Music » Music Features

RPO’s new season gives a nod to masters, but is a little less stuffy


The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2021-22 Philharmonics Series — its first under forthcoming Music Director Andreas Delfs — is a subtle balance between conventional symphonic fare and more progressive programming.

There are two ways that classical music ensembles frequently approach programming: perform works by household names dominated by white men, like Beethoven and Brahms, or interpret music of more diverse contemporary composers.

  • Andreas Delfs.
This upcoming season, the RPO looks to do both.

The German-born Delfs will pay homage to the Germanic repertoire, as he has done throughout his career, with music from Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss, and Wagner.

But the new music director, as well as guest artists, will also conduct the works of seven living composers, five of whom are women (Lera Auerbach, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jennifer Higdon, Jessie Montgomery, and Sarah Kirkland Snider), and four of whom are musicians of color (Frank, Montgomery, Brian Nabors, and Roberto Sierra).

Highlights of the 2021-22 Philharmonics Series include:

  • Sept. 23 and 25: Delfs leads the orchestra in the Romantic-era selections “Dawn & Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” by Wagner and Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, as well as Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto, featuring violin soloist Benjamin Beilman.
  • Mar. 24 and 26, 2022: Delfs conducts Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor” (with soloist Jorge Osorio) and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, alongside “Something for the Dark” by Sarah Kirkland Snider.
  • April 14 and 16, 2022: Guest conductor Ken-David Masur — music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra — leads the RPO in the world premiere of Jessie Montgomery’s Piano Concerto with pianist Awadagin Pratt, as well as Brahms’s “Variations on a Theme by Haydn” and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, also known as “Reformation.”
  • May 5 and 7, 2022: Delfs conducts the world premiere of Roberto Sierra’s Violin Concerto with RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde as soloist, along with performances of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, famously dubbed “Unfinished,” and additional pieces by Mendelssohn and Johann Strauss Jr.

Highlights from the 2021-22 Pops Series, led by Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik, include a tribute to the music of singer-songwriter Paul Simon on Sept. 17 and 18, an homage to soul legends including Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Al Green on Oct. 15 and 16, a birthday celebration of film composer John Williams on Feb. 18 and 19, 2022, and a live concert performance of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” on May 27 and 28, 2022.

For those hesitant about attending performances in-person, the RPO’s 2021-22 season also includes the option of streaming the following five concerts for 45 days after the first day of streaming, at either $25 per concert or $100 for the entire series of five:

  • Paremski + Rachmaninov (from Oct. 21)
  • Hansel and Gretel (from Nov. 18)
  • Holiday Pops (from Dec. 17)
  • Andreas Conducts Beethoven (from Jan. 13, 2022)
  • Ann Hampton Callaway “Diva to Diva” (from Mar. 18, 2022)

All series subscriptions are available now; individual tickets go on sale to the general public on July 30. For more information, go to

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at