2020/21 Season All concert series, festivals and spotlights – an overview of the 2020/21 season

2020/21 Season :Please note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most concerts in the 2020/21 season were unable to take place.

In Focus

Patricia Kopatchinskaja
Patricia Kopatchinskaja © Lukas Fierz

Patricia Kopatchinskaja

»I’m a subversive element!« That is how the Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja sees herself – and she’s not wrong, as anyone who has ever witnessed the passionate artist in action will be able to confirm. However, none of this is an act: everything comes from the heart and the head – and so too in the six very different formats of her Elbphilharmonie residency.

Thomas Adès
Thomas Adès © Marco Borggreve

Thomas Adès

The composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès achieved his breakthrough in the world of classical music when Sir Simon Rattle included a spectacular work by the British composer in his inaugural concert with the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002. Adès is celebrating his 50th birthday in March 2021. What better occasion to get to know the all-rounder in all his guises!

Sir Antonio Pappano
Sir Antonio Pappano © Fabio Lovino

Sir Antonio Pappano

Sir Antonio Pappano is a veritable whirlwind on the conductor’s podium, be that in the opera house or in Rome’s Colosseum. He is giving a double guest performance with his Rome-based symphony orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia as part of the Music Festival, and he will also be stepping up to the podium as guest conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

György Kurtág
György Kurtág © filharmonia.hu

György Kurtág

No one composes in such a tight, condensed and scaled-back form as the Hungarian master György Kurtág. On the occasion of his approaching 95th birthday, the Elbphilharmonie dedicates a spotlight to the composer, bringing together a number of his most important works. The spotlight includes a special focus on his orchestral music, which is rarely performed.

Daniil Trifonov
Daniil Trifonov © Dario Acosta

Daniil Trifonov

Daniil Trifonov descended upon the music world like a natural phenomenon in 2010/11, scooping up awards and prizes at the prestigious Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein competitions over the course of the year. He is a regular guest in Hamburg and can be seen performing six times in the current season, in solo concerts and with orchestras.

Teodor Currentzis
Teodor Currentzis © Nadia Romanova

Teodor Currentzis

In his energetic and radically subjective interpretations, Teodor Currentzis, the star conductor with Greek–Russian roots, explores boundaries and pushes beyond them. He is coming to Hamburg for four concerts – both with the SWR Symphony Orchestra, whose chief conductor he has been since 2018, and with his musicAeterna ensembles.

Anoushka Shankar
Anoushka Shankar © Laura Lewis

Postponed: Reflektor Anoushka Shankar

As the daughter of the famous sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar was perhaps born with a special talent. However, thanks to her versatility, she has long emancipated herself from the overpowering role model. For this »Reflektor« series, she and a number of long-standing musical companions take over the Elbphilharmonie programme for four whole days.

Please note: The »Reflektor« has been postponed to 4–7 November 2021.

Max Richter
Max Richter © Wolfgang Borrs

Postponed: Reflektor Max Richter

As the second »Reflektor« artist of the season, Max Richter takes charge of the concert schedule for a few days. The composer, pianist and producer is admired by a huge community of fans around the world for his minimalist soundscapes and condensed piano pieces. The highly creative mind is also famous for collaborations with artists from almost every field. Max Richter has invited numerous musician friends to his weekend at the Elbphilharmonie.

Please note: The »Reflektor« has been postponed to 8–10 October 2021.

Thomas Hengelbrock
Thomas Hengelbrock © Florence Grandidier

Thomas Hengelbrock

With the Balthasar-Neumann Orchestra and Choir, which he founded, conductor Thomas Hengelbrock realises his personal vision of ideal music-making: dynamic and enthralling, and based on profound historic and stylistic insights. That can now be experienced in action in a four-part concert series at the Laeiszhalle and the Elbphilharmonie.

Igor Levit
Igor Levit © Robbie Lawrence

Even more Beethoven

Celebrations honouring Ludwig van Beethoven, whose 250th anniversary it is in 2020, already got underway last season. After the coronavirus-induced break, we can now continue: Igor Levit completes his cyclical performance of all piano sonatas, while Quatuor Ébène conclude the cycle of string quartets.

Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky © Susanna Schapowalow

Igor Stravinsky :3-12 April 2021

Igor Stravinsky revolutionised music history in 1913 with his scandalous ballet »Le sacre du printemps«, shaping the sound of Modernism as a result. Towards the end of his long career, after the Second World War, he enjoyed working with the NDR Symphony Orchestra and did so often. This relationship is now celebrated in a dedicated festival – featuring the composer’s biggest hits as well as works he developed with the Hamburg musicians.


Once again this season, the Elbphilharmonie welcomes a number of top international orchestras. After all, conductors and orchestra musicians around the world can hardly wait to experience the unique acoustics for themselves. And those who have done so already are always happy to return. For the Hamburg public this means a wonderful opportunity to compare different musical traditions under this acoustic magnifying glass.

Alan Gilbert
Alan Gilbert © Peter Hundert

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

As the Elbphilharmonie’s resident orchestra, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra plays a key role in shaping the concert hall’s artistic profile. The orchestra is now in its second season under chief conductor Alan Gilbert, who has made an impressive start with highly acclaimed concerts. The highlights of the 2020/21 season are three gala concerts marking the 75th anniversary of the orchestra, which was formed in 1945 on the initiative of the British military government in Hamburg. In addition, all the former chief conductors who are still active are returning to the podium as special guests. The orchestra is also involved in the Stravinsky Spotlight (see above) and in the new »Elbphilharmonie Visions« festival.

Kent Nagano
Kent Nagano © Antoine Saito

Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra

What a workload: the Philharmonic State Orchestra gives around 250 opera and ballet performances in the State Opera House each year. On top of that, the 140 musicians also somehow find time for ten subscription concerts in the Elbphilharmonie Grand Hall, all of which are performed twice, with a programme ranging from Vivaldi’s »Four Seasons« and the great Classicists and Romantics, to the contemporary period. Half of these concerts are in the hands of chief conductor Kent Nagano, who is also the general music director for Hamburg – an office once held by Telemann. His predecessor’s predecessor Ingo Metzmacher also drops in for a guest appearance.

Sylvain Cambreling
Sylvain Cambreling © Marco Borggreve

Symphoniker Hamburg

As its third major orchestra, the Symphoniker Hamburg make a vital contribution to the city’s musical life with intelligently conceived and stirringly played concert programmes. The orchestra’s home is the tradition-steeped Laeiszhalle, but they also perform in the Elbphilharmonie and other venues around the city. Sylvain Cambreling has been the chief conductor of the Symphoniker since 2018: he is recognised around the world for his colourful and imaginative performances, and is conducting a total of 18 concerts in the 2020/21 season. He is joined by renowned resident artists with whom he has a long association, including Martha Argerich and Guy Braunstein.

Ensemble Resonanz
Ensemble Resonanz © Tobias Schult

Ensemble Resonanz

Thanks to their extraordinary enthusiasm and artistic quality, Ensemble Resonanz is regarded as one of the world’s leading string orchestras. As the Elbphilharmonie’s resident ensemble, it is proud to present the six-part concert series »resonanzen«. As part of this series, the musicians cover the whole spectrum from traditional classical music to contemporary works in highly innovative programmes. Charismatic guests such as the current resident artist Riccardo Minasi provide additional inspiration. The ensemble also seeks to present classical and contemporary music in a lively way through children’s concerts and as part of the festival.

Manfred Honeck
Manfred Honeck © Felix Broede

CANCELLED: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Based in the former steel metropolis half way between New York and Chicago, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s excellent reputation was established by such august chief conductors as Mariss Jansons and Lorin Maazel. Manfred Honeck has been continuing that tradition since 2009.

Please note: As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concerts in the 2020/21 season have been cancelled.

Franz Welser-Möst
Franz Welser-Möst © Julia Wesely

CANCELLED: The Cleveland Orchestra

The Cleveland Orchestra is known as the most European of the »Big Five«, the five leading symphony orchestras in the USA. Formed in 1918, it was shaped by legends such as George Szell, Pierre Boulez and Lorin Maazel. Franz Welser-Möst has been the orchestra’s musical director since 2002.

Please note: As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Cleveland Orchestra concerts in the 2020/21 season have been cancelled.

