Yomiuri Orchestra’s New Season Will Open Doors to Great Music

The Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra

Allow us to introduce the 2023-24 season of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra (YNSO), which will start in April. The program is rich in variety and embraces the ambitions of principal conductor Sebastian Weigle. It includes Japan premieres and features illustrious soloists. Among them are many popular pianists, such as Mao Fujita.

The YNSO concerts are divided into seven subscription concert series: Subscription Concerts, Popular Series, Saturday Matinee Series, and Sunday Matinee Series, all in Tokyo; the Yomikyo Ensemble Series of chamber music, also in Tokyo; the Yokohama Matinee Series, returning to the newly renovated Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall; and Subscription Concerts in Osaka.

Maestros and debutants

Concerts in the first three months of the season will be distinguished by many debuts and Japan premieres.

The season’s opening concert on April 5 will be led by rising Italian conductor Antonello Manacorda, making his YNSO debut. He will conduct a Haydn symphony and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

The YNSO debut of Dominican jazz pianist Michel Camilo is sure to create a buzz. He will perform his Piano Concerto No. 2 “Tenerife” in its Japan premiere at a Popular Series concert on May 19 and again at a Yokohama Matinee Series concert on May 21, both under the baton of Masato Suzuki, who will extend his tenure as the YNSO’s associate conductor and creative partner until March 2026.

In June, two up-and-coming pianists, both prize winners at the Chopin Piano Competition, will display their excellence with the YNSO. American pianist Eric Lu, the fourth-place winner at the competition in 2015, will make his debut with the YNSO by playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 at Saturday/Sunday Matinee Series concerts on June 17 and 18, conducted by young British conductor Kerem Hasan. And Kyohei Sorita, one of the two second-prize winners at the competition in 2021, will appear at the Popular Series concert on June 28 and at the Yokohama Matinee Series concert on July 2, playing Piano Concerto No. 3 by Rachmaninoff, the 150th anniversary of whose birth is being celebrated this year. The conductor for the concerts is another British talent, Alexander Soddy, also making his debut with the YNSO.

Also, virtuoso cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras will be the soloist for the Japan premiere of Benjamin Attahir’s Cello Concerto “Al Icha” conducted by Suzuki.

Another major topic in spring is that up-and-coming Japanese conductor Nodoka Okisawa will be on the podium for Richard Strauss’ “Tod und Verklaerung” and Elgar’s Violin Concerto with Fumiaki Miura as soloist at the weekend matinees on May 13 and 14.

Sebastian Weigle

There will be more Japan premieres in summer as well. At the Subscription Concert series performance on July 27, leading Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa’s Violin Concerto “Prayer” will have its Japan premiere with Weigle on the podium and Daishin Kashimoto as soloist. The work was internationally commissioned by the YNSO and others.

Furthermore, Symphony by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will have its Japan premiere at the Subscription Concert series performance on Sept. 12, conducted by veteran Swiss conductor Mario Venzago. It evokes deep emotion considering that Skrowaczewski, who died in 2017, was the YNSO’s principal conductor from 2007 to 2010 and that this year marks the 100th anniversary of his birth.

At other concerts to note in August and September, German maestro Lothar Zagrosek will conduct Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 at the Popular Series concert on Aug. 31 and Venzago will take on Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with popular violinist Veronika Eberle as soloist at weekend matinees on Sept. 16 and 17.

‘Deutsche Sinfonie’

The biggest draw of the 2023-24 season awaits in the autumn. At the Subscription Series concert on Oct. 17, Weigle will conduct the Japan premiere of “Deutsche Sinfonie” by 20th-century German composer Hanns Eisler. It will be a precious opportunity to learn about German music of the 1930s and 1940s.

Weigle will perform two more programs in the same month. The audience may be surprised to see a new side of the conductor — often regarded as having a serious and dignified character — because both programs will feature vibrant ballet music as the centerpieces. The program for the weekend matinees on Oct. 21 and 22 includes Falla’s “The Three-Cornered Hat.” “The Firebird Suite” by Stravinsky will be featured at the Popular Series concert on Oct. 27 and the Yokohama Matinee Series concert on Oct. 29.

