Music Director Jader Bignamini conducts works by Tchaikovsky, Bonds, and Rachmaninoff with pianist Sergei Babayan, December 7-9

December 9 performance webcast for free at dso.orgYouTube, and via Facebook Live as part of DSO’s Live from Orchestra Hall series

December 11 Chamber Recital: Bach's Goldberg Variations with DSO string trio at The Commons in Detroit

Tickets on sale now at

Detroit, (November 14, 2023) – Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) Music Director Jader Bignamini will return to Orchestra Hall on December 7-9 to conduct three concerts on the PVS Classical Series with pianist Sergei Babayan.

The program opens with Margaret Bonds’s Montgomery Variations, which honors the inspiring work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Learn more about this piece’s connection to the Civil Rights Movement on the DSO’s blog. Next, Babayan is featured soloist in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, presented as part of the year-long global celebration of the composer’s 150th birthday year. The program closes with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, about which the composer wrote, “I shall not be surprised if this symphony is torn to pieces or little appreciated, but I absolutely believe it to be the best and, in particular, the sincerest of all my creations.”

On Monday, December 11 at 7 p.m., DSO musicians Rachel Harding Klaus (violin), Mike Chen (viola), and Christopher Hamlin (bass) will perform a chamber recital at The Commons (7900 Mack Avenue, Detroit, MI 48214). The program will feature J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations arranged for string trio by Gjorgji Cincievski. This performance is free to all Neighborhood Series subscribers. Single tickets are also available and start at $15.

Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony will take place Thursday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, December 8 at 10:45 a.m., and Saturday, December 9 at 8 p.m. in Orchestra Hall. Tickets for these performances start at $19 and can be purchased at or by calling the Box Office at 313.576.5111, open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The December 9 performance will be webcast for free at, YouTube, and via Facebook Live as part of the DSO’s Live from Orchestra Hall series. 

The title sponsor of the DSO’s Classical Series is PVS Chemicals, Inc. DSO Live is presented by Ford Motor Company Fund. Technology support comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Digital programming is produced from the Al Glancy Control Room.

PVS Classical Series
Thursday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, December 8 at 10:45 a.m.
Saturday, December 9 at 8 p.m.
Orchestra Hall

Jader Bignamini, conductor
Sergei Babayan, piano
"I've put my whole soul into this," Tchaikovsky said of his last symphony. Rachmaninoff put his genius, a famous theme, and allusions to a deal with the devil into his Rhapsody. Pianist Sergei Babayan plays it "full speed ahead to the very edge of a cliff" (BBC Music Magazine).

From the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement, Margaret Bonds honors the inspiring work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
MARGARET BONDS Montgomery Variations
SERGEI RACHMANINOFF Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique”

Chamber Recital
Monday, December 11 at 7 p.m.
The Commons (7900 Mack Avenue, Detroit, MI 48214)

Rachel Harding Klaus, violin
Mike Chen, viola
Christopher Hamlin, bass
There are two sides to the Goldberg Variations. Originally for keyboard and arranged here for string trio, Bach’s iconic theme and variations begins with a simple aria tune before taking turn upon turn down paths of perfection. A clockwork wonder of human achievement, the piece balances the joyful simplicity of wonderful music with wonder at the possibilities of invention.
J.S. BACH ARR. GJORGJI CINCIEVSKI Goldberg Variations for String Trio

About Jader Bignamini
Jader Bignamini was introduced as the 18th music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in January 2020, commencing with the 2020–2021 season. His infectious passion and artistic excellence set the tone for the seasons ahead, creating extraordinary music and establishing a close relationship with the orchestra. A jazz aficionado, he has immersed himself in Detroit’s rich jazz culture and the influences of American music. 

A native of Crema, Italy, Bignamini studied at the Piacenza Music Conservatory and began his career as a musician (clarinet) with Orchestra Sinfonica La Verdi in Milan, later serving as the group’s resident conductor. Captivated by the operatic arias of legends like Mahler and Tchaikovsky, Bignamini explored their complexity and power, puzzling out the role that each instrument played in creating a larger-than-life sound. When he conducted his first professional concert at the age of 28, it didn’t feel like a departure, but an arrival. 

In the years since, Bignamini has conducted some of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras and opera companies in venues across the globe including working with Riccardo Chailly on concerts of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in 2013 and his concert debut at La Scala in 2015 for the opening season of La Verdi Orchestra. Recent highlights include debuts with Opera de Paris conducting La Forza del Destino and with Deutsche Opera Berlin conducting Simon Boccanegra; appearances with the Pittsburgh and Toronto symphonies; debuts with the Houston, Dallas, and Minnesota symphonies; Osaka Philharmonic and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo; with the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Dutch National Opera (Madama Butterfly); Bayerische Staatsoper (La Traviata); I Puritani in Montpellier for the Festival of Radio France; Traviata in Tokyo directed by Sofia Coppola; return engagements with Oper Frankfurt (La forza del destino) and Santa Fe Opera (La bohème); Manon Lescaut at the Bolshoi; Traviata, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot at Arena of Verona; Il Trovatore and Aida at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera; Madama Butterfly, I Puritani, and Manon Lescaut at Teatro Massimo in Palermo; Simon Boccanegra and La Forza del Destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma; Ciro in Babilonia at Rossini Opera Festival and La bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Elisir d’amore at La Fenice in Venice.