Andris Nelsons
Andris Nelsons © Marco Borggreve

Cancelled: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under its principal conductor Andris Nelsons performs a cross section of Beethoven's oeuvre on three days: three symphonies, three solo concertos and the three top soloists Anne-Sophie Mutter, Daniel Müller-Schott and Daniil Trifonov.

Please note: As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra concerts in the 2020/21 season have been cancelled.

Valery Gergiev
Valery Gergiev © Marco Borggreve

Cancelled: Mariinski Theatre

Nowhere can you feel the soul of Russian (ballet) music as palpably as in Saint Petersburg’s legendary Mariinski Theatre. But perhaps that’s not quite accurate. Because when the choir, orchestra and solo singers visit Hamburg for three days under chief conductor Valery Gergiev, the spirit of Mother Russia also animates the Elbphilharmonie Grand Hall.

Please note: As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Mariinski Theatre concerts in the 2020/21 season have been cancelled.

Paavo Järvi
Paavo Järvi © Kaupo Kikkas

Cancelled: Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich

The Estonian Paavo Järvi only took over the post of chief conductor with the famous Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich in autumn 2019, yet this new musical liaison is already regarded as a landmark in the classical music world. The musicians are delighted – and audiences and critics are enthralled. This musical team is coming to the Elbphilharmonie for three days of guest performances in March 2021.

Please note: As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Tonhalle-Orchester Zurüch concerts in the 2020/21 season have been cancelled.

Tugan Sokhiev
Tugan Sokhiev © Patrice Nin

Cancelled: Bolschoi Theatre

Bolshoi – the name alone is enough to get the hearts of opera and ballet fans around the world beating faster. The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow is Russia’s most famous cultural institution, and its stately hall of gold and red velvet attracts thousands of visitors from far and wide. The ensembles of this legendary establishment can be seen performing in two concerts in Hamburg under their chief conductor Tugan Sokhiev.

Please note: As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Bolshoi Theatre concerts in the 2020/21 season have been cancelled.


Charly Hübner
Charly Hübner © Adrian Höllger

Harbour Front Sounds :11-15 September 2020

Now for the twelfth time, the Harbour Front Literature Festival draws the biggest stars of the scene to Hamburg. Since it first opened its doors, the Elbphilharmonie has become a regular venue, hosting authors such as Salman Rushdie and John le Carré. The Harbour Front and the Elbphilharmonie are now developing the connection further: as a festival within a festival, »Harbour Front Sounds« is dedicated to the relationship between music and literature.

Elbphilharmonie Visions :19-28 February 2021

The music of the 21st century is never more at home than in a 21st-century concert hall. The Elbphilharmonie has been putting this insight into action from the very beginning – works by contemporary composers are performed often and with great enthusiasm. And contemporary music is now getting its own festival, held once every two years, with Alan Gilbert as its spiritus rector: Elbphilharmonie Visions.

Teodor Currentzis
Teodor Currentzis © Alisa Calipso

Easter at the Elbphilharmonie :29 March-5 April 2021

For some it is the holiest of Christian holidays, for others it is a welcome excuse to enjoy a few days off and eat one’s weight in chocolate eggs. But even those who fail to appreciate the true significance of Easter are, presumably, not completely oblivious to its spiritual dimension. This is where the Easter programme comes in, with a number of very special concerts – above all Bach’s famous »St Matthew Passion«.

Hamburg International Digital Music Festival :6 May–6 June 2021

Every year the Hamburg International Music Festival provides one final highlight in the concert calendar at the end of the season. In 2021 the festival takes place entirely online and presents many programme highlights with all major Hamburg-based orchestras and top-class guests.

CANCELLED: Hamburg International Music Festival :30 April–31 May 2021

The Hamburg International Music Festival cannot go ahead as planned due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hamburg International Digital Music Festival takes its place and offers numerous concerts online and free of charge in our Mediatheque: Browse the digital programme

Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky © Sacher-Stiftung

Stravinsky in Hamburg :6–11 April 2021

Stravinsky revolutionised music history in 1913 with his scandalous ballet »Le sacre du printemps«, shaping the sound of modernism as a result. Towards the end of his long career, after the Second World War, he enjoyed working with the NDR Symphony Orchestra and did so often. To commemorate that relationship, a ten-day festival packed with events honouring Stravinsky had been planned. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this has now been transformed into an online festival – with three live streams from the Elbphilharmonie.