Sylvain Cambreling, a former principal conductor of the YNSO, will be reunited with the orchestra for the second year in a row. Last year, he won much acclaim for conducting a variety of works with the orchestra, including the world premiere of what turned out to be the last opus by Toshi Ichiyanagi, who died shortly before the concert.

Cambreling will help open the gates to a wealth of new music with progressive programs featuring contemporary works again this year. On Nov. 30, he will conduct Takemitsu’s “Signals from Heaven” among other works at the Popular Series concert. On Dec. 5, he will conduct Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra and Ligeti’s Piano Concerto with accomplished French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard as soloist at the Subscription Concert series concert. This year will mark the centenary of Ligeti’s birth.

Other autumn concerts also embrace programs packed with excitement. World-famous virtuoso French flutist Emmanuel Pahud will be the soloist for Chaminade’s Flute Concertino and other works at the Popular Series concert on Sept. 22 and the Yokohama Matinee Series concert on Sept. 24, which would be a shame to miss.

The annual December concerts of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 “Choral” will be led by Dutch violinist-turned-conductor Jan Willem de Vriend. He started as an early music specialist playing in period styles, so it will be interesting to listen to his bold interpretation of the popular symphony for the year-end. There will be performances on four dates: Dec. 17, 21, 23 and 24.

More gems to listen to

Weigle will make three visits to Japan during the 2023-24 season. Following his visits in July and October, he will draw on the YNSO’s hidden strength with three programs of mainstream classical repertoire in January 2024, with a particular emphasis on German music.

He will conduct Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 with Mao Fujita as soloist and Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 “Spring” at the Yokohama Matinee Series concert on Jan. 8 and the Popular Series concert on Jan. 10; Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” among other works at the Subscription Concert on Jan. 16; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” and more at the weekend matinees on Jan. 20 and 21.


The concerts in February 2024 will be led by Kazuki Yamada, who has extended his tenure as the YNSO’s principal guest conductor until March 2024. He will bring distinct programs filled with exciting combinations. The program at the weekend matinees on Feb. 3 and 4 will include Kapustin’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra with Kohei Ueno as soloist and Ravel’s “La Valse.” At the Subscription Concert on Feb. 9, Yamada will be joined by shakuhachi player Dozan Fujiwara and biwa player Kakushin Tomoyoshi in a performance of Takemitsu’s signature work “November Steps,” which will be combined with Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, a surprising combo indeed. The Popular Series concert on Feb. 13 will bring together Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 with Simone Lamsma as soloist, Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem “Don Juan” and Franck’s Symphony.

The season’s last three concerts will be led by Marie Jacquot, a young French conductor who excels particularly in operas. She will make her debut with the YNSO at the Subscription Concert series performance on March 12, 2024. The program is an interesting one, featuring Ravel’s Piano Concerto with jazz pianist Makoto Ozone as soloist and Weill’s Symphony No. 2 among others. The program at the weekend matinees on March 16 and 17 is contrastingly mainstream with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” with Alexander Melnikov as soloist and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, which will bring the curtain down on a season filled with fantastic, must-hear music.

Annual subscriptions

Annual membership tickets for the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra’s 2023-24 season are now on sale. The seven series are Subscription Concerts, Popular Series, Saturday Matinee Series, Sunday Matinee Series, Yokohama Matinee Series, Subscription Concerts in Osaka and Yomikyo Ensemble Series. Discounted student memberships are available for students age 25 or younger.

To purchase tickets or apply for a subscription series, call (0570) 00-4390 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (in Japanese) or visit the online ticket service site for the orchestra http://yomikyo.pia.jp 

For information in English, visit the English-language page on the YNSO’s official website https://yomikyo.or.jp/e/ 

In addition to saving on per-ticket prices, subscribers can also enjoy various benefits, such as a complimentary CD.

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