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KSO announces spectacular Masterworks, Chamber Classics lineup for 2019-20

February 8, 2019

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra has announced the lineup of its 2019-2020 classical season featuring the 250th commemorative year of Beethoven, a SHIFT Festival sendoff to Washington, D.C., world premiere violin concerto tied to Richard Jolley’s world-acclaimed “Cycle of Life” glass and steel installation, holiday favorites, traditional classics, Appalachian folk  and more.

Subscriptions to the Moxley Carmichael Masterworks and the Chamber Classics series are on sale now. Individual concert tickets will go on sale in August.

“The variety and depth of our 2019-20 season is thrilling,” Music Director Aram Demirjian said. “With Romantic classics, visual spectacles, new works and an astonishing lineup of guest artists, we spread our wings further than ever, with the goal of keeping the experience fresh and exciting for our audience. Every listener is unique, and our programs feature music from a broad representation of important voices of varied backgrounds, each with their own story to tell. We hope everyone who attends our concerts, whether for the first time or the hundredth, will find something that speaks especially to them.”

The Masterworks and Chamber Classics series include a combined nine works never before performed by the KSO, including the second performance of the KSO commission “Overture to Knoxville” and the world premiere of new KSO commission Violin Concerto: Cycle of Life.


  • Eight pairs of concerts held at the Tennessee Theatre on Thursday and Friday evenings at 7:30 p.m.
  • 30-minute pre-concert chat at 6:30 p.m. with conductor and guest artist, allowing an up-close Q&A session, insights and background to the music.

Subscriptions are on sale now starting at just $102; single tickets will go on sale in August 2019.

Opening Night: THE PLANETS
Sept. 19-20, 2019
Aram Demirjian, conductor
Women of the Knoxville Choral Society

The Knoxville Symphony opens its 84th season by taking to the stars, in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing. Audiences will instantly recognize Richard Strauss’ On The Beautiful Blue Danube from the film “2001:  A Space Odyssey” and Debussy’s Clair de lune, plus contemporary composer Missy Mazzoli’s “These Worlds in Us,” inspired by James Tate’s poem, “The Lost Pilot.” Gustav Holst’s iconic, celestial showpiece, The Planets, will feature video footage from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Oct. 17-18, 2019
Aram Demirjian, conductor
Natasha Paremski, piano

The October Masterworks program is about folk music, memory and heritage, opening with contemporary composer Jesse Montgomery’s “Records from a Vanishing City,” a piece inspired by the composer’s experiences growing up in New York City’s Lower East Side. Internationally renowned pianist Natasha Paremski performs Edvard Grieg’s beloved Piano Concerto in A, which contains a wealth of Norwegian folk music influences. The program concludes with Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7, composed to reflect the struggles of the Czech nation in the late 19th century.

Nov. 21-22, 2019
Aram Demirjian, conductor
Nief-Norf, percussion

The first of four programs celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, this concert features Beethoven’s rhythmically pulsating Symphony No. 7, which Beethoven considered one of his best and Richard Wagner dubbed “The Apotheosis of the Dance.” Israeli-born composer Avner Dorman’s percussion concerto “Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!” is a multicultural tapestry of 21st century rhythms utilizing over 20  instruments, performed by members of Knoxville own contemporary Nief-Norf. Nief-Norf is a multi-tiered contemporary music ensemble devoted to the performance, scholarship, and commissioning of adventurous musical works.

With percussionists at its nucleus, the ensemble seeks opportunities to challenge and expand their ideas about what contemporary classical music is and can be in the 21st century. Founders Andrew Bliss and Kerry O’Brien took the ensemble’s name from a descriptor of strange sounds: some say “bleep-blop,” they prefer “nief-norf.” A program with this much musical fire would not be complete with Beethoven’s Overture to Prometheus, the mythological hero who gave fire to humankind.

Jan. 16-17, 2020
Aram Demirjian, conductor
Aristo Sham, piano

This Masterworks program features two monumental Viennese composers, separated by a century: Mozart and Mahler. Mahler said, “A symphony must be like the entire world. It must contain everything.” Mahler’s First Symphony, nicknamed “Titan” is a musical and spiritual journey, featuring musical depictions the universe, springtime, a funeral procession of animals, a klezmer band and one of the most dramatic finales in all of music. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 will be performed by prize-winning guest artist Aristo Sham, He has been featured in the Channel 4 programme, The World’s Greatest Musical Prodigies.

