Orchestra Has Big Plans For 100th Birthday

Posted: November 17, 1998

To celebrate its 100th anniversary season, the Philadelphia Orchestra will offer a free outdoor concert, a retrospective CD set and book, eight commissions by major international composers and a wealth of outreach programs.

Details were given yesterday on the Academy of Music stage, with Maestro Wolfgang Sawallisch participating via telephone link from Tokyo. The announcements came exactly two years before the centenary of the first program, given at the Academy on Nov. 16, 1900.

Spanning the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons, some events will be offered in conjunction with the citywide "Millennium Philadelphia" celebration in 2000.

Plans are being made for a national broadcast of the gala centennial concert, with a musical celebration targeted toward Philadelphia families two days later. In May 2000, Sawallisch will conduct a free outdoor performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on the Avenue on the Arts, to be followed by a light show.

The orchestra will also release a 12-CD collection from its archives, mostly concerts or recording sessions that have never been commercially released. It will include recordings by Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Riccardo Muti and Sawallisch (five CDs), as well as great guest conductors (three CDs) and soloists (four CDs). A commemorative book will also be published, with 15 writers covering all aspects of the orchestra's history.

Five American composers - Michael Daugherty, Richard Danielpour, Hannibal, Jennifer Higdon and Aaron Jay Kernis - plus James McMillan (Scotland), Einojuhani Rautavaara (Finland) and Roberto Sierra (Puerto Rico) have been commissioned to write works for the centennial. In addition, a national commission competition for a cash prize and a subscription performance will boil down to three entries, which will be performed at a special concert and judged equally by a panel, the orchestra members and the audience.

The orchestra will travel to the musical capitals of Europe in May and June of 2000, recreate some of their whistle-stop railroad journeys through the United States in November 2000, and tour Asia in a three-week trip in May and June 2001.

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