Wednesday 23 September, 2020

The Basque National Orchestra kicks off its most difficult season with a celebration of Schubert

The Basque National Orchestra kicks off its most difficult season with a celebration of Schubert

Performances of the complete Schubert symphonies – unprecedented in the Basque Country – from 25 September to 1 October, in the usual four capitals, will mark the beginning of a season which is hugely challenging logistically, and musically very ambitious. 

The ongoing pandemic, and the resulting capacity restrictions in the main concert venues (Euskalduna, Kursaal, Principal and Baluarte), have forced the Basque National Orchestra to reorganise its season programme to accommodate its audience. The number of concerts has been doubled. Instead of the usual five per programme, there will now be 10: 4 in Donostia, and two each in Bilbao, Vitoria and Pamplona. The programmes and orchestral setup will differ from what was originally planned. General Director of the Basque National Orchestra, Oriol Roch, has this to say:


‘The opening of a concert season is always a time of joy, and this is the case now, despite the uncertain times we face and the consequent difficulties this poses to planning in detail. We are a national orchestra. We tour the country with great enthusiasm to bring our music to our season ticket holders and the public. This is why our season is currently so complex. We are tackling programmes with different characteristics and amid different circumstances, including double sessions in one single day or increasing the number of concerts in each programme. The times are different to those originally planned, and we have implemented a variety of solutions to get us through to March. After that, we will progress in whatever way the pandemic allows us to.’


In this context, after having reorganised the season programmes through to March, and provisionally postponing decisions about how to tackle the second section up to June, Oriol Roch also has this message for the public: ‘we ask our public for understanding, patience and cooperation at this time. We also want you to feel at ease. Our concert halls have gone to great lengths so that we are, and feel, safe during every performance.’



Schubert Festival


The Basque National Orchestra kicks off the season this Friday 25 September in Vitoria, Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th in San Sebastián, Wednesday 30th in Bilbao and Thursday 1 October in Pamplona. The concert season will get off to a unique start with performances of the complete Schubert symphonies in what is effectively a schubertiade or Schubert Festival. His eight symphonies can be heard for the first time in the Basque Country over five days and one hundred kilometres, with double sessions and 10 concerts across the four capitals where the orchestra is based. Vitoria will hear symphonies No. 1, 3, 6 and 9, Donostia will hear all over two days, Bilbao will be treated to No. 2, 4, 5 and 8, and Pamplona will close the festival with No. 1, 3, 6 and 9. This musical marathon is a completely new initiative in the Basque Country and is brought to the public in the spirit of positivity, energy and joy, enabling them to enjoy the healing power of music during these times of the pandemic.

Chief conductor Robert Trevino tells us why this inaugural programme is so intriguing:



‘I would like to invite you to our opening programme for the 20/21 season. We start this year with something very special: the complete Schubert symphonies. This festival, this initiative, is perfect for this orchestra and for the Basque Country right now. Franz Schubert is one of the greatest composers of all time, and his music constitutes much of the core repertoire of a modern orchestra. Many of these symphonies are almost forgotten and rarely performed. Hence, this is a wonderful opportunity to work with a smaller orchestra, bring together our audience and spread the music of Franz Schubert all across the Basque Country.’



Romanticism and much more for the rest of the season


The Schubert festival will be followed by other programmes: Wagner, featuring mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham; Enigmatikoa, with Pablo Ferrández in the two cello concertos by Shostakovich; Aire Nordikoa, with pianist Behzod Abduraimov performing Piano Concerto No. 3 by Bartok and No. 1 by Beethoven; Supervivientes, which will include the first ever performance of Mis monstruos marinos by Mikel Urquiza (the second part of Elkano: Mundubira musika bidelagun), conducted by Ruth Reinhardt; and Los viajes, featuring violinist Vadim Gluzman performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, conducted by Gemma New. This musical journey will be complemented by great symphonies from Schumann, Sibelius and Dvorak, bringing a sense of meaning to a season which focusses on the Romantic period.

After that, the orchestra has a programme in place through to June, but the status of the pandemic will determine how the remaining concerts are organised and held. Throughout this still uncertain portion of the season, we can expect to welcome conductors Hans Graf (conductor of the Basque National Orchestra from 1994 to 1996) and Anja Bihlmaier, as well as pianist Nikolai Lugansky, violinist Birgit Kolar and baritone Manuel Walser. Mahler and Rachmaninoff will be the most heavily featured composers in the repertoire from March onwards.



Concert safety measures


In addition to measures put in place by the venues to ensure audience safety, the concert programmes will be shorter and will not include an intermission to avoid the movement of people as much as possible.

We have also grouped season ticket holders to reorganise venue capacity in each city and provide our supporters with clear information on which concerts they will attend. 

Concert tickets will be sold subject to availability (depending on capacity restrictions determined by COVID-19) and will be advertised on an ongoing basis. Those interested should check the orchestra website,, for the most up to date information.

Lastly, before kicking off a season which is hugely challenging logistically, and musically very ambitious, the orchestra wishes to convey an optimistic and healing message to its audience and to Basque society at this difficult time. Robert Trevino sums it up thus:



‘I would like to welcome you to the 20/21 season of the Basque National Orchestra. We have been thinking a lot, lately, about what home means. Perhaps, we have realised that home is not a place, but people. Orchestral music is a chance to come together as a community, for people to get together and share everything that makes us human: love, life, joy, happiness, excitement, imagination, childhood, old age and much more. This is what we are trying to do in the Basque National Orchestra. We want to join together with you to create a community and a home that revolves around music, because we need it more than ever. Come and be a part of your orchestra. We look forward to seeing you at our concerts.’

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