Today, the LA Phil announced its 100th anniversary season and it’s everything a centennial celebration should be. The new season, which begins September 30 with a free day-long street party in the manner of CicLAvia stretching between Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, includes a number of important new initiatives that we have covered here on KUSC.

The repertoire is also a reflection of the DNA that makes the LA Phil the LA Phil. If you’re wondering why the New York Times recently called the LA Phil “America’s most important orchestra. Period.”, look no further than the 2018-19 season. An unprecedented 54 commissions, 58 premieres, and music by 61 living composers. Every single piece on every single concert on the orchestra’s contemporary music series, Green Umbrella, will be a world premiere.


More importantly, the LA Phil is demonstrating how to program inclusively. When the Chicago Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra unveiled their 2018-19 seasons recently, neither orchestra’s repertoire included even a single work composed by a woman. Between the two orchestras, only seven non-white composers were programmed and each orchestra programmed only four living composers.

Conversely, the LA Phil’s 2018-19 season includes music by 22 different women and 27 different composers of color. Six different women will conduct the LA Phil in 2018-19: Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla (April 5-7), Elim Chan (February 6-7), Simone Young (February 1-3), Jessica Cottis (November 23-25), Sara Jobin (March 5), and four concerts led by Principal Guest Conductor Susanna Mälkki (November 1-4, 8-10, 13; January 18-19), one of which features the U.S. premiere of Trans, a work for harp and orchestra by Kaija Saariaho.

Conductor Susanna Mälkki will lead the LA Phil in November | Photo by Simon Fowler

The new season includes an in-depth exploration of music by William Grant Still and the Harlem Renaissance. (No major American orchestra programmed any of Still’s symphonies this season.) The LA Phil will perform the Symphonies No. 1 and 4 alongside music of Duke Ellington and Adolphus Hailstork. The LA Phil asked Hailstork if there was anything he’d like to write but just hadn’t yet had the opportunity to do so. He said, yes, he always wanted to write a piece inspired by a specific theme by William Grant Still. So, the LA Phil commissioned it and will premiere it on February 17.


William Grant Still

Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead a festival devoted to the music of Stravinsky featuring concerts on three different themes: Rituals, Faith, and Myths. Salonen will conduct 14 Stravinsky works including, yes, Sacre (April 12-20). Yuval Sharon will direct productions of Meredith Monk’s opera ATLAS (June 11-12) and John Cage’s Europeras 1 & 2 (November 6, 10, 11). Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel will conduct 20 different programs in 2018-19. It’s worth noting the typical workload for a music director is around 13 programs.

Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen

That’s just scratching the surface of the new season. There are so many more highlights, including a moment at the end of the season when Gustavo Dudamel will share the stage with former LA Phil music directors Esa-Pekka Salonen and Zubin Mehta.


You can dive in and explore the LA Phil’s 100th anniversary season in more detail on the orchestra’s newly redesigned website.