Feb. 20-21, 2020
Aram Demirjian, conductor
Bella Hristova, violin

Bella Hristova

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica” or “Heroic” will resound in the concert hall, celebrating his 250th year. “Eroica” is the first time Beethoven pushes the boundaries of the symphonic form, as the first two symphonies were more traditional and classical – similar to Haydn & Mozart. Two underrepresented but essential American composers comprise the first half of the program. George Walker was the first African American to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1996.

His searingly emotional elegy, “Lyric for Strings,” will open the program, followed by Florence Price’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Knoxville audiences will remember violinist Bella Hristova from her 2017 Knoxville performance. Bella Hristova is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including a 2013 Avery Fisher Career Grant and First Prize in the 2009 Young Concert Artists International Auditions.

March 19-20, 2020
Aram Demirjian, conductor
University of Tennessee Symphony Brass Ensemble

Don’t miss the chance to celebrate with the KSO before it hits the road for Washington, D.C., to be one of only four orchestras featured in SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Our hometown audience gets a special preview of the D.C. program “Knoxville: Artists at Home,” including Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, a reprisal of Michael Schachter’s Overture to Knoxville (commissioned by the KSO in 2017), Copland’s Suite from The Tender Land, plus festive American classics including “America, the Beautiful” and The Stars and Stripes Forever.

In addition to a Kennedy Center mainstage performance, the KSO will have a community residency in our nation’s capital, implementing our Music & Wellness programs in area hospitals and staging a KSO UnStaged event.

April 16-17, 2020
Franceso Lecce-Chong, guest conductor
Zhenni Li, piano

This program features the brilliant talent of pianist Zhenni Li for Beethoven’s magnificent Piano Concerto No. 4. Li has garnered worldwide recognition, most recently as the winner of the 2017 New York Concert Artists Worldwide Debut Audition, Astral Artist’s 2016 National Auditions, and the Grieg International Competition in Norway. Beethoven’s soulful concerto is paired with Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, which the composer referred to as “a confession of the soul,” led by guest conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, music director of the Eugene and Santa Rosa symphonies.

May 14-15, 2020
Aram Demirjian, conductor
Philippe Quint, violin

When music director Aram Demirjian first observed Richard Jolley’s massive glass art installation, “Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity” at the Knoxville Museum of Art, his immediate thought was, “This is begging to be turned into a piece of music!” The KSO turned to composer Michael Schachter, following the success of his “Overture to Knoxville,” to take on this large scale project. Violin Concerto: Cycle of Life will follow the same spiritual journey of Jolley’s work, in a musical dialogue between the individual (the violinist) and the universal (the orchestra).

It will be jointly commissioned by the KSO and the KMA in a momentous collaboration that will engage the entire community during the piece’s creation, leading to a world premiere performance that will feature multiple forms of art and media. Multi-Grammy nominee Philippe Quint returns to Knoxville as soloist, having last performed here on Demirjian’s Music Director audition concert in 2016. This towering program concludes with Tchaikovsky’s passionate Symphony No. 4, considered to be his “Fate” symphony.


  • Five concerts on Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m. Four concerts will occur at the Bijou Theatre; one performance will take place at the Tennessee Theatre.
  • Four concerts conducted by Aram Demirjian.
  • Fifth Annual Classical Christmas concert, which SOLD OUT its first four years.

Subscriptions are on sale now starting at $101.50; single tickets will go on sale in August 2019.

Sept. 29, 2019
Aram Demirjian, conductor
Edward Pulgar, violin
Kathryn Gawne, viola

Edward Pulgar

The Chamber Classics Series begins an eclectic season with a program about transition and transformation. Highlighting the program is Tchaikovsky’s Chamber Symphony No. 1, a new version of his much beloved String Quartet No. 1, scored now for orchestra by American composer Christopher Theofanidis.