When Bignamini leads an orchestra in symphonic repertoire, he conducts without a score, preferring to make direct eye contact with the musicians. He conducts from the heart, forging a profound connection with his musicians that shines through both onstage and off. He both embodies and exudes the excellence and enthusiasm that has long distinguished the DSO’s artistry.

About Sergei Babayan
Sergei Babayan is one of the leading pianists of our time. Hailed for his emotional intensity, bold energy, and remarkable levels of color, Babayan brings a deep understanding and insight to exceptionally diverse repertoire. Le Figaro has praised his “unequaled touch, perfectly harmonious phrasing and breathtaking virtuosity.” Le Devoir from Montreal put it simply: “Sergei Babayan is a genius. Period.”

Babayan has collaborated with conductors including Sir Antonio Pappano, David Robertson, Neeme Järvi, Rafael Payare, Thomas Dausgaard, Tugan Sokhiev, and Dima Slobodeniouk. Over the years, Babayan has performed with Valery Gergiev numerous times to great critical acclaim, including appearances at the Barbican Centre with the London Symphony Orchestra, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elyseés in Paris, the Salzburg Festival, and at the Rotterdam Philharmonic-Gergiev Festival, where Babayan was artist-in-residence.

In recent seasons, Babayan’s schedule has included concert performances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, and the Verbier Festival Orchestra, among others. Babayan regularly performs at many of the world’s most prestigious venues, including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Munich’s Prinzregententheater, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Maison de la Radio in Paris, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, Alte Oper Frankfurt, and Zurich’s Tonhalle. He has appeared at major festivals including La Roque d’Anthéron, Piano aux Jacobins in Toulouse, Gstaad Menuhin Festival, and Verbier Festival. At Konzerthaus Dortmund, Babayan was a Curating Artist. Babayan performs with the world’s foremost orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lille, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Babayan is a Deutsche Grammophon exclusive artist; his latest release, Rachmaninoff (DG 2020), was hailed by the international press as a groundbreaking recording and received numerous awards including BBC Recording of the Month and CHOC Classica (“This musical journey, born out of a limitless imagination and thought in minute detail, is one big masterpiece.”) His previous DG release of his own transcriptions for two pianos of works by Sergei Prokofiev, with Martha Argerich as his partner (Prokofiev for Two; DG 2018), was praised by reviewers as “the CD one has waited for” (Le Devoir), an “electrifying duo that leaves the listener in consternation” (Pianiste). Babayan’s performances have been broadcast by Radio France, BBC TV and BBC Radio 3, NHK Satellite Television, and Medici TV.

Born in Armenia into a musical family, Babayan began his studies there with Georgy Saradjev and continued at the Moscow Conservatory with Mikhail Pletnev, Vera Gornostayeva, and Lev Naumov. Following his first trip outside of the USSR in 1989, he won consecutive first prizes in several major international competitions including the Cleveland International Piano Competition, the Hamamatsu Piano Competition, and the Scottish International Piano Competition. An American citizen, he lives in New York City.

About the DSO
The acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known for trailblazing performances, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and a deep connection to its city. Led by Music Director Jader Bignamini since 2020, the DSO makes its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, offering a performance schedule that features the PVS Classical, PNC Pops, Paradise Jazz, and Young People’s Family Concert series. In addition, the DSO presents the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series in metro area venues, as well as eclectic multi-genre performances in its mid-size venue The Cube, constructed and curated with support from Peter D. & Julie F. Cummings. A dedication to broadcast innovation began in 1922, when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a live radio broadcast of a concert and continues today with the groundbreaking Live from Orchestra Hall series of free webcasts.

Since its first school concerts a century ago, and particularly since the founding of the Civic Youth Ensembles in 1970, the DSO has been a national leader in bringing the benefits of music education to students, teachers, and families in Detroit and surrounding communities. The DSO remains committed to expanding its participation in the growth and well-being of Detroit through programs like its Detroit Neighborhood Initiative—cultural events co-created with community partners and residents—and Detroit Harmony, a promise to provide an instrument and instruction to any student in the city who wants to learn. With unwavering support from the people of Detroit, the DSO actively pursues a mission to impact lives through the power of unforgettable musical experiences.