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Gustavo Gimeno makes his pandemic-delayed debut as the new music director of the TSO, which starts its season Nov. 10 at Roy Thomson Hall

Gustavo Gimeno leads the TSO's first rehearsal back at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on Oct. 12, 2021.Photos by Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

For the first time since March, 2020, Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno shared the stage with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra musicians, kicking off the 2021/2022 season with an in-person rehearsal on Wednesday, October 12.

“It’s truly wonderful to be on stage again,” says Gimeno. The 45-year-old native of Valencia, Spain, was meant to start as the TSO’s new music director last year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now Gimeno is finally getting ready to welcome back audiences at Roy Thomson Hall.

Gimeno, who also continues to serve as music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra and has conducted leading orchestras in Europe, North America and Japan, says the TSO musicians inspire him with their “joyful presence.”

“There was a brilliance in their eyes during rehearsals. They were all so eager to play and to enjoy rehearsals,” says Gimeno.

The first in-person concert on November 10 will feature New York-based composer Anthony Barfield’s Invictus, which translates to “unconquered” in Latin. The piece is inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests.

“It is a sort of fanfare, and I think, perfect and relevant for this historical moment,” says Gimeno, adding that the piece will be accompanied by works by Haydn, Hindemith and Schubert.

Gimeno looks over scores in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's library at Roy Thomson Hall.

The first half of the season’s concerts will have a maximum of 50 musicians to maintain physical distancing – with more brass and percussion pieces – but will build to larger and longer symphonic works, closing in June with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Five composers from the Greater Toronto Area will premiere their works this season including Cris Derksen, Luis Ramirez, Julia Mermelstein, Afarin Mansouri and Iman Habibi.

“Life can feel meaningless without music and art,” says Gimeno, “and I believe that when we are all together in Roy Thomson Hall again, the shared musical experience will be very emotional and powerful.”

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