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NZSO excels in 2020 with Grammy winners, YouTube star, te reo Beethoven

News: 1 November 2019

A multi-Grammy Award winner, a virtuoso YouTube sensation and an internationally acclaimed young Kiwi conductor feature in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s all-star 2020 concert line-up.

From left, Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, Conductor Gemma New, Organist Cameron Carpenter, Pianist Valentina Lisitsa, image courtesy of the NZSO

The 2020 Season, unveiled today, includes the New Zealand debut of Costa Rican conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, winner of six Grammy Awards. He’ll be joined by Ukranian pianist Valentina Lisitsa, who has been viewed on YouTube over 216 million times.

Maestro Guerrero will also conduct the NZSO National Youth Orchestra and the NZSO for performances of Shostakovich’s monumental Seventh Symphony.

US-based New Zealand conductor Gemma New, hailed as “one of the brightest rising stars in the conducting firmament”, will lead the NZSO for the first time. New will conduct in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin with virtuoso German cellist Johannes Moser, and two special concerts with Moser on electric cello.

The NZSO will celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020  with a myriad of concerts aimed at all age groups. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony will feature Ode to Joy sung in te reo Māori by Secondary Schools and Youth Choirs in Auckland and Wellington. The NZSO and singers will be conducted by renowned American conductor Marin Alsop on her first visit to New Zealand.

The concerts are part of an international project All Together: A Global Ode to Joy instigated by New York’s Carnegie Hall. Over 12 months Maestro Alsop conducts nine orchestras across five continents performing the Ninth Symphony.

Beethoven anniversary offerings also include his masterwork Missa Solemnis, with vocalists Jennifer Davis, Vasilisa Berzhanskaya, Samuel Sakker, New Zealand’s Jonathan Lemalu and conductor Donald Runnicles, the Emperor Piano Concerto with New Zealand pianist Diedre Irons, and the composer’s Grosse Fuge, Third, Fifth and Sixth symphonies.

Other international soloists in 2020 include Grammy Award-winning Italian violinist Augustin Hadelich with Peruvian conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, American organist Cameron Carpenter with English conductor Alexander Shelley, and Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son with Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko. American violinist Esther Yoo ­– the youngest ever winner of the prestigious International Sibelius Violin Competition – will feature in concerts with acclaimed Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä. Maestro Vänskä, a Grammy Award winner, has led the Minnesota Orchestra for ground-breaking tours of Cuba in 2015 and South Africa this year.

From left, Violinist Esther Yoo, Violinist Augustin Hadelich, Conductor Alexander Shelley, Conductor Marin Alsop, image courtesy of the NZSO

NZSO Chief Executive Christopher Blake says 2020 takes the Orchestra to new heights, with performances of great symphonic music, superb soloists, and innovative programming for new audiences.

“One of the most exciting events to mark Beethoven’s 250th anniversary will be performing Ode to Joy in te reo Māori. We’re honoured a conductor of Marin Alsop’s standing is coming to New Zealand for the first time to lead the NZSO and that the concerts will include talented young New Zealanders.

“Another milestone is the expansion of our Baroque Series to 11 cities and the Auckland debut of our equally-popular Shed Series. In 2020 New Zealanders can enjoy their national orchestra in concert halls and beyond presenting a diverse mix of music with exceptional guest artists.”

Conductor Edo de Waart will return with Canadian soprano Erin Wall for two concert programmes featuring Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen, Four Last Songs, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Beethoven’s Third Symphony Eroica.

An innovative new programme Setting Up Camp will make it easier for more communities to engage with the NZSO. The Orchestra will meet and perform to schools and community groups during the day, alongside evening concert hall performances. In 2020 evening concerts feature Realising Beethoven – a selection of the composer’s music, his influences and composers he inspired – and J S Bach’s Goldberg Variations, alongside special Happy Hour sessions where you can meet NZSO players.

A tandem daytime programme will involve schools and community groups in Lower Hutt, the Kāpiti Coast, Palmerston North, Tauranga and Hamilton.

NZSO Principal Conductor in Residence Hamish McKeich’s hit Shed Series presents a mix of classic and contemporary music at Wellington’s Shed 6 and for the first time, Auckland’s Q Theatre. Gemma New will conduct a Shed Series concert programme featuring Johannes Moser.

The NZSO’s popular Baroque Series led by NZSO Concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen comes to more centres in 2020, with concerts in Lower Hutt, Paraparaumu, Palmerston North, Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin, Oamaru and Nelson for the first time, along with performances in Wellington, Hamilton and Invercargill.

2020 Season Subscription tickets are on sale at, along with detailed information on all concerts. This includes a special introductory offer to new subscribers. Up to three concerts in each booking will be free. The offer is limited to the first 100 subscribers and conditions apply.

Single tickets go on sale 31 January 2020.



Updated on 19th March 2020