Orchestra gets around, anyway

Anne-Marie McDermott , pianist and artistic director of the Vail music festival, beginning Friday. The Philadelphians will play there during one of four summer trips they are making despite the bankruptcy.
Anne-Marie McDermott , pianist and artistic director of the Vail music festival, beginning Friday. The Philadelphians will play there during one of four summer trips they are making despite the bankruptcy.
Posted: July 05, 2011

The Philadelphia Orchestra embarks on the first of four summertime out-of-town excursions this week, giving every indication (at least for the moment) that life goes on amid bankruptcy.

And business as usual also means dealing with cancellations: One of the Philadelphians' prime attractions at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival was to be beloved guest conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, 77, who was reported to be ill last week and will be replaced by associate conductor Rossen Milanov and guest Hugh Wolff.

Though the Philadelphia Orchestra shares the Vail festival with the New York Philharmonic and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, it need not worry about the competition.

"I'm very committed to a continuing relationship with the Philadelphia Orchestra," said the festival's new artistic director, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott.

"We've had very open conversations about things. . . . I can't guarantee anything looking to the future - nobody can - but we made sure that 2011 and 2012 were contracted. And one of the things we're pushed on is having [music director-designate] Yannick Nézet-Séguin come and be part of it" in 2012.

She said Charles Dutoit, the orchestra's current chief conductor, was too committed to other summer activities to go to Vail this year, though he and the orchestra will intersect periodically in different parts of the world.

After its stint in Vail Friday through July 16, the orchestra and Dutoit will have two concerts in the Montreal-area Fernand-Lindsay Amphitheatre (Joliette, Quebec) July 22 and 23. These will be Dutoit's first concerts there since 2002, when he abruptly ended his 25-year tenure with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Though they might provide an opportunity to illuminate what led to that rift, Dutoit isn't giving interviews.

From there, he will migrate to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to conduct the first weekend of concerts in the orchestra's July 27-Aug. 13 residency, thereafter leaving the podium to such guest conductors as Stéphane Denève and Marin Alsop.

As the summer winds down, Dutoit will rejoin the orchestra for a tour of European festivals, including Lucerne, Switzerland; Edinburgh, Scotland; London; and Paris, from Aug. 25 to Sept. 9.

The two-week Vail residency is among the summer's most congenial, offering respite from the East Coast's heat and humidity, and a medium-weight concert load of six programs, some with the same guest conductors and repertoire that will be repeated at Saratoga, or reprised from the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

This year's programs are marked by starry pianists, including Yuja Wang playing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 at Friday's opening, followed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 on Saturday. Following Sunday's Broadway-themed pops concert, the July 13 and 15 programs are conducted by frequent guest Denève, while the July 16 performance of Carmina Burana has the same lineup of soloists as at the Mann Center last week, including soprano Heidi Grant Murphy, countertenor Brian Asawa, and baritone Stephen Powell under Giancarlo Guerrero.

Though orchestral programs in Vail sit solidly in the center of standard repertoire, its chamber music concerts are likely to become a bit more modern under McDermott, who programmed Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde this year in the Arnold Schoenberg chamber orchestration. Also, she's out to persuade guest soloists with orchestras to stay a little longer to play chamber music concerts, which Philadelphia Orchestra members play for both private and public events.

"Philadelphia is beloved at the festival," said McDermott. "The public knows top quality when they hear it. They may not know why, but they get it. The sound is something so unique. I'm very, very optimistic and hopeful about a continuing relationship."

Contact music critic David Patrick Stearns at dstearns@phillynews.com.


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