Rafael Payare. Courtesy San Diego Symphony

The San Diego Symphony‘s annual January festival begins with the debut of Music Director Designate Rafael Payare accompanied by acclaimed cellist Alisa Weilerstein — his wife — performing Mozart, Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky.

The inaugural concerts next Thursday through Sunday begin the symphony’s month-long “Hearing the Future” festival that focuses on youthful artists and composers.

The festival is curated by composer-conductor and 2018 MacArthur Fellow and Genius Award recipient Matthew Aucoin, 28, whose expertise spans music, theater and poetry with infectious enthusiasm for the possibilities of art.

Payare’s inaugural concert is on Thursday at Copley Symphony Hall. The program features the tone poem Don Juan, composed by a 24-year-old Richard Strauss, and Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition, written in that composer’s 35th year.

The concert opens with the dramatic overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which the composer debuted at age 31, and also features Weilerstein in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations.

Concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with Payare and Weilerstein feature the symphony’s first-ever performance of Benjamin Britten’s Symphony for Cello and Orchestra as wells as Shostakovich’s landmark Symphony No. 10, which was performed months after the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and is a self-reflective composition containing embedded messages of personal identity.

The festival features events almost daily through January at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego downtown, The Old Globe in Balboa Park, the auditorium at TSRI, Copley Symphony Hall, the Athenaeum in La Jolla, the San Diego Art Institute and the White Box at Liberty Station.

Tickets are more information about the festival are available online.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.