The fledgling San Antonio Philharmonic symphony orchestra has found its wings, announcing a second season of 10 Classics concert programs at its home venue, the First Baptist Church downtown.

The new season opens Sept. 22-23 with a continuation of the group’s focus on music of the Spanish diaspora, a concert program featuring the jaunty Mariachitlán by living Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras, inspired by mariachi groups playing in the open air plazas of Mexico City. 

Also on the opening program is Symphonie espagnole by Édouard Lalo, a 19th century French composer of Spanish descent, and Igor Stravinsky’s 1945 ballet suite from The Firebird.

The season will present familiar names and major works, from Mozart’s The Magic Flute overture Nov. 3-4 to Beethoven’s thundering Symphony No. 5 as a season closer May 31-June 1. The final concerts will welcome the return of popular violinist Randall Goosby.

Soloist Gabriela Martinez will perform the challenging Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 Dec. 1-2, and on Jan. 19-20, soprano Laura Strickling will perform Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, built around a children’s song envisioning Heaven.

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez will perform with the SA Philharmonic in December and January.
Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez will perform with the SA Philharmonic in December and January. Credit: Courtesy / Artist

Lesser-known and emergent composers also feature throughout the season. 

The October 13-14 concerts will present Armenian composer Alexander Arutunian’s Trumpet Concerto in A♭ major of 1950, Indian-American composer Reena Esmail’s recent Avartan, and Field Guide by 31-year-old California composer/environmentalist Gabriella Smith.

The roster of guest conductors set to lead the Philharmonic includes Jeffrey Kahane (Sept. 22-23), Vinay Parameswaran (Oct. 13-14), Stephen Mulligan (Nov. 3-4), Sarah Ioannides (Dec. 1-2), Marcelo Lehninger (Jan. 19-20), Ludwig Carrasco (Feb. 23-24), Anthony Parnther (Mar. 22-23), Vadim Gluzman (April 19-20), Jean-Marie Zeitouni (May 10-11) and Lina González-Granados for the season ending concert (May 31-June 1).

The new organization is in the midst of wrapping up a successful inaugural season this month.

After a tumultuous end to the 83-year-old San Antonio Symphony in June 2022, the orchestra’s musicians organized several concerts at First Baptist Church with the support of conductors who had worked with the group in the past. Next, the musicians formed a board including former District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño and actor Jesse Borrego, and launched a season of 10 Classics and three Pops concert programs — also reaching 35,000 students through its free education concerts at area schools.

Reflecting on the organization’s first season, Philharmonic president and bassoonist Brian Petkovich said, “it shows that we could really reach out and do something great for the whole community.”

He said the recent free outdoor Cinco de Mayo concert in Plaza Guadalupe is just one example of what the SA Phil wants to continue doing, along with pops concerts, its robust education program, and collaborations with San Antonio Public Library, San Antonio Symphony League, Avenida Guadalupe Association, The Public Theater of San Antonio, Youth Orchestras of San Antonio and Hearts Need Art, among other organizations. 

Of the Plaza Guadalupe community concert, Petkovich said, “that’s the kind of effort that I want to see happen more, being out, meeting people, having it just be a fun experience. And just bringing something new to people that might not normally see the orchestra in the concert hall.”

Season ticket packages are available on the SA Phil website.

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...