The program opens with a sonic journey by Knoxville composer Dosia McKay called Unveiling, which begins with a single note, morphs into a seemingly infinite sea of polyphony and returns to where it began. At the heart of the program lies Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante, composed at a time of transition in young Mozart’s life following the death of his mother and the beginning of his most mature period of composition.

Nov. 3, 2019
Aram Demirjian, conductor

Prokofiev’s simple, charming, magical tale of Peter in the Wolf has introduced countless young ears to the instruments of the orchestra and to wonders of classical music. Revisit that childlike wonder that still lives inside us all with a program of fairy tales and legends, featuring Peter and other beloved characters from our favorite bedtime stories. Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite is a pristine gem, comprising five vignettes inspired by stories including Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast and more. Stravinsky’s delightful, refreshing Pulcinella Suite, about the antics of a tragicomic clown-like character and all his friends, along with Sibelius’ melancholy Valse triste. This program is designed for adults and kids alike.

Dec. 1, 2019, Tennessee Theatre (new location)
Aram Demirjian, conductor
Knoxville Choral Society

The KSO renews its December tradition of “A Classical Christmas,” this year on a grander scale than ever before, featuring Handel’s Messiah with the Knoxville Choral Society, at the Tennessee Theatre. This performance also includes holiday favorites like Leroy Anderson’s Suite of Carols and other light classics, and the Messiah performance will comprise the seasonally appropriate Part I, plus timeless arias, including “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” and “The Trumpet Shall Sound,” and of course the Hallelujah Chorus. “A Classical Christmas” comes just in time to get you and yours in the holiday spirit. This popular performance sold out the past four years, so patrons should be sure to secure their subscriptions early.

Jan. 26, 2020
Aram Demirjian, conductor
Ruth Bacon and Zofia Glashauser, violins

As we embark on Beethoven’s 250th year, we “Begin” with an exploration of Beethoven’s early years as a young phenom, newly arrived on the music scene in Vienna and trying to make his mark. This program also features a new concert format, combining chamber music and orchestral music.

Any understanding of Beethoven’s spirit has to include his string quartets, of which the Principal Quartet will perform Opus 18, No. 6, followed by his oft-overlooked, unbearably beautiful Violin Romances. Of his many gifts to music, perhaps Beethoven’s most significant one was redefining the genre of the symphony.

While Symphony No. 1 did not yet contain the stormy drama with which we associate Beethoven, it both was a musical nod to his mentor Haydn and hinted at what was to come in the not distant future: a clear game-changer for the music world.

APRIL 26, 2020
James Fellenbaum, conductor
Sarah Morgan, dulcimer

Sarah Morgan

The finale of the Chamber Classics series is all about the outdoors – just in time for spring. The highlight of the program is Conni Ellisor’s “Blackberry Winter: Concerto for Appalachian Dulcimer,” a beautiful collision of past and present, bringing the classic sounds of Appalachian folk together with a 21st century orchestral sound that sings the history of our region. The program begins with the KSO Woodwind Quintet playing Eric Ewazen’s Roaring Fork, which is inspired by the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Rounding out the afternoon is Honegger’s Pastorale d’été, or “Summer Pastoral,” inspired by the Swiss alps and Gustav Holst’s rustic St. Paul’s Suite.

A native of East Tennessee, dulcimerist Sarah Morgan has incorporated the rich musical heritage of the area into her music. At 18, Sarah placed first at the 2012 National Mountain Dulcimer Championships held in Winfield, Kansas. She is currently studying traditional music and Appalachian studies at Morehead State University.

About the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra

Led by Music Director Aram Demirjian, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra consists of 80 professional musicians and performs 300 programs throughout the region each season, reaching audiences of more than 200,000 people. The KSO performs in traditional venues such as the Tennessee Theatre, Bijou Theatre and the Civic Auditorium as well as non-traditional places like hospitals, schools, city parks and churches.  For more information regarding the KSO, please visit or call 865-291-3310.  For more information about the KSO’s 2018-2019 season, visit

Subscriptions to both series are on sale to the general public and may be purchased through the KSO box office by calling (865) 291-3310 or in person at the Emporium Building, 100 S. Gay. St.  Single tickets to each concert go on sale in August 2019.