since March, will feature 45 musicians performing in different configurations. To ensure safety, the brass section is playing from the balcony, not the stage

Most notably, Gilmer was key in spearheading the fundraising, construction and August opening of the orchestra’s new year-round $85 million outdoor venue, The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park.

The performance kicked off a 40-concert outdoor season for the new venue, whose lineup includes orchestral performances by Jason Mraz, Police co-founder Stewart Copeland and rapper Nas

“We don’t get bored, that’s for sure,” said Gilmer, who was hired as the symphony’s CEO in 2014. She is now overseeing the ongoing renovation of the orchestra’s downtown home, Copley Symphony Hall at Jacobs Music Center, which won’t reopen in time for the upcoming winter and spring season.

“Somewhere around the spring of this year, we started looking at what we wanted to do in this kind of transitional season,” Gilmer said. “We fashioned the idea of appearing throughout the region. We did scouting and took Rafael around to multiple performance spaces in San Diego.”

The move to nine venues across San Diego County is reflective of the organization seeking to broaden its reach and expand its appeal.

“Since I arrived seven years ago, I have really wanted to make the symphony part of the fabric of San Diego,” Gilmer said. “And this new season is going to take the orchestra to perform where people live. We hope to connect with new listeners in their community and bring our existing audiences to these different venues and destinations.”

San Diego Symphony Music Director Rafael Payare and CEO Martha Gilmer
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Just how different is apparent by skimming the upcoming season’s schedule.

In February, 30-year-old guest conductor Christopher Dragon will lead the orchestra and violin soloist Elena Urioste in four concerts in as many days, starting with a Feb. 3 performance at the La Jolla Music Society’s Baker-Baum Concert Hall at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center. The symphony will perform the same concert of music by Vivaldi, Piazzolla and Golijov on Feb. 4 at The Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe, on Feb. 5 at the Southwestern College Performing Arts Center in Chula Vista and on Feb. 6 back at The Conrad in La Jolla.

Violinist Elena Urioste will perform with the San Diego Symphony at four concerts in February, two of them in La Jolla.
Violinist Elena Urioste will be guest soloist with the San Diego Symphony at four concerts in February, two of them in La Jolla.
(Alessandra Tinozzi )

“We are adapting our repertoire and the size of the orchestra for each venue,” said Payare, who considers the dimensions of each stage to determine how many musicians can play at each concert.

“For Mozart’s ‘Gran Partita’ at The Conrad, we’ll have 13 players,” he said. “For our concerts at the Civic Theatre, we’ll have the full orchestra.”

San Diego Symphony in La Jolla, 2022

Here are concerts in La Jolla that are on the San Diego Symphony’s 2022 winter and spring schedule of the Jacobs Masterworks series.

Thursday, Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 6, 2 p.m.: Golijov’s “Last Round,” Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons, Op. 8, RV 269" and Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” featuring conductor Christopher Dragon and violinist Elena Urioste. Baker-Baum Concert Hall at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave.

Saturday, March 5, 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 6, 2 and 7 p.m.: Schnittke’s “Moz-Art à la Haydn,” Saint-Georges’ “Violin Concerto No. 9 in G Major, Op. 8" and Mozart’s “Serenade No. 10 in B-flat Major, K. 361 (370a), Gran Partita,” featuring Rafael Payare and violinist Jeff Thayer. Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

CHAMBER CONCERTS
IN LA JOLLA

(Not part of the Jacobs Masterworks series)

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m.: Verdi’s “String Quartet in E Minor,” Boccherini’s “Fandango Quintet in D Major” and works for solo guitar by Albeniz, Tarrega and others, featuring guitarist Jason Vieaux. Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

Tuesday, March 1, 7:30 p.m.: Music for solo trumpet by Paquito D’Rivera, Efrain Oscher, Pacho Flores and others, featuring Flores on trumpet. Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

Wednesday, March 30, 8 p.m.: Program to be announced, featuring Wu Man on pipa (chinese lute). Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

Sunday, May 1, 2 p.m.: Brahms’ “Quintet in F Minor” featuring pianist Benjamin Hochman. Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

For the full season schedule, visit SanDiegoSymphony.org.

Ticket information

The San Diego Symphony’s four new subscription options are on sale and include: a three-concert package at the San Diego Civic Theatre or the California Center for the Arts in Escondido ($66 and up); a four-concert package at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park ($88-$388); a seven-concert “Downtown Tour” package ($210-$631) and a 12-concert “Grand Tour” package ($388-$947).

Single tickets: Pricing will vary by location but will start at $25 and will go on sale Sunday, Dec. 5.

Online: SanDiegoSymphony.org

Phone: (619) 235-0804

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.