But our town's artistic spirit is a plucky one. Substance lies beneath all the reconfiguring, repackaging and corporate reorganization. New music is abundant. Perhaps most promising of all is the near-universal realization that, while partnering is efficient and effective marketing can boost ticket sales, classical music needs to think long-term. Two new serious after-school programs - Tune Up Philly and Play On, Philly! - represent the first critical steps toward rebuilding an egalitarian musical infrastructure for the city's youth (and thus, one day, audiences).
There's much to listen for this spring - and here my colleague David Patrick Stearns and I give you some of our choices - but to a lot of ears, there's no sweeter sound than the first scratchy tries at putting bow to string.
- Peter Dobrin, Inquirer music critic
Spring Arts - Classical Music: Great music uplifts in times of change
Dolce Suono Ensemble: "Mahler 100/Schoenberg 60" (Haverford College, Feb. 3; Trinity Center, Feb. 5) This year's second installment of the Mahler/Schoenberg project goes deeper: Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and a new companion piece by Shulamit Ran, Moon Songs. Few pieces have changed the world as much as Pierrot, which depicts an unhinged mind with explosive atonality and a vocal style between singing and chanting. Modern-music specialist Lucy Shelton solos. (267-252-1803, www.mimistillman.org)
- David Patrick Stearns
Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia (Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center, Feb. 12) Princeton composer Steve Mackey is the new-music Grammy poster boy this year with two nominations, one for best contemporary classical work. It so happens that on the very day of the award ceremony, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia premieres a sizable new Mackey work, Tonic. So if he's not at the Kimmel then, he'll at least be back for the last performance Feb. 14 at the Temple Performing Arts Center. (215-893-1999 or www.chamberorchestra.org) - D.P.S.
John Cage Centennial (Fidget Space, Feb. 17; March 16-17). If a Cage concert does its job, anything can and will happen, since this avant-garde composer embraced the element of chance even more than the jazz world does. The Fidget Space - a congenial warehouse at 1714 N. Mascher St. - began its Cage season last year by applying new technology to his open-ended pieces, to great effect. Even he couldn't predict what's next. (267-679-4166, www.thefidget.org) - D.P.S.
New York Philharmonic (Verizon Hall, Feb. 24) The defining moment between music director and audience is mysterious, but the medium through which the Philharmonic's Alan Gilbert (above) recently bonded with listeners was, oddly, a cellphone: He firmly defended Mahler against an errant ringtone in a concert a few weeks ago. So leave yours home when Gilbert and his band visit the Kimmel, in Berlioz, Steven Stucky, and Mussorgsky/Ravel, with mezzo Joyce DiDonato. (215-893-1999, www.kimmelcenter.org)
- Peter Dobrin
"Elegy for Young Lovers" (Curtis Opera Theatre, Kimmel Center, March 14, 16, 18) Though an operatic god in Europe, Hans Werner Henze is seldom heard here, and this 1961 work, set in a snowbound Austrian lodge with guests in various states of hysteria, is one of his most durable. Not to be taken on lightly, it's coproduced by the Curtis Opera Theatre, the Kimmel Center, and Opera Company of Philadelphia. (www.curtis.edu or 215-893-1999) - D.P.S.
Pianist Haochen Zhang (Curtis Institute of Music, April 16) We don't typically highlight senior recitals, but this is no typical senior. Zhang, 21, already has won the Van Cliburn competition and has professional management. Curtis' Field Hall will no doubt be stuffed with well-wishers as he makes his last appearance as a student. (215-893-7902, www.curtis.edu) - P.D.
Curtis Symphony Orchestra (Verizon Hall, April 23) With violinist Juliette Kang and cellist Efe Baltacigil in Brahms' Double Concerto, this concert could be among the season's most soulful. Robert Spano and Kensho Watanabe conduct. Also programmed: Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra and Jennifer Higdon's blue cathedral. (215-893-1999, www.curtis.edu) - P.D.
Pianist Andras Schiff (Perelman Theater, May 8) The supremely communicative musician brings Beethoven, Kurtág, Bartók, a new work by German composer Jörg Widmann - and, among the new, lots of Bach. (215-569-8080, www.pcmsconcerts.org) - P.D.
Christian Gerhaher (Perelman Theater, May 10) This German baritone could make you forget Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (with whom he studied). Plus, his accompanist is Philadelphia fave Andras Schiff (see above). The program includes Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte and Schumann's Dichterliebe. Too good to be true? (215-569-8080, www.pcmsconcerts.org) - D.P.S.
Conductor Charles Dutoit (Verizon Hall, May 17, 19). Among active, visiting conductors, Dutoit holds the record for having the longest, closest relationship with the Philadelphia Orchestra. In his last subscription concerts as chief conductor, he weds that rapport with the piece that brought him into the consciousness of many back at the dawn of the CD era: Ravel's complete Daphnis et Chloé. (215-893-1999, www.philorch.org) - P.D.
Other concerts of interest in the region this spring:
Felyx M (Chamber Singers of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia), Network for New Music, and Philadelphia Chamber Music Society (Independence Seaport Museum, Feb. 26) This joint concert will be devoted to pieces by Philadelphia composers Cynthia Folio, Jan Krzywicki, Donald St. Pierre, Jennifer Higdon, and James Primosch, and a new work by Thomas Whitman. (215-569-8080, www.pcmsconcerts.org)
Jonathan Beyer (Eastern University, April 15) The young baritone performs Rodgers, Gershwin, Ravel, Copland, and others at a Tri-County Concerts Association recital. (www.tricountyconcerts.org)
Network for New Music (Temple University, April 15) The ensemble presents, in a free concert, the world premiere of an hour-long piece called Rope and Chasm, Temple University professor Matthew Greenbaum's setting for mezzo and video of Nietszche's Also Sprach Zarathustra. (215-848-7647, www.networkfornewmusic.org)
Orchestra 2001 (Ethical Society in Rittenhouse Square, April 21; Swarthmore April 22) Balinese gamelan provides the inspiration in the premiere of a work by Thomas Whitman. (215-893-1999, www.orchestra2001.org)
Simon Rattle and the Philadelphia Orchestra (Verizon Hall, April 26-29) Rattle makes connections among Brahms, Schumann, and Webern when he visits for three concerts with the Fabulous Philadelphians. (215-893-1999, www.philorch.org)
- Peter Dobrin
Contact Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and
David Patrick Stearns at email@example.com.