Enno Poppe
Enno Poppe © Harald Hoffmann

Contemporary Music

In a concert hall with such visionary architecture as that of the Elbphilharmonie, contemporary music belongs to the core of the programme. Two composer portraits and the major new festival »Elbphilharmonie Visions« put present-day music firmly under the spotlight. The »State of the Art« series offers concerts for anyone looking for exciting sounds and unusual line-ups. And musicians continue to work on the music of the future in »Below Deck«.

Hagen Quartett
Hagen Quartett © Harald Hoffmann

Chamber Music & Song Recitals

The recital halls in the Elbphilharmonie and Laeiszhalle are both perfect for chamber music and song recitals. In the intimate ambience of the recital halls, audiences get even closer to the artists and can follow the interaction on stage particularly well.

Alexander Ullman / Teo Georghiu
Alexander Ullman / Teo Georghiu © Evelyne Berezovsky

Piano Recitals

The piano is such a versatile instrument that it can replace a whole orchestra. The list of top-class pianists visiting Hamburg this season is a long one. The »Master Pianists« series is traditionally held in the Laeiszhalle Grand Hall. And »Pianomania« presents double the enjoyment this year: four outstanding piano duos turn their attention to the Russian repertoire.

SFJazz Collective
SFJazz Collective © Jay Blakesberg


Unfortunately, the pandemic has completely thwarted the Elbphilharmonie’s plans to invite a whole number of super ensembles from the USA to appear at the Elbphilharmonie this season. Travel restrictions have obliged them to cancel their engagements. Wherever possible, the cancelled concerts will be replaced by other first-class soloists and ensembles who live in Europe and are able to travel.

Sarathy Korwar
Sarathy Korwar © Rishabh Sood

World Music

The Elbphilharmonie always has an ear open to the world. And less familiar sound cultures from the far corners of the earth find an enthusiastic audience here. In 2020 however – and probably still for months to come – the coronavirus crisis prevented almost all international travel. That has naturally also affected all the artists who would have performed in the »Around the World« and »World Classical Music« series.

Alessandro Cortini
Alessandro Cortini © Emilie Elizabeth

Pop & Electronic Music

Pop and electronica also belong in a 21st-century concert hall. Hot Hamburg artists are given a stage in the »Made in Hamburg« series. Sound magicians, synthesizer gods and modular tinkerers continue to perform in the series »ePhil«, which now moves from the Resonanzraum in St. Pauli to the Elbphilharmonie.

Accademia Bizantina © Accademia Bizantina

Opera in Concert

It’s well-known that the Elbphilharmonie is not an opera house. Nonetheless, opera can regularly be enjoyed here at the highest level – but without scenery. But that doesn’t matter: in purist concert versions, the music can be heard to its best advantage. And this season it really packs a punch.

Sete Lágrimas
Sete Lágrimas © Rita Santos

Das Alte Werk

Admirers of the dynamic, emotionally concentrated music of the Baroque, Renaissance and earlier periods really get their money’s worth in the tradition-steeped series »Das Alte Werk«. Once again, six passionate ensembles with high profiles in this field give guest performances in the rarefied ambience of the Laeiszhalle. All six ensembles are committed to historically informed performance practice with the greatest possible musical authenticity.

Iveta Apkalna
Iveta Apkalna © Aiga Redamane


»Maître« is what the French call organists of outstanding merit who usually work in one venerable church. Once again this season, a number of »masters« give guest performances on the Klais organ in the Elbphilharmonie. As the Elbphilharmonie’s titular organist, Iveta Apkalna takes to the organ console numerous times this season.

Twinkle Concert XS
Twinkle Concert XS © Claudia Höhne

A Feast for young Ears

The Elbphilharmonie has something to offer even the youngest visitor: in carefully selected family and children’s concerts that are precisely tailored to the respective age group. In a cosy ambience, these »Twinkle Concerts« – which are categorised by clothing size – present imaginative music-theatre productions from all over Europe, telling their exciting, funny or thought-provoking stories mostly without words and only through music.