What to expect at the SOI Autumn 2023 Season.

By Jehangir Batiwala

Music lovers in Mumbai should look forward to one of the most varied seasons of the Symphony Orchestra of India, this September. Essentially, a precursor to the orchestra’s eight-city tour of Britain in NovemberDecember 2023, the five concerts at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre offer a wide variety of repertoire, soloists and conductors.

One can safely argue that during the fortnight between 10th and 24th September, there will be enough music to cater to lovers of Classical, Romantic, ballet, contemporary, world music and even Indian classical music. The world premiere performance of Zakir Hussain’s triple concerto for bansuri, sitar and tabla with orchestra will probably evince the keenest interest from a wide range of audiences. Those who fondly remember Hussain’s triple concerto for banjo, double bass and tabla, which had its India premiere in 2013 with Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Hussain collaborating with the SOI and Zane Dalal, should definitely experience this new creation, specially commissioned by the SOI and the NCPA.

The opening concert on 10th September, conducted by Richard Farnes, will feature a most entertaining and virtuosic Semiramide overture by Rossini, followed by the violin concerto by the great Armenian composer, Aram Khachaturian. This concerto, originally composed in 1940 for Ukranian violinist David Oistrakh, will have Marat Bisengaliev as violin soloist. Bisengaliev studied with Valery Klimov who in turn studied with Oistrakh, so a more fitting musical pedigree is hard to find for this concerto. Tchaikovsky’s programmatic 6th symphony (Pathétique) will be played in the second half and will be the final piece of the evening as the music fades out at the end of the last movement.

The next concert on 15th September will be conducted by Richard Farnes, who has made waves across Britain, especially when he led Wagner’s complete Ring cycle at Opera North. Therefore, the programming of the Wagner Parsifal suite, which ends the concert, seems appropriate. The concert opens with the fantastic Imperial March from Star Wars by John Williams and continues with Brahms’s second piano concerto in the first half. This four-movement concerto is more delicate and introverted, almost like chamber music, as compared to Brahms’s majestic first piano concerto composed 22 years earlier. Having been praised for his sensitivity and amazing pianistic ability, Pavel Kolesnikov promises to be a worthy soloist for this music.

The following concert on 20th September will delight lovers of opera, ballet and orchestral music. Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier Suite, an orchestral suite comprising highlights of Strauss’s opera, opens the concert. Artur Rodzinski, the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, was behind the creation and success of this suite, which is now standard repertoire for orchestras. He conducted the first performance in the 1944-1945 season. The first half of this concert ends with Schumann’s lone cello concerto, performed by one of the greatest living cellists of our time, Steven Isserlis. This is the first time that Isserlis is performing in India, making his debut with the SOI. The concert ends with Stravinsky’s Petrushka, a ballet based on the story of the puppet Petrushka, who comes to life. Stravinsky scored the music for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in 1911. These performances, full of virtuosic music, will be conducted by Alpesh Chauhan who returns to conduct the SOI.

The final two concerts on 23rd and 24th September are also conducted by Chauhan. Awarded an OBE in 2022, Chauhan is enjoying a flourishing international career, conducting eminent orchestras in Europe, America and Asia. Both these concerts will have the same programme and feature Hussain’s triple concerto in the first half. The soloists are amongst the finest living exponents of their instruments; Niladri Kumar will play the sitar, Rakesh Chaurasia, the bansuri and of course, the composer Hussain will play the tabla. The second half of the programme will have a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 5th symphony. This will prove to be a worthy finale to an absolutely gorgeous orchestral season, the likes of which will be difficult to replicate anytime soon.


This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of the On Stage. It has been updated to accommodate the change in the line-up.



This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of the On Stage. It has been updated to accommodate the change in the line